Antigua and Barbuda: The Copyright Free Capitol of the World?

copyright-lawyerThe island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has been beefing with the United States government for about six years. Online gambling and Internet copyright protections figure at the center of the dispute. Basically, Antiguans were (and still are) upset the U.S. outlawed online gambling, as the ban had a negative effect on Antigua’s economy. Meanwhile, the U.S. is upset that Antigua is threatening to remove all American copyright protection measures in their country as retaliation for the gambling ban.

Now, it looks as if the Antiguan government is ready to unveil their Dr. Evil-esque plan, and lawmakers admit the plan is meant to “monetize” or otherwise “exploit” U.S. copyrights. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer expressed his support and gratitude for the committee who quickly drafted a workable proposal. Also — perhaps in an attempt to alert overseas investors with a yin for Caribbean tax shelters – Baldwin mentioned in his press statement that the new Antiguan plan would be open to “private sector participation in the platform.”

Do you think Antigua is over-reacting? Maybe, but they have a legal right to do so. In 2007, The World Trade Organization sided with the Caribbean nation, granting them the authority to “ignore certain WTO commitments to the U.S., including those related to intellectual property rights protections.”

A spokesperson for the office of the U.S. Trade Representative cautioned that any extreme measures taken by the Antiguan government will “damage Antigua’s climate for investment and innovation.” Quite frankly, I’m not sure said assertion is accurate. After all, U.S. investors aren’t the only game in town. And let’s face it: a lot of profit-minded people (and pirates alike) – both at home and overseas – are not going to pass up a copyright free zone on principle.

The trade representative spokesperson also pointed out that the U.S. made amends with every other WTO member nation. Again, by pointing this out, the feds may be helping Antigua and Barbuda’s marketing efforts, for in doing so, they’re simply highlighting that Antigua may be the only game in town with copyright dodging capabilities.

Why is Antigua and Barbuda obsessed with the online gambling issue? Before Internet gaming, online gambling was the island nation’s second largest employer. When the ban hit, the Antiguan economy tanked.

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