Today in Hilarious Comeuppances

Small island off the coast of Antigua

A pirate’s haven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States has a problem with online gambling.  I’m honestly not exactly sure what it is, because I don’t particularly care one way or another.  If I had to guess, it would involve a lot of noise concerning “fraud” and have a legislative arm driven by Senators from Nevada.  Which is probably totally a coincidence.  However, the apparently delightful Caribbean island of Antigua has long been a haven for online gambling activities, which probably nicely complement the more common Caribbean industries of drug trafficking and tax havenry.* So apparently the United States undertook various harsh measures to destroy the Antiguan online gambling industry.

Here’s where my probably non-controversial opinion comes in: the United States forcing its national laws on the Internet is bad.  First of all, the US laws governing the Internet are often substantively bad on the merits.  There is a total lack of concern for user privacy, and indeed an ever-growing desire for surveillance.  The laws on copyright are messed up.  And while the US claims to care about fraud, last year’s JOBS Act basically threw the door open to wide-ranging fraud about which Congress seemed to have zero concerns.  Beyond the merits of US laws, the imperialistic nature of the US attitude towards the Internet is distressing.  And Antigua has decided to strike back.

Antigua is going to allow free commerce in US-copyrighted material.  Thanks to the United States exerting its imperialistic will over world trade policy, there’s a delightful idea in international trade law called “cross-retaliation” – when a country screws with one of your industries, you can legally retaliate with screwing with an unrelated industry of theirs.  So Antigua can – fully covered under World Trade Organization rules – do whatever it wants to the US recording and film industry. It’s certainly hilarious, and I love how easily it lends itself to different conclusions:

  • Pushing for biased international law can have unintended consequences
  • International law is bad for the hegemon, and should be ignored
  • US Internet policy is bad on the merits and so must be changed
  • US Internet policy is good on the merits and so must be extended
  • Antigua should be invaded post-haste

You can really get whatever you want out of this story, but I think we all should appreciate Antigua’s chutzpah here.

*This may not be a word.

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