1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Friday, 25 January 2013

For legal free downloads head to Antigua & Barbuda

According to Reuters, Antigua & Barbuda will tell the World Trade Organization on Monday that it intends to use trade sanctions against the US, which it wants to enforce by enabling downloads of US content without enforcing copyright.

Antigua: free downloads and beautiful beaches
This all stems from a dispute that Antigua filed with the WTO back in 2003. Antigua had a thriving gambling industry which used to employ nearly 5% of all Antiguans, however the industry all but collapsed when the US prevented Antigua from accessing its market. On 21 March 2003, Antigua requested consultations with the US regarding the measures it has applied affecting the cross-border supply of gambling and betting services. Antigua said that the cumulative impact of these measures was to prevent the supply of gambling and betting services from another WTO Member to the US on a cross-border basis.
After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, the matter was referred to arbitration. The arbitrator found that Antigua was entitled to US$21 million annually. Antigua was permitted to request authorisation from the WTO dispute settlement body to suspend obligations under the TRIPS Agreement, i.e. to impose trade sanctions on the US, at a level not exceeding US$21 million annually.

Antigua was well aware that threatening to block US imports to a country of 70,000 people would have little impact, so WTO granted it the right to sell US content free from copyright instead. According to TorrentFreak, Antigua put the topic on the WTO meeting last month, but the US blocked it from being discussed by arguing that the request was "untimely", however Antigua is expected to try again on 28 January.
This blogger sees this as evidence of what we all already know: that trade of online content and information is fast become as valuable as trade of physical goods.

For full details of the various stages of the dispute, see here.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Last link goes to a law firm intranet.

Jeremy said...

Anonymous -- I just tested the link: it goes to the World Trade Organization http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds285_e.htm

Francis Davey said...

Even if this action is taken - and since the arbitrators' decision seems to be in 2007 one does wonder - surely it will only mean that Antigua and Barbuda's obligations under TRIPS will be suspended (to the value of $21 million a year)? As I understand it this means that if we were to use a free (and legal in Antigua and Barbuda) download we would still infringe UK intellectual property law and the UK's obligations under TRIPS. So it won't be a freebie for the rest of us.

More likely would be the production of goods without having to pay patent licences would it not? Also much easier to ensure that the total value does not exceed the imposed limit.

Andy J said...

A bit of an update by way of the US's response: Techdirt article