Antigua on course to suspend copyright on US intellectual property

The Caribbean twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is back before the World Trade Organisation, 12 years after it won its claim against the United States for damages suffered as a result of US restrictions on online gambling.

The government of Antigua says that since that time, and despite good faith consultations on its part, the US has failed to propose settlement terms that would offset the harm caused by the prohibition of online gaming.

The US prohibition was found to be in violation of the United States’ obligations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) back in 2005.

As a result of the failure to agree a settlement since that time, Antigua says it will suspend copyright on the sale of US intellectual property, unless a settlement is agreed before the end of this year.

The right to suspend copyright on the sale of US intellectual property was awarded to Antigua in 2007 by the arbitration panel of the World Trade Organisation, up to a value of US$21m annually.

Antigua plans to exercise this right by launching a website offering free downloads of US books, films and music.

The Antiguan government also warned that all WTO members should be concerned with the continued non-compliance of the US in this dispute.

The dispute began in 2003 with the US prohibition of offshore online horse race betting, which was subsequently expanded to include all offshore online wagering.

In response to Antigua’s end-of-year deadline to reach a settlement, the US said that it remains committed to resolving the matter, but that it was disappointed that Antigua and Barbuda had characterised it as having acted in bad faith when the US had taken a constructive approach to resolving the matter.

The US claims to have attempted to settle the dispute on multiple occasions, putting forward a package of service concessions as compensation for removing internet gambling from the US schedule of commitments under GATS.


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