Antigua revising copyright law to permit royalty-free download site launch

antigua-uncle-sam-wtoAntigua is preparing to revise its copyright law to make good on its vow to offer royalty-free downloads of intellectual property belonging to American corporations. This week saw Antigua and Barbuda’s parliament open its 2014 session with the traditional Throne Speech from Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack (pictured on the left), who said the government was making the “necessary arrangements” to implement the download plan, as authorized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in retaliation for America’s refusal to amend its anti-competitive online gambling stance.

In case you’ve Rip Van Winkled the past decade, Antigua filed a WTO complaint in 2003 over the US refusal to allow access to its market by Antigua-based online gambling companies. The WTO upheld Antigua’s complaint in 2005 on the grounds that the US Interstate Horse Racing Act (IHRA) allowed domestic gambling companies to do what the US said Antigua-based firms couldn’t. The US ignored the ruling, leading the WTO to authorize Antigua to impose $21m in annual sanctions, including the aforementioned copyright free-for-all, in a bid to compel the US government to make the necessary changes to its anti-competitive laws.

This decision was handed down in 2007 but Antigua declined to act immediately, hoping against hope that the US would reach a settlement. But while the US Trade Representative (USTR) has occasionally agreed to meet with their Antiguan counterparts, US proposals to resolve the decade-old dispute have been described by Antigua’s Ambassador Colin Murdoch as “far short of what is required to settle this matter.” In the meantime, the total amount of sanctions Antigua is authorized to impose has swelled to around $150m.

On Tuesday, Lake-Tack told Antiguan legislators that the country’s “once flourishing gaming industry had been ruined by US laws prohibiting and criminalizing the provision of remote gaming services.” The administration of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer was suitably “frustrated over the delay by the United States in implementing the WTO decision” and was in the process of revising the country’s Copyrights Act, the Trademarks Act and the Patents Act “to invoke the WTO-approved sanctions by removing any protection which US intellectual property may have in Antigua and Barbuda.”