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Boycott Antigua Travel - WTO/Antigua criminal, violate U.S. Sovereignty

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Vote Ron Paul 2008, he\'ll get US out of the WTO! PARIS: In an unusual ruling December 21, 2007 at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua won the right to violate copyright protections on goods like films and music from the United States - worth up to $21 million - as part of a dispute between the two countries over online gambling. The award comes after a WTO decision that Washington had wrongly blocked online gaming operators on the island from the American market at the same time it permitted online wagering on horse racing. Antigua and Barbuda had claimed annual damages of $3.44 billion. That makes the relatively small amount awarded Friday, $21 million, something of a setback for Antigua, which had been struggling to preserve its booming gambling industry. The United States had claimed that its behavior had caused only $500,000 damage to the Antiguan economy. Yet the ruling is significant in that it grants a rare form of compensation: the right of one country, in this case, Antigua, to violate intellectual property laws of another - the United States - by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among other items. "That has only been done once before and is, I believe, a very potent weapon," said Mark Mendel, a lawyer representing Antigua, after the ruling. "I hope that the United States government will now see the wisdom in reaching some accommodation with Antigua over this dispute." Though Antigua is best known for its pristine beaches and tourist attractions, the dozens of online casinos now based there are vital to the island\'s economy, serving as its second-largest employer. By pressing its claim, trade lawyers said, Antigua could set a precedent for other countries to sue the United States for unfair trade practices, potentially opening the door to electronic piracy and other dubious practices around the world. Still, implementation will prove difficult, the lawyers say. "Even if Antigua goes ahead with an act of piracy or the refusal to allow the registration of a trademark, the question still remains of how much that act is worth," said Brendan McGivern, a trade lawyer with White & Case in Geneva. "The Antiguans could say that\'s worth $50,000, and then the U.S. might say that\'s worth $5 million - and I can tell you that the U.S. is going to dog them on every step of the way." The United States has aggressively fought Antigua\'s claims at every step. A WTO panel first ruled against the United States in 2004, and its appellate body upheld that decision one year later. In April 2005, the trade body gave the United States one year to comply with its ruling, but that deadline passed with little more than a statement from Washington that it had reviewed its laws and decided it has been in compliance all along. From the start of the case, the United States has claimed that it never intended to allow free, cross-border trade in gambling or betting services. Those activities are restricted in the United States, though some form of gambling is legal in 48 of the country\'s 50 states. In May, the United States announced that it was rewriting its trade rules to remove gambling services from the jurisdiction of the WTO. Washington has already agreed on deals with the European Union, Canada and Japan to change the treaty but it has yet to reach agreements with a number of other nations, including Antigua. On Friday, the U.S. trade representative issued a stern warning to Antigua to avoid acts of piracy, counterfeiting or violations of intellectual property while negotiations were under way, saying such behavior would "undermine Antigua\'s claimed intentions of becoming a leader in legitimate electronic commerce, and would severely discourage foreign investment in the Antiguan economy." Gary Rivlin reported from New York.



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