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WTO Approves Suspension of US Copyright in Antigua 225

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the wto-only-applies-to-other-people dept.
hydrofix writes "On Thursday TorrentFreak broke the story (verified by BBC) that the government of Antigua and Barbuda, a tiny island nation on the Caribbean, was planning to launch a legal 'pirate' website selling movies, music and software without paying a penny to U.S. copyright holders. Now, the World Trade Organization has given its final approval for the Antigua government to launch the website. The decision follows from long-running trade dispute between the countries, related to online gambling, which was ruled in Antigua's favor in 2005. After the United States refused to compensate, the WTO granted Antigua the right to 'suspend' U.S. copyrights for up to $21 million annually." From the article: "The Antiguan government further reiterated today that the term 'piracy' doesn’t apply in this situation, as they are fully authorized to suspend U.S. copyrights. It is a legal remedy that was approved by all WTO members, including the United States."
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WTO Approves Suspension of US Copyright in Antigua

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  • Karma is a.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sprouticus (1503545) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:13AM (#42724827)

    This is what happens when you try to strong arm countries and, then, when the ruling goes against you, you ignore it.

    B&A is going to make $21 million really fast. The question is who sets the prices....

  • WTO is Full of.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:20AM (#42724867)
    So basically one business is being unfairly discriminated against by a government being protectionist. So the WTO says ok in that case you can rip off this completely separate business. WTF are they smoking?

    Btw I don't like copywright but this is just wrong

  • by BSAtHome (455370) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:26AM (#42724921)

    Lets see if they use a domain registrar that has US roots/ties and then the DHS will seize the domain name of the site(s).

  • by Splab (574204) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:28AM (#42724929)

    No, it's absolutely how it should be.

    The U.S wont respect the agreements, then Antigua doesn't have to either. Just like any other trade sanction being used around the world - you go for where it hurts to make the big guy play ball.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:29AM (#42724935)

    The ruling doesn't suspend everyone's obligations with regard to the copyrights involved, just Antigua's - while the copy sent to you may be unencmbered by a license, that doesn't mean you gain any rights to redistribution.

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:33AM (#42724971) Journal

    The WTO is not looking at is a one business though they are looking at as economies. Its not like they have an army to go pacify a nation state that is not following the rules it agreed to abide by. This type of action is the only way they have to apply pressure. It make perfect sense to me; piss off an industry with a powerful domestic lobby and hope they lean on their government to fix the situation and yesterday.

    Personally I hope the outcome is that our government does a re-think on being part of the WTO in the first place; that would be the best outcome for us citizens. That naturally is a pipe dream. We should negotiate trade agreements individually on a nation by nation basis (there is only about 400 after all our government is already BIG enough to read everyone e-mail so that should not be an issue). As to places like Antigua doing things like this or China for that matter well we either consider infringement on what we feel is our property a serious enough matter that its an act of war or we don't. I would seriously hope the answer to that is we don't but its a democracy let the people decided not some international body.

  • by Sique (173459) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:44AM (#42725041) Homepage

    We should negotiate trade agreements individually on a nation by nation basis (there is only about 400 after all our government is already BIG enough to read everyone e-mail so that should not be an issue).

    You know what then will happen? All the other nations will form a common body for the sake of negotiations with the U.S., and the U.S. will be forced to sign the same treaty with everyone. You get the WTO again, but without the leverage of being a member.

  • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:46AM (#42725053) Homepage

    I hope the outcome is that our government does a re-think on being part of the WTO in the first place

    Careful for what you wish for; the outcomes might not be what you expect. For example, it would also mean that the rest of the world would feel no need at all to enforce copyrights held under US law, including on a lot of Free Software, or at least not until the negotiation of a whole new set of bipartite treaties.

    I wonder whether it would be legal now (if not necessarily moral) for an Antiguan citizen to do derivative works of software where the copyright holder is the FSF and change the license to a different one (e.g., a BSD variant)...

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @08:49AM (#42725079) Journal

    I don't know that is tough one. Nobody can really force us to give up control of the root zones and the last time it was tried it was pretty unpopular.

    I really doubt our government would be inclined to yield control over an incident like this. For lots of technical reasons you could not very will mix root servers in your hints; if those root servers have a different idea of truth. You would get instability and chaos.

    If some international group or other country stand up its own root servers you will have chaos as well. Which DNS do you use? What domain registrations are valid where. What happens when I try to mail someone in another country does it go to the person I am expecting or someone else who happens to have the same domain on my DNS?

    We'd have to go back to bang paths.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @09:02AM (#42725203)

    That's how it always works. Restricting it to the same business won't work because usually there isn't a significant "same business".

    You put a tariff on importing their televisions, so they put a tariff on importing your wheat.

