Antigua Can Violate American IP Rights Legally

Someone sent me a link to this article about how the nation of Antigua is now allowed, under GATT, to violate American intellectual property laws as part of a WTO settlement of a dispute over the U.S. government preventing online gambling sites from operating in this country.

The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda has won its case against the United States at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is now authorized and moving forward with the granted sanction – suspension of all American-owned intellectual property rights within the Antigua borders. This trade sanction comes as a response to the US campaign against off-shore on-line gambling. That campaign has decimated an Antiguan industry and was found to violate the US WTO trade obligations. Antigua has been negotiating with the US for the past decade on some mechanism to resolve the dispute.

In a press release, Hon. Carl Roberts High Commission from Antigua to the UK indicated the following: “For nearly a decade, Antigua has sought to resolve the dispute with the United States Government over the US failure to abide by American treaty obligations with regard to remote gaming.” Colin Murdoch, Trade Ambassador for Antigua goes on: “This decision [to suspend US IP rights] did not come easily. After countless proposals from our government have been more or less ignored by the Office of the USTR – numerous decisions by the WTO declaring the United States Government’s position illegal – and failure of the United States Government to provide meaningful proposals to end the dispute, the WTO provides this remedy not to encourage illicit behavior by nations; but rather to provide them with a way to secure their legal rights as sovereign nations.”

I don’t know how many of my readers remember this dispute, but I was involved in it, at least tangentially. Antigua and the European Union both filed disputes with the WTO after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, which locked out online gambling companies based in other countries from the American market (some sites continued to operate until 2011, when Poker Stars, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker were shut down by the feds). And they won that dispute, leading to a settlement in which our government had to agree trade concessions with the EU (the Antigua case was separate but the result was the same).

Initially, though, the federal government refused to release the terms of that settlement with the EU (the Antigua case was separate, but with essentially the same result, just a different “punishment”) and I filed a FOIA request to get a copy of it. They denied that on national security grounds, which was absurd. So with the help of Public Citizen, I filed a federal lawsuit over it and, just before the court was set to rule, the government suddenly changed its mind and gave me the document I wanted.

What was in that document was quite disturbing. You can read the whole story I wrote about it here. Essentially, the settlement allowed foreign companies to own liquid natural gas terminals and other dangerous chemical storage facilities in the United States and potentially even voided any state or federal regulation of those facilities.

I actually did all of that on my own, though the article above says it was done under the rubric of the Michigan Messenger. I had done it outside of work, for my own curiosity, but once I got the information I figured that was a good way to publish a big story and get some attention for the organization I worked for as well.

10 comments on this post.
  1. Who Cares:

    At the moment this is an extra stick (as seen by the US)/carrot (as seen by Antigua) to get a deal over the original dispute.
    If that doesn’t work out I hope that someone on Antigua has the same amount of principles as the average Hollywood studio and use Hollywood accounting to ensure that the resulting operation never makes a profit.

  2. tubi:

    So does this mean that Antigua can produce its own version of Glee using the same story lines and characters? And rip off covers of “Baby Got Back” by Jonathan Coulton with impunity?

  3. theschwa:

    I cannot wait to go to Disneyland Antigua!

  4. The Lorax:

    How long before a ship with a black Pirate Bay flag sails into the harbor?

    Inb4 a “Pirates of the Caribbean” joke…

  5. laurentweppe:

    Wait a minute. Are you telling us that as a retribution for not respecting a trade agreement about Gambling, the UE punished the US by maling it legal to pollute US soil with potentially toxic waste?

  6. Cathy W:

    @laurentweppe That was my thought – the remedy seems to have nothing to do with the original problem, in either this case or that one! I’d've thought financial damages + open the trade, but what do I know…

  7. laurentweppe:

    the remedy seems to have nothing to do with the original problem

    Maybe the point was to say “Don’t Fuck with Us, or we’ll poison the very ground you’re standing on”: you know: creative ways to project soft power and all that.

  8. cry4turtles:

    I always thought gambling was for suckers, but now my memoir can be pirated because of it. Maybe I’ll get free publicity! One can dream.

  9. eric:

    Are you telling us that as a retribution for not respecting a trade agreement about Gambling, the UE punished the US by maling it legal to pollute US soil with potentially toxic waste?

    Sounds more to me like Ed is saying something much worse – that the US Congress decided to allow foreign-held industries to pollute our soil in exchange for them agreeing not to have a gambling web site. I’m sure some in Congress consider that a twofer – they stopped gambling AND reduced EPA regulatory oversight over factories in their district.

  10. Ichthyic:

    Sounds more to me like Ed is saying something much worse – that the US Congress decided to allow foreign-held industries to pollute our soil in exchange for them agreeing not to have a gambling web site.

    yes.

    this is indeed fallout from the “people be damned!” approach by the film and recording industries in the US that most people never would have predicted.

    I have seen first hand how the US has manipulated the New Zealand government here into violating its own national laws to serve US intellectual property rights issues.

    this simply HAS TO STOP.

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