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Is Zookz! misinterpreting the WTO for profit?
The respected publication Techdirt.com carried an interesting article about an online music provider apparently taking advantage of World Trade Organisation findings on the Internet gambling dispute between the United States and the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The article provides background by recapping the story of how the tiny Caribbean online gambling jurisdiction fought a long-running WTO battle with the United States that culminated in the WTO ruling that the US had been out of line and discriminatory in its dealings with the Antiguans, who were consequently due some compensation.
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Techdirt correctly observes that the after years of stonewalling and plain ignoring its obligations, the US was eventually placed in a position where, at the end of 2007, the WTO agreed to let Antigua ignore US intellectual property rights, but only to the tune of $21 million.
"Of course, the US quickly threatened Antigua not to go forward with any plans to violate US Intellectual Property, but did little to rectify the situation. So last year, Antigua insisted it really (really, really, really!) was going to start ignoring US IP," Techdirt recalls, adding that the issue then seemed to quieten down.
Until now. Techdirt points to a story in the Los Angeles Times about a site called Zookz (from Carib Media), which claims to be taking advantage of the WTO ruling.
It is based in Antigua and is offering up unlimited music or movie downloads for a $10 a month subscription - or both music and movies for $18.
"Needless to say, the US government and the entertainment industry are vehemently opposed to Zookz interpretation of the WTO ruling - especially when it comes to the fact that the Zookz service is apparently available outside of Antigua," comments Techdirt.
"Honestly, it seems like both sides are stretching the meaning of the ruling. The US and the entertainment industry basically want to completely ignore the WTO ruling, and interpret it to be entirely meaningless. That makes no sense, of course. The WTO wouldn't allow such sanctions unless there were a way to actually make use of them.
"That said, it doesn't seem like the WTO ruling gave random private companies carte blanche to offer up music and movies. In fact, the Zookz interpretation gets even odder, where it interprets the $21 million to mean how much it can make, rather than the value "lost" to the industry. In fact, because of this Zookz claims that if it gets too close to selling $21 million (or if others enter the market, and combined they approach $21 million), they'll just have to start giving music and movies away for free to avoid going over the limit.
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"While the WTO did want to give Antigua a weapon against the US, it's hard to believe that was what it meant. So, while this may be amusing to watch, the likelihood of Zookz lasting very long seems slim, at best."
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