Antigua could hit U.S. with copyright-free downloads

Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:46pm EST
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By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - The tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda will tell the World Trade Organization on Monday that it intends to use trade sanctions against the United States, which it could enforce by allowing movie downloads without protecting U.S. copyright.

Antigua has the right to do so because it won a WTO legal case, first launched in 2003, against a U.S. ban on online gambling. The United States then said it would no longer apply WTO rules to gambling but failed to offer Antigua comparable access in other services, as it should have.

Antigua won the right to hit back with trade sanctions and - with little hope of persuading Washington by threatening to block U.S. imports to the nation of 70,000 - it was given permission to use intellectual property instead.

"American intellectual property rights holders are fighting piracy across the globe. They hate the theft of their intellectual property rights and they spend enormous sums trying to prevent it," Mark Mendel, a lawyer representing Antigua in the case, told Reuters.

He declined to say exactly how Antigua might act, but said it could include copyrights, patents or trademarks.

A website that allowed users to download U.S. software or movies without paying anything to the copyright holders was one possibility, as was selling Manchester United T-shirts - the soccer club is owned by the American Glazer family.

"If, when, how it's going to happen, people will just have to wait to find out."

Although the WTO awarded Antigua the right to impose only $21 million in annual sanctions, Mendel said the size of the award was not an obstacle.   Continued...