The government and lawyers representing the Caribbean island of Antigua will be appearing before the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week to argue that it ought to be allowed to set up a website that will sell music, films and software - but ignore copyright.
The government of the island wants to establish the site in retaliation against US laws that make online gambling illegal in the US. The US government says that it does so for social reasons, although cynics have suggested that it really does so to protect existing gambling businesses across the US.
Under WTO rules, when one member country is found to contravene WTO laws, it has the right to retaliate in kind. With refrence to these rules, Antigua is seeking to sell films, music, games and other software to a value of $3.4bn (£2.2bn) through a new website before it would be obliged to make copyright payments.
In an earlier hearing, the WTO suggested that a much lower figure of $21m (£13m) would be more appropriate.
Antigua made a complaint at the WTO after the US aggressively outlawed online gambling, extending the ban extra-territorially beyond its own shores in a law that saw, for example, executives from online gambling operators arrested at US airports when they were passing through.
The US is vigorously contesting Antigua's proposal, arguing that it would amount to official WTO backing for piracy and that the response would be out of all proportion to the claimed offence. It has labelled the proposal "government-authorised piracy", but offered to pay Antigua $500,000 (£315,000) in annual compensation instead.
The case will be heard today.
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