The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda on Monday sought final World Trade Organization approval to impose trade sanctions that could include the downloading of films and video without payment of U.S. copyright fees.
In a statement, the island nation suggested it was acting reluctantly. Antigua in 2007 won a WTO case arguing that a U.S. ban on Internet gambling while permitting state lotteries and local gambling amounted to an unfair trade barrier.
The WTO decision gave Antigua the right to collect $21 million annually of the revenue it lost by withholding fees due U.S. firms for intellectual property. Antigua hasn’t said exactly which sanctions it will impose but indicated allowing copyright free downloading of movies is one possibility. It has urged the U.S. to come to the table with an alternative offer to sanctions.
In Monday's statement, Antigua Finance Minister Harold Lovell said the island nation has no other choice but to proceed with sanctions.
“The economy of Antigua and Barbuda has been devastated by the United States Government’s long campaign to prevent American consumers from gambling on-line with offshore gaming operators,” he said. “These aggressive efforts to shut down the remote gaming industry in Antigua has resulted in the loss of thousands of good paying jobs and seizure by the Americans of billions of dollars belonging to gaming operators and their customers in financial institutions across the world.
“We once again ask our fellow sovereign nation and WTO member, the United States of America, to act in accordance with the WTO’s decisions in this matter, before we move forward.”
Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Intellectual Property Association criticized the island nation's move.
“Violating international IP obligations would sour the business environment and reduce government revenues in the long term — the biggest losers would be the people of Antigua and Barbuda,” said Gina Vetere, executive director for International IP at the Chamber’s Global IP Center. “Any action that endorses IP theft would not only undermine any chance at resolving the dispute, but also come at great expense to Antigua and Barbuda.”
IIPA counsel Steve Metalitz, said, “We are of the firm view that suspending intellectual property rights is not the right solution, and that state‑sanctioned theft is an affront to any society.
“Should Antigua determine to move forward in this manner, it would certainly interfere with the ability to reach a negotiated resolution, and would harm the interests of Antiguans.”