World Trade Organization allows Antigua to ignore US$21 million of US copyright per year

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Arbitrators at the World Trade Organization (WTO) have granted the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda a special dispensation to ignore United States copyright law.

In their report, the WTO panel stated that Antigua possessed "no effective trade sanctions against the USA" and agreed to allow the country to ignore up to US$21 million worth of US copyrights a year. While this amount falls significantly short of the US$3.4 billion per year dispensation that Antigua was seeking, it is far higher than the US$500,000 per year allocation that US negotiators were pushing for.

The ruling comes at the end of a five year legal contest between Antigua and the USA regarding the USA's blocking of offshore online gambling sites. Because many of these sites were located in Antigua, the Antiguan government filed a complaint with the WTO saying that the US prohibition constituted unlawful restriction of trade. When the WTO agreed, Antigua pressed for US$3.4 billion in punitive damages. They asked to have this penalty assessed as permission to copy US intellectual property, since there was no trade embargo that Antigua could impose on the US to collect the amount for itself. The panel agreed that Antigua had no way to collect punitive damages through trade sanctions. However, they lowered the amount of damages to US$21 million per year.