Monday, February 4, 2013

Should you (virtually) go to Antigua to gamble or download?

What an odd story from Above the Law last week:
Antigua & Barbuda can now legally offer downloads of copyrighted U.S. works, and there's not a damn thing the U.S. can do about it. The decision marks the latest chapter in the long-running trade dispute between the U.S. and the tiny Caribbean nation over Antigua's internet gambling industry. The U.S. banned Antigua's internet casinos, Antigua took the U.S. to court through the WTO, and Antigua won — and has continued to win — consistently throughout the appeal process.
ATL describes WTO dispute resolution thusly:
"Because you pulled Sally's hair, she gets a free shot to kick your friend from school in the nuts. Justice!!!"
But what Antigua really wants is a deal:
"The economy of Antigua and Barbuda has been devastated by the United States government's long campaign to prevent American consumers from gambling online with offshore gaming operators," Harold Lovell, Antigua's finance minister, said in a statement. "We once again ask our fellow sovereign nation and WTO member, the United States of America, to act in accordance with the WTO's decisions in this matter, before we move forward with the implementation of the sanctions authorized this day by the WTO."
I have two multi-part questions and two asides.

  1. just as a factual matter, can people currently download US-copyrighted works from Antigua with impunity? That is, would that not be a breach of copyright on the part of the downloader, even if it is not for the download-facilitator? Obviously i have no understanding of copyright law.
  2. can a nation state, as a matter of power/capacity, prevent its people (however it defines them) from gambling offshore via the internet?  And if it can, why shouldn't it?  This is a loaded question.

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