Antigua denies plans to set up website
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jan 25, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government has denied international media reports that the island is seeking permission from the World Trade Organization (WTO) to run a website that would sell music, movies and software, while ignoring copyright laws.
Permanent Secretary in the Department of Trade and Commerce, Ambassador Colin Murdoch, is denying a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that that the Baldwin Spencer government would make the move before the WTO on Monday.
“The BBC is reporting rumour and conjecture,” he told the Observer Radio here, adding “I am afraid I cannot comment at this time, we are in the middle of some meetings and so on and I believe a comment will be made at an appropriate time”.
Murdoch said that Antigua and Barbuda would be “taking certain action” at the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Board on Monday, insisting “Antigua and Barbuda does not intend to run a pirate website.
“To run a pirate site it would be illegal. Whatever Antigua and Barbuda does it will be authorised by the WTO and will be in fact complying with the terms of the judgement given by the WTO. So the question of piracy does not arise,” he added.
The BBC said it had been told by Antigua and Barbuda’s lawyer that the island would make its plea before the dispute settlement body on Monday in a bid to get final authorisation to set up the website.
But Murdoch told Observer Radio that the meeting would involve the establishment of a website.
He said the Spencer administration has not taken any decision regarding a website, adding Monday’s meeting is “basically a notification, where before the Dispute Settlement Board Antigua and Barbuda will say we are going to take up and implement the judgement given by the WTO in this matter”.
Last December, Antigua and Barbuda told the WTO that it was disappointed that it has not been allowed to raise its ongoing dispute with the United States on Internet gambling, despite the matter being before the world body for many years.
Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner to London, Carl Roberts, addressing the WTO Dispute Settlement Body on Monday, said that the Baldwin Spencer administration had submitted to the WTO Secretariat a request for the matter to be included on the agenda for deliberation.
In 2007, the WTO awarded Antigua and Barbuda the right to target U.S. services, copyrights and trademarks in retaliation for its online betting ban. But the WTO capped the limit of annual trade sanctions at US$21 million.
The Spencer administration had sought the right to impose US$3.4 billion in retaliatory measures, while Washington offered a mere US$500,000.
In 2003, St. John’s initiated WTO dispute proceedings against U.S. federal and state laws barring foreign participation in U.S. Internet gambling markets. The WTO, in rulings in 2004 and 2005, found that the U.S. had violated its 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which the WTO said allows Internet gambling.
The WTO has upheld rulings striking down the U.S. ban, but in 2006, Washington prevented U.S. banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gambling businesses outside the country.