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Gambling industry, more important for US than the intellectual property?

The World Trade Organization, on 21 December 2007, awarded Antigua and Barbuda an annual $21 million compensation claim against the US and also approved of Antigua’s right to suspend its recognition of US copyright and trademark laws to an amount that does not exceed the value of its claim. Neither country can appeal today’s decision.

The WTO Appellate Body conclusion was that the US had the right to prevent offshore betting as a means of protecting public order and public morals, but since the US was not applying the rules equally to American operators who were notably offering remote betting on horse and dog racing, this was a clear violation of trade laws.

“It sounds like a contradiction in terms but there we have it, the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua is now allowed the right to distribute music, movies and software produced in the US without obligations to pay US rights holders,” says Music 2.0.

“As Antigua has now been given carte blanche to distribute music as such, this has major implications globally in that companies registered in Antigua, can distribute US copyrighted music for free or for their own profit and would be to some measure, operating legally – based on this latest WTO ruling.

“As a result of the US wanting to protect the billions of dollars in domestic gambling interests above all, we now have a situation where the WTO has officially deemed it fair game for US musicians’ (and film and software producers’) products to be distributed and consumed by Antiguan businesses without any recourse to revenue. Musicians are certainly going to be thrilled that their own government has allowed a situation to arise where they are just a mere pawn in the game resulting in the fruits of their labor being given away for free to a foreign government.”

By pressing its claim, trade lawyers say, Antigua could set a precedent. Now, other countries could sue the United States for unfair trade practices. And, in the event that the world’s only superpower doesn’t comply with WTO rulings, could potentially open the door to legalising electronic piracy and other dubious practices around the world. (Domain-b).

On Friday, the US trade representative issued a stern warning to Antigua to avoid acts of piracy, counterfeiting or violations of intellectual property rights while talks continue.

The European Union, India, Canada, Australia and other WTO signatories aligned themselves alongside the Antiguan case. However, separate deals were agreed with these economies, including U.S. trade concessions to the EU in mail services and warehousing as compensation.

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