Probably only catching up on things as its been quite busy and alas this blog is unfortunately low on the list of priorities… Anyway, I was stunned to read in Variety that
The government of Antigua is likely to abrogate intellectual property treaties with the U.S. by the end of March and authorize wholesale copying of American movies, music and other “soft targets” if the Bush administration fails to respond to proposals for settling a trade dispute between the two counties, according to the lawyer representing the Caribbean island nation.
The history is quite interesting. Apparently Antigua has prevailed several times at the WTO in respect of US trade practices related to offshore gambling sites which are hosted in Antigua but the US has taken no action. After roughly five years of proceedings, apparently Antigua is now looking to this course of action as a retaliatory measure. The WTO has to some extent, blessed this course of action. From the article:
The most recent victory was in December, when the WTO ruled that Antigua could exact damages by ignoring IP agreements with the U.S. should a negotiated settlement fail.
Somewhat surprising but the ruling can be found at the WTO site (note – link is to a 74 page PDF) and awards Antigua:
6.1 For the reasons set out above, the Arbitrator determines that the annual level of nullification or impairment of benefits accuing to Antigua in this case is US$21 million and that Antigua has followed the principles and procedures of Article 22.3 of the DSU in determining that it is not practicable or effective to suspend concessions or other obligations under the GATS and that the circumstances were serious enough. Accordingly, the Arbitrator determines that Antigua may request authorization from the DSB, to suspend the obligations under the TRIPS Agreement mentioned in paragraph 5.6 above, at a level not exceeding US$21 million annually.
I’m surprised this hasn’t gained more prominence, since the implications could, needless to say, be huge, particularly given other trade disputes that the US has with the EU and others (and in which it has taken a similar course of action). I did not an article that mentioned that Slysoft, the company which broke Blu-Ray’s DRM system, is based in Antigua.
Then again I have been living (or rather working) under a rock lately so may just be late to tune in to this news.