–Catlan McCurdy, Attorney
When you’re attempting to seek financial retribution from the United States, you have to get a little creative. And it sounds like Antigua and Barbuda employ some creative people. The Carribean nation, known for its beaches, weather, and gambling, once thrived on a gambling industry that employed 5 percent of its people. The United States government’s long campaign against online gambling resulted in the US blocking Antigua’s gambling companies from accessing American players. Poker players cursed the government, and Antigua’s gambling industry began to circle the drain. It’s estimated that the country lost a $3.4 billion dollar industry.
So Antigua sued the United States, and won. In 2005, the World Trade Organization ruled that the United States’ move violated free trade guidelines. In 2007, the WTO made a further ruling, stating that Antigua could “suspend’ American copyrights for as much as $21 million per year in an attempt to regain some of the money lost by the online gambling block. Not much has happened since 2007, but in late January of this year, Antigua announced that it will begin selling American media online to customers worldwide. The plan appears to have been approved by the WTO, and it is expected that a website will soon be launched and possibly live by the end of February. The website will likely charge users a minimal amount to access American movies, music, or software.
It seems like Antigua, a nation well versed in the tricks and trade of gambling, is raising the stakes and hoping to call America’s bluff. Trade experts believe that Antigua’s plan is designed to provoke American filmmakes and musicians into lobbying Congress to allow Americans to gamble on foreign websites. Knowing how influential Hollywood can be, especially with the Obama administration, I would not be suprised if we didn’t see some sort of compromise on online gambling. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting online to buy seasons of Mad Men for $5.