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Online gambling dispute may turn into copyright battle

A view of the English Harbour in St. John's, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. In retaliation for a U.S. ban on online gambling, the island nation is threatening to strip copyright protections from American media.

An unusual twist in a Caribbean gambling fight now involves America's entire media industry.

The tiny islands of Antigua and Barbuda are threatening to strip copyright protections from American media. It's part of a long-running dispute over the U.S. blocking Americans from gambling in Antigua's online casinos. Hollywood is furious, calling the potential move government-sponsored piracy.

But leaders of the island nation see things differently from their shores.

"Officials in Antigua and Barbuda do believe that the gaming issue has run on for too long and that it's time to take some assertive action," said Brenton Henry, a reporter with the Antigua Observer. "They're saying that this is one of the options that they've laid on the table."

"Prior to the U.S. crackdown, about a decade ago, there were at least 4,000 people employed both directly and indirectly in the gaming sector," said Henry.

But Henry said Antiguan officials also recognize that relatiating against the ban might be a gamble in itself. If the move antagonizes the U.S., it could just lead to more trade disputes.

"Officials here have said that they are proceeding with caution," said Henry. "They are very careful with how they make statements publicly, not wanting to offend America, not wanting to say things that would undermine the ongoing negotiations that they say are taking place."

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter and substitute host for Marketplace, based in New York.

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