A Caribbean Country Can Legally Pirate (Because The U.S. Was Cheating Them)

A Caribbean Country Can Legally Pirate (Because The U.S. Was Cheating Them)

America has all kinds of regulations on gambling. The laws on online gambling have changed a bit over the years, but for a while, America banned it altogether. Gambling sites based in other countries would bar American players and could not even use payment methods that Americans could easily access.

In the first years of this century, Antigua was operating online gambling sites, which did allow Americans to play. The American government cut off access, blocking people in America from using the sites. You might question where this was legit under U.S. law, while also acknowledging that it was totally up to U.S. law to decide whether the U.S. could do this.

However, this move of America’s was actually illegal, under international law. America had signed a treaty, the General Agreements on Trade in Services, which kept them from interfering in commerce in this way. They could have inked out some exceptions to the treaty for gambling (like some other nations did, including Canada), but they hadn’t. So Antigua took the matter up with the World Trade Organization.

The WTO decided in favor of Antigua in 2007. They didn’t award Antigua the $3.4 billion they'd asked for in annual compensation (that value was unrealistic and was over double the country’s GDP), but they did award them $21 million a year, 40 times what the U.S. had said it would willingly pay. Antigua could collect the money through trade sanctions. A special kind of trade sanctions: Antigua could now legally pirate U.S. intellectual property. 

In the years that followed, Antigua repeatedly announced plans to open some kind of piracy website. Sadly, they never followed through. While such a website could, in theory, cost the U.S. millions a year, actually getting it to raise millions for Antigua was a tricky matter. One other option was for Antigua to sell items that violated U.S. intellectual property—including, they suggested, Manchester United T-shirts (the British team was owned by the American Malcolm Glazer).

In the end, after many years, they chose to turn down the piracy offer and simply opt for a cash settlement. So America, simply ... did not pay the settlement. As of 2018, the U.S. owed Antigua $315 million, with the sum growing annually and still with no payment in sight. 

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Top image: Walt Disney Pictures

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