Antigua’s Prime Minister Issues One Last Warning before Instituting Copyright Sanctions on U.S.
Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has issued one final offer and one final warning before instituting copyright sanctions. Antigua’s president hopes to settle a dispute with the United States which has lasted more than 10 years.
The dispute has cost Antigua and Barbuda around $200,000,000, by most estimates. In a country with a tiny population, that is the equivalent of taking $2,500 out of the wealth of every single citizens of Antigua.
Carl Roberts, Antigua’s High Commissioner to London, told TorrentFreak in 2013, “What was once a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, employing almost 5% of our population has now shrunk to virtually nothing.”
Antigua and Barbuda History
Antigua and Barbuda is a small island nation in the Caribbean with a population of 80,000, a smaller population than Duluth, Minnesota or Rochester, New York.
The islands, which were named Antigua by Christopher Columbus in 1493. “Antigua” means old “Virgin of the Old Cathedral”. After English colonists settled there in 1632, they became a part of the British Empire.
English Harbour and Antigua’s Revenue Sources
Captain Horatio Nelson is a big part of Antigua’s history. During his time as Senior Naval Officer of the Leeward Islands, he restored the naval station in English Harbour, in what became known as Nelson’s Station. By that time, Antigua was an important naval base, called the “Gateway to the Caribbean“.
In 1968, Antigua, Barbuda, and Redonda collectively became dependencies in the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1981, they gained full independence. Antigua and Barbuda depend on tourism and agriculture for their revenues.
Online Gaming Hub
In the late 1990s, when the online gambling industry began to flourish, Antigua became an important licensing authority. English and Canadian gaming operators gained licensing there, and some even placed their headquarters there. One group, associated with Intertops and Vegas Technology (now WGS), even named its parent company English Harbour.
Many of the sites with servers based in Antigua catered to the United States gambling community. In 2003, the U.S. government decided to block American gamblers from accessing gaming sites in Antigua. The tiny nation sued the USA in the World Trade Organization’s international court.
GATS Treaty Violations
Antigua’s lawyers claimed the United States was violating the General Agreement on Trade Services, also known as the GATS Treaty. This treaty was entered into in 1995 by WTO nations, during the Uruguayan Round negotiation. GATS stated that a country would allow international companies access to their domestic markets, if their own domestic companies were allowed access.
Antigua argued that the United States allowed online gambling on horse racing, lottery sales, and other unregulated forms of gambling. By the time the WTO case was filed, the United States claimed it had a ban on online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks. US officials felt justified in banning online gambling from Antigua, while the island nation argued the US was engaged in protectionist policies.
WTO Court Cases
The WTO court ruled in favor of Antigua. For the next several years, the United States ignored the ruling. In 2009, Antigua once again sought restitution before the WTO court. The court ruled that the country could institute copyright sanctions against U.S. intellectual property, in order to collect revenues lost to the online gaming interdiction.
Since 2009, Antigua’s officials have declined to enact the copyright sanctions. They feel it would be punishing American musicians, filmmakers, and television producers for the infractions of their government. After seven years of patience and an estimated $200 million in damages, Antigua’s Gaston Browne has lost patience.
Gaston Browne’s Remunerative Actions
Prime Minister Browne announced September as the date when he would executive the copyright sanction program, if no agreement was made by then. Given that the Obama Administration has had 7 and 1/2 years to settle the dispute, that appears unlikely. After September 2016, people can expect to hear of Antigua and Barbuda pirating American intellectual material and selling it for profit. The limit per year is $20 million, according to the WTO court’s ruling.