Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fear for the RIAA: Antigua requests the right to ignore US copyright

There's an interesting case in front of the World Trade Organisation at the moment: Antigua has twice won rulings against the US that the US ban on American citizens gambling online is unfair restraint of trade.

America has a problem in complying with the ruling - either the nation drops the rule, or it has to axe all forms of online gaming for its citizens: fantasy baseball, lottery, the lot.

Naturally, this has thrown the political class into something of a Walt Disney style freeze. But while they've been trying to think what to do - appealing has failed twice - Antigua is getting impatient, and now a lawyer working on the smaller country's behalf has tabled a proposal:

Mr. Mendel, who is claiming $3.4 billion in damages on behalf of Antigua, has asked the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others.

Far-fetched? Not really: Ecuador once won a similar ruling, but chose to use the bargaining power of the opt-out of IP rights to win concessions from Washington. Antigua, of course, might decide that the power to legally violate American copyrights might prove more lucrative than any deal the US would want to cut.