Will Gambling Laws Lead To Free Music Downloads?

Aug 24th, 2007 | By | Category: Digital Music, General

The New York Times has an interesting article today that looks at how disputes over Internet gambling in the tiny country of Antiqua could lead to free digital music downloads.

Antigua is best known to Americans for its pristine beaches and tourist attractions like historic English Harbor. But the dozens of online casinos based there are vital to the island’s economy, serving as its second-largest employer.

The US has banned gambling over the Internet, which Antiqua legitimately believes has hurt its economy. Antiqua took this to the World Trade Organization, which found that the US was violating the country’s free trade rights.

Complying with the W.T.O. ruling….would require Congress and the Bush administration either to reverse course and permit Americans to place bets online legally with offshore casinos or, equally unlikely, impose an across-the-board ban on all forms of Internet gambling ‚Äî including the online purchase of lottery tickets, participation in Web-based pro sports fantasy leagues and off-track wagering on horse racing.

Not complying with the W.T.O. ruling presents problems of its own. Antiqua’s lawyers are claiming $3.4 billion in damages on behalf of Antigua, and have asked the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the free music downloads, though. The controversy is likely to pit the US against the W.T.O, and could test the strength and support of the relatively new organization.

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