Movie Downloading May Become a Chip in Internet Gambling Dispute

Antigua and Barbuda may declare a copyright free file site in strategy to get U.S. to lift sanctions on internet gambling 

Antigua and Barbuda could become a new battleground over movie downloads in the Caribbean nation's effort to drive the U.S. to settle a trade dispute that has blocked Americans from using the island's internet gambling site.

Getty ImagesMark Mendel, a lawyer representing the islands, confirmed to The Wrap a Reuters report that Antigua is considering allowing a copyright license free file site to be housed on the island. But he also said the file sharing site is just one sanction among many being explored because the U.S. has been unwilling to resolve a World Trade Organization complaint, Antigua won over the blocking.

Officials of the Antigua embassy in Washington did not return several calls from TheWrap  for comment. The MPAA had no immediate comment for TheWrap.

Mendel, who also represents Antigua at the World Trade Organization, said allowing a movie download site — he declined to provide detailed plans for who would operate the site or how it might work — “is on the broad list of possibilities” to settle the dispute with Washington. The islands could also choose to sell some products without passing on copyright fees.

In 2003, Antigua sought a WTO ruling that U.S. laws banning Internet gambling, while allowing state lotteries and local gambling amounted to an illegal restraint on trade.  In 2008, Antigua won the case as well as the right to annually suspend up to $21 million in copyright revenue it would otherwise have to pay U.S. companies. The two countries have been negotiating since on ways to settle the case.

Mendel said the islands are considering the list “because all of our other efforts have not led to U.S. compliance, nor have they resulted in any reasonable settlement possibilities” that could offset the revenue Antigua has lost.

He said Antigua on Monday is prepared to take the first step toward opening the possibility of a copyright free site by notifying the WTO of the possibility it will move forward.

“On Monday, we will just tick the last box needed from a formal perspective to enable Antigua to commence the lawful suspension of American intellectual property rights under the terms and conditions of the WTO agreements,” Mendel said..

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative told TheWrap on Friday said that the U.S. is still hopeful of reaching an agreement that would avert WTO sanctions.

“The U.S. is in ongoing discussions with Antigua in an effort to find a mutually satisfactory resolution to this dispute,” she said.