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Antigua presents America with a Pirate’s Dilemma

Prohibition has often been fought with piracy, but never quite like this. Antigua and the U.S. signed a free trade agreement in the early 1990s which, according to The New York Times, has become a major bone of contention for both countries, not to mention the World Trade Organization. Antigua thinks the agreement covers online gambling, the country’s second largest employer after tourism. The U.S. disagrees, and wants to ban online gambling in Antigua, which would violate Antigua’s free trade rights as a W.T.O. member. The W.T.O. has sided with Antigua, saying the U.S. is out of compliance with its rules, and this is where things get really interesting.

The U.S has largely ignored the W.T.O. ruling (the U.S. has criticized China for doing the same thing in relation to copyright laws). In 2005 Washington even tried to Jedi mind-trick the W.T.O., telling them America had “been in compliance all along.” The U.S. has a lot to lose here – complying would mean completely restructuring U.S. gambling laws so offshore online casinos were permitted, or banning all forms of online gambling altogether. The W.T.O. has a lot to lose too – compared to Washington the organization is tiny, going head to head with its most powerful supporter would be unwise. The U.S. has simply decided to re-write the agreement so it no longer includes online gambling, and will have to compensate Antigua in some way for violating its trade rights.

But Antigua has raised the stakes. Antigua has the right under international law to violate American intellectual property laws, to offset its losses from the prohibition of online gambling. This would mean Antigua could freely distribute American movies, music and software (to the whole world, thanks to the Internet), which would present a much greater problem than online gambling. All bets are off as to how this will turn out, but the world is watching.

There is a fine line between piracy and free trade, or in this case, several. Creating Pirate’s Dilemmas as a foreign policy tool is unorthodox, but clearly very effective. More on this difficult balancing act as it happens…

One Response to “Antigua presents America with a Pirate’s Dilemma”

  1. The Pirate's Dilemma Says:

    [...] previously reported, the U.S., Antigua and the W.T.O. all took a big gamble on this case. The U.S. bet its intellectual [...]

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