This has to be one of the strangest instances in technology for the past couple of years. Antigua, a small island nation in the Caribbean, has been given the go ahead by the World Trade Organisation to operate a completely legal pirated movie website, since it was granted the right to suspend US copyright to the tune of $21 million every year, because the USA refuses to release a blockade on Antigua operating online gambling services within its borders.
While it's unknown at this point how the Antiguan government plans to offer the music, movies and software it is legally entitled to do so – without paying anything to the original creators – it could offer a service like Netflix, with a subscription model that anyone worldwide could take advantage of. Alternatively it could charge customers per download, allowing them to keep DRM free copies of the media forever.
Antiguan finance minister Harold Lovell said that due to the loss of remote gaming business, Antigua has no option but to make use of its WTO granted rights: “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,” he said (via TorrentFreak).
“If the same type of actions, by another nation, caused the people and the economy of the United States to be so significantly impacted, Antigua would without hesitation support their pursuit of justice,” he added.
No word on when the site will be released at this point, but it has apparently been in the works for several months already, so it could be soon for all we know.
The response from the US authorities has so far only been, that any attempt by Antigua to open such a media portal would result in a breakdown of negotiations on the online gambling services – a bullying tactic if ever there was one.
The most interesting part of this whole deal though, isn't what happens with the US or Antigua, but the rest of the world. We could be looking at a huge problem for the global anti-piracy community. Soon anyone in the world will be able to pay for – most probably a small fee – a huge number of movies, TV shows and music and will be able to legally download it from Antigua. It's not piracy and is completely legal, but the artists still get nothing. Will those affected prefer traditional piracy at that point? There will be no recourse for them with Antigua, so how will they react?
KitGuru Says: This could be extremely exciting and illuminating. We could be looking at a setup that could easily rival giants like Netflix, considering it need pay no licensing fees at all. The only problem for Antigua could be the potential limiter of $21 million in copyright suspension. Still, a subscription service would make it easier for the government to make the value of individual movie watching difficult to quantify.