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Sunday, June 25, 2006

USA and the WTO

The world trade organisation about two years ago ruled that the USA was breaking world trade rules by banding online gambling that took place on foreign servers. The WTO were urged to act against the US - although quite what trade sanctions the WTO could bring against the US are unknown, like the UN the WTO has no teeth of its own, with ~150 members, including the European Union, surely something could be done.

The US has in fact completely ignored the idea that cross border trade of this sort is legal under WTO law and recently - has moved to strengthen it's position against gambling, further.

The original case brought to the WTO by Antiga claimed that the US laws against online gambling prohibited the trade of services across borders. In the US gambling is not illegal, however under the Wire Act, 1961 - which was enacted to stop racketeering and money laundering, but is oft sited as a reason why young kids don't end up using mommy and poppy's credit card to amass huge gambling debts, apparently.

The reason I originally began reading about this was that I am an online poker fan, and wanted to get a feel for the legality of pumping my credit card details into one of these online services. Further is another argument that poker isn't gambling, many argue, myself included that poker is a skill game, I'm not very versed in the skill - however it is claimed by some a skill game.

The wire act pertains to gambling on the result of an event, a football or soccer, or baseball game - yet another indication that poker isn't gambling, it's a skill game that can use money to finance playing... like space invaders if you will - but with a pay back.

In a rather frightening piece of new legislation, probably meant to stop terrorism, protect children from porn and abuse, and not forgetting to protect online Americans from the fire and brimstone that would be wrought upon them by on high;
John 19:23
"Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments ... and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. "

I am assuming then that drawing lots, isn't exactly thought well of.

The recent move, now not only outlaws, online gambling sites (even if they are offshore) it also outlaws linking to those site, further more it even outlaws talking about such sites... so technically, this post is illegal.

In what is becoming a greater and greater desecration of First Amendment protections the American public seem to be wilfully acquiescing to this destruction of rights.

This whole idea of it being illegal to even talk about something, maybe soon even think about something, smacking of an Orwellian nightmare. Stems further from the DMCA that makes it a federal offence to describe how to circumvent copy protection on copyrighted goods. To the point where a father can't crack off the Disney DRM from his copy of the Bambi DVD to remove the devastating scene where the matriarch is assassinated in a terrible blood bath akin to some sick venisonesque snuff movie. If a loving father does this, he's breaking the law, if someone tells him how to do this, their breaking the law. A law with sentencing along the line of 5 years imprisonment and unlimited fines.

So we've got the DMCA, we've got federal offences about talking about online gambling, we've got a flagrant hubris in the ignorance of the WTO.

However the grand irony I'd like to throw in to this mixture of legislative boohicky is A site that is clearly illegal in the minds of the RIAA, the international version of the RIAA, the IFPI and even the Russian Authorities themselves, by the fact they are frantically drafting new laws in the
Duma, which might see it closed down by September 2006.

However people are willingly, wilfully and actively handing over their details to be stored in what is arguably the identity theft capital of the planet, mainly because paying a little to somebody who claims to be supporting the artists lets them sleep at night.

You don't get something for nothing, yes the record industry is ripping everyone off and charging outrageous amounts, yes the legal online download services have crippling DRM provision, yes even in the haloed Apple fair play. Yes certain record companies are just as evil as the black hat pirates by illegally installing "root-kit" software on your machine.

At the end of the day it's blindingly obvious that is dodgy.

Yet in the midst of all this who has the US and their thugs at the RIAA gone crying to to get closed down, that's right the WTO.

The US is threatening to block Russian membership of the WTO unless they sort out these electronic renegades. Well I think this is the perfect opportunity for the WTO to make the US comply. In a "You want our support in getting Russia to close, you'll damn well do as your told about the cross border online gambling and and stop playing silly buggers with that archaic wire act."



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