In the battle between the United States and the international community over the issue of online gambling, the little country of Antigua has been granted a significant advantage by the World Trade Organization. The WTO is allowing Antigua to sell the intellectual property of US companies without compensating the makers of the works, effectively suspending US copyright and intellectual property rights in Antigua.
This would allow Antigua to set up a service which would sell music, movies, TV shows, and other works made by US companies or artists, up to $21 million annually. It seems that the Caribbean country is already working on a website in order to implement this plan. Whether they see this is a way to leverage the United States into legalizing online gaming, or whether they plan to move ahead with the plan to sell copyrighted materials is still unclear CMD368.
What is clear is that the United States government is vehemently opposed to the plan, calling it theft and government-authorized piracy. However, the WTO granted Antigua this right once it was acknowledged that the US was violating WTO regulations by not allowing Antigua-based online gaming organizations to take American customers. When the US violated a free-trade agreement, nearly 90,000 people were put out of work as Antigua’s gambling industry shut down.
Article 22.3 of the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Understanding allows nations that suffer losses as a result of the violation of a WTO agreement to retaliate under a different agreement, if it is not practicable or effective to retaliate under the original agreement. This means that Antigua could raise tariffs or duties on American goods, but the amount of trade the US does with the country is so small that this would not be an effective remedy.
Instead, Antigua is using the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement to enforce its claim against the US. The WTO has granted relief under this article in the past, but no country has ever implemented a system to act on it. Antigua is moving ahead with their plan because of their inability to negotiate with the United States up to this point.
The United States has just two options left in this dispute. They can either comply with the order, allowing Antigua to set up its intellectual property portal; or they can negotiate with the nation and begin to allow online betting in some form. A less likely, although still potential, option is a US invasion of Antigua. While this may seem far-fetched, the US had invaded Grenada just a few decades ago. However, if Antigua implements the plan incorrectly, the US can bring the case back into the WTO, although this is an even less likely scenario.
This case may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and forces the United States government to change its position on legalized online poker, sports betting, and other gaming-related issues. Some states are already starting to take the lead, with Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and others legalizing some form of online gaming, or considering legalizing wagering on sporting events. The federal government, however, has opposed any such nationwide measures, but the selling of US corporation intellectual property may force a change in policy in the near future.