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WTO rules against US online gambling ban

28/12/2007
After a prolonged dispute between the U.S. Commerce Department and foreign online gambling companies, the World Trade Organisation has made a ruling that a ban on Internet gambling services provided by companies abroad is unlawful. This move might see American companies suffer from the legal piracy intellectual property.

After the recent test case brought by Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean island’s gained permission to disregard intellectual property rights owned by American companies in compensation for the loss of earnings caused by federal statutes and four American states that have outlawed internet gambling. This follows the compensation claim by the Islands for $3.4 billion for loss of earnings from the U.S., of which Washington believe half a million is compensation enough.

Sean Spicer, in a retort by the US government, said, “The ruling would establish a harmful precedent for a WTO members to affirmatively authorize what would otherwise be considered acts of piracy, counterfeiting, or other forms of intellectual property rights infringement.” Susan Schwab went on to say that if the islands began ignoring American copyright laws, it would severely discourage foreign investment in the Antiguan economy.

Antigua came back urging the U.S. government that they had no intention of taking advantage of American intellectual property rights.

The WTO ruling stipulated that the U.S. should be punished for contravening the values of the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The ruling is protected by a treaty and opens doors for other countries to claim disadvantage from the gambling ban. India, Costa Rica, and Macau (members of the WTO) are in negotiations with the U.S. Commerce Department.

Earlier this month, Canada, the European Union, and Japan waived their rights to internet gambling in exchange for free trade with American companies on other disputed sectors, such as postal, research and development, and storage and warehouse services.

Stephen Holder.
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