    The WTO was supposed to put a stop to that, but of course the only real enforcement mechanism it has is that very thing. "Hey the rules say you can't do that. Since you won't stop we'll let the other guy do this other thing that is also supposed to be against the rules".

  • Re:Exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @09:09AM (#42725271)

    But seizing money would chase away future business. This way they can get their money from people that they don't care if they offend.

  • Re:Exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @09:11AM (#42725315)

    Except those casino operators are the very things they want to operate in their country. So seizing assets from them would likely cause more long term harm (by causing casino operators to move somewhere that doesn't have a history for seizing casino assets).

  • by hduff (570443) <hoytduff&gmail,com> on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @09:14AM (#42725357) Homepage Journal

    I think its also a cautionary tale about these world governing bodies and making treaties. Our earliest founders warned us about getting into international entanglements. This is clear example of how these things don't always come out as planned. We might be strong arming China one week, but might have some rulings like these go against our interests another, and it makes us look like real ass hats when we try and argue these international bodies should be abide by one moment and than ignore them the next.

    Yeah, it sucks when you must follow rules you agreed to, especially hwne you intended to use thoe rules to strong-arm others.

  • by Clsid (564627) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @09:16AM (#42725389)

    Well, nobody forces you to sign those agreements. But if you want to get into the game, better play by the rules. So much for all the talk of free trade in the US.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @09:42AM (#42725729)

    So basically one business is being unfairly discriminated against by a government being protectionist. So the WTO says ok in that case you can rip off this completely separate business. WTF are they smoking?

    This is nothing new. Google "chicken tax" – back in 1963, there was a trade war between the US and various European nations over tariffs they put on imported chicken. In retaliation, the US put a 25% tariff on several unrelated goods – including, most importantly, light trucks. Even though the original issues were resolved long ago, the 25% tariff on fully-assembled light trucks remains, which means that foreign manufacturers usually either build their truck plants inside the US or import the trucks in "complete knock down" form and assemble them in the US.

    Anyway, remember that copyright is purely a legal construct – it's not part of customary international law, it's just a deal that the governments agreed to. If there were no treaties in the first place, Antigua would be perfectly within their rights to say that they would not have any copyright or patent laws at all.

  • Easy work-around (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cfulmer (3166) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @11:01AM (#42726827) Homepage Journal

    Affected US companies just need to create foreign subsidiaries and then assign their copyrights over to those subsidiaries. Problem solved. Heck, some of these companies probably already hold their IP offshore.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @11:21AM (#42727141)

    They had an opportunity to ask for something valuable and instead asked for all the crap put out by Hollywood?

    It is actually quite smart. Their goal is to apply pressure on American politicians to abide by trade rules. Hollywood is very politically connected. The studios are big political donors, and they already have lots of lobbyists on K Street. If Hollywood squeals, Washington listens.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @12:26PM (#42728223)

    The trouble here is that the U.S. is refusing to compensate them for money lost on gambling, but the money is lost because Americans can't really gamble online anymore: to the extent that they are able, the U.S. government has effectively banned internet gambling. While this is an incredibly stupid bit of policy -- taking loose money from websites run by American companies you can control and tax and shunting it all to websites run by people you can't tax who don't care about U.S. law -- it's basically an internal U.S. matter.

    Of course, it's not like the trade organizations haven't been used to destroy perfectly legitimate laws before... just try getting a carcinogenic gasoline additive banned in North America these days. But that doesn't make it reasonable. It just points out how questionable the underpinnings of the entire enterprise are.

    Also, I'm a little curious whether the $21 Million will be metered according to the "iTunes price" ($1 per song, or 21 million songs) or the "Jammie Thomas price" ($2,250 per song, or 9333 songs), or some token amount lie a penny a file (2.1 billion movies, songs, and texts sold). If the Antigua government just decides to give stock away, rather than seeking full compensation, does it ever have to stop? How do you set a price on something that is "temporarily free... until the total number of temporarily free things totals $21 million"? I'm sure there's a tighter definition in the legalese somewhere, but it's not immediately clear from the articles what it is.

    Then there's the real-world political implications of poking a very large bear. The U.S. tends to be very "hands off" when it comes to helping other countries with their trade problems (cigarette smuggling into Canada comes to mind). At the same time, the RIAA and MPAA are not known for their temperance. When some "rogue hacker" in no way associated with the U.S. government or one of these groups (no, really, we swear) manages to get some version of Flame on the Antigua servers, it's going to get very messy very quickly.

    This is kind of like the judge in a libel trial saying it's okay to resolve the matter with a duel to the death. It will end badly for pretty much everyone involved.

"Why can't we ever attempt to solve a problem in this country without having a 'War' on it?" -- Rich Thomson, talk.politics.misc

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