Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I don't think I understand this enough to know if it's a bad thing, or a really bad thing.


On Monday, the World Trade Organization granted the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda the ability to suspend “certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights,” as the result of an ongoing dispute between Washington and Saint John’s. In other words, Antigua and Barbuda will now be allowed to open up its own, internationally-blessed, “pirate” site, undoubtedly full of American films, TV shows, music, and software.

The roots of this disagreement, like many feuds, center on money. The 81,000-person nation has long argued it should be allowed to compete, through its offshore gambling sites, in the United States, where gambling is highly regulated. In a statement released Monday, the tiny country’s finance minister said Antigua and Barbuda’s economy has been “devastated” as a result of American action.

The country claims the sector once employed more than 4,000 people (around five percent of the entire country) and has since fallen to 500. And proceeds from the industry “helped fund public education, healthcare, and the country’s infrastructure, and the income boosted consumer spending and other economic activity associated with a vibrant, high-tech industry.”

“These aggressive efforts to shut down the remote gaming industry in Antigua has resulted in the loss of thousands of good paying jobs and seizure by the Americans of billions of dollars belonging to gaming operators and their customers in financial institutions across the world,” Harold Lovell, Antigua’s Finance Minister, said in a statement.

I'm a fan of property rights.  But the U.S. has asserted rights over the internet that are restrictive and imperialistic. But....well, you tell me.

With a nod to Tim C.


Tom said...

Society uses property rights to control usage of limited resources. By a tremendous margin, it's the best way to do that. "Property" doesn't have to be something you can touch: radio spectrum could be (and should be) handled the same way.

Then some bozo went and invented "intellectual property". (One would hope he never got any royalties for that one.) There's little or nothing involved that's limited. It's not property, despite the name; it's a grant of monopoly over the sale of some design.

A wholly different market in works of art (WOA) is coming. Governments can raise hell and hurt people along the way, but the "pirates" win overall because they are agile and countless. Some artists have figured this out; they react by "selling" their WOA so cheaply (incl. easy to get) that piracy is pointless. If they're any good, they make up in volume what they lose in pricing. Also, fans generally prefer to support the original artist when the price differences are small.

Tom said...

Personal note on piracy and copyright:

I'm a big fan of Neal Stephenson, author of novels such as Snow Crash, Diamond Age, and ReaMDe. Mostly, I get access to his works in ways that generate no income back to him. While reading ReaMDe, I impulsively surfed over to his website for the purpose of donating a bit to salve my conscience -- and to encourage him not to quit writing...

No way to donate! Neal Stephenson knows better than any of us how the world is changing. (Read Diamond Age and be amazed!) Yet, he totally wiffed on this one. Just damn.

//Spell checker doesn't like "ReaMDe"

Pelsmin said...

You can't possibly oppose government support of all IP rights? This is one of the most valuable services a central government can perform to enhance civil society. You don't want to restrict or limit freedom unless the net benefits are huge and the costs are tiny; this is the poster child for that.
W/O IP rights, you'd slash the development of beneficial drugs, kill effectively ALL software development/investment in order to turn people loose to freely make use of -- nothing. Won't be anything to steal if no-one gets paid to create it.

James Moore said...

To echo back what you said, you can't possibly believe that the costs of patents and copyrights are small. Have you paid any attention to the issues around software patents? The costs are huge; the question is whether or not they're worth it.

@Mungowitz, it's not at all clear to me what exactly you think is bad/reallyBad. The US actions? The WTO actions? Antigua and Barbuda's? I'm going to assume that you think the US actions are the villan here, and everyone else is doing the right thing in the right way to punish the US.