Saturday, December 22, 2007

Antigua wins right to violate Americans

The World Trade Organisation has granted Antigua the right to ignore American copyrights, up to a value of USD21million.

The smaller nation had been seeking recompense after claiming unfair treatment when American barred its citizens from using their online gambling services. They'd been claiming rather more - three billions worth of opt-outs - but the precedent is more alarming for US intellectual property holders than the amounts.

The details of the settlement are going to be as controversial as the judgement itself:

“Even if Antigua goes ahead with an act of piracy or the refusal to allow the registration of a trademark, the question still remains of how much that act is worth,” said Brendan McGivern, a trade lawyer with White & Case in Geneva.

“The Antiguans could say that’s worth $50,000, and then the U.S. might say that’s worth $5 million.” He predicted that “the U.S. is going to dog them on every step of the way.”

Maybe, but it cuts both ways - how, exactly, can the US police this effectively? The supposed cut-off figure is one thing, but if every shop in Antigua suddenly starts flogging DVDs of I Am Legend and CDs of John Legend, how can the MPAA and RIAA hope to prove that any one disc is outside the terms of the judgement, without spending even more cash?

Meanwhile - and as it's Christmas - feel a little bit of sympathy for the music and movie industries. They're not to blame for the blocking of the American access to online casinos, and yet it's they who are taking the punishment. If we were them, we'd be thinking it might be time to stop pumping cash into the two political parties - seeing as it's not exactly helping them...