R.I.P. Zookz.com: We Hardly Knew Ya

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

So much for the controversy involving pirated music download company, Zookz.com, claiming it can operate freely from the Caribbean nation of Antigua without reprecussions.  They suspended operations this week after being disavowed by the Antiguan Government.

ZookZ.com claimed it could offer downloads under the auspices of a 2007 World Trade Organization  ruling in the remote gaming case brought by Antigua against the US. 

The World Trade Organization found that the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed in October of 2006 was a prima facie violation of the GATS treaty obligations enforced by the WTO, resulting in a series of rulings unfavourable to the US.

A rider to the arbitration ruling affirmed the right of Antigua to take retaliatory steps in view of the prior failure of the US to comply with GATS. These included the rare, but not unprecedented, right to disregard intellectual property obligations to the US.

The company's claims to be "authorized" by Antiguan government approval or under the WTO case were without merit, according to a press release issued by officials in that Caribbean nation.

The Minister of Finance Harold Lovell stated, "The operators of Zookz.com have not 

played any role in the Antiguan gaming industry or in our country's case pending 

before the WTO.  Only the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has the right to 

implement and oversee the intellectual property sanctions it was awarded by the 

WTO.  As of this time, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has not 

authorized any person or entity to implement sanctions.  While we may in the 

future consider exercising the right to impose sanctions, as of this moment, I am 

instead looking forward to meeting with the United States Government in the 

near future and focusing on a mutually beneficial resolution of the issues raised 

by the remote gambling case." 

William Pepper, Zookz' counsel, rejected the Antiguan government's interpretation of the WTO's ruling last week after Gambling911.com began reporting extensively on it. He issued his own statement.

"This is very simple: In December of 2007, the Appellate Body of the WTO confirmed the award of $21,000,000 annually to Antigua. This award imposes sanctions that allow the nullification of the TRIPS obligations for Antigua. The Antiguan government is not a trading entity in the businesses concerned, it is the sovereign representative of companies that trade and provide revenues to the State. Therefore, the only way the Government of Antigua can derive any benefits from this award is through the trading done by companies in Antigua. ZookZ is the property of Carib Media Ltd. a company registered and conducting business in the State of Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies. Therefore there is nothing that requires ZookZ to seek authorization from the WTO or the Government of Antigua to transact its business. As far as ZookZ is concerned, all WTO formalities in regard to the award have been satisfied."

"Zookz is as wrong on the law as the sky is blue," argued one industry analyst familiar with the situation in Antigua, Jay Cohen.  "It's as if they have based their legal opinions on newspaper clippings. They should consult a trade lawyer who has actually brought cases before the WTO and knows the procedure. This idea has been ready to go for some time, by the people who brought the case in the first place. It's never been launched because Antigua has decided to delay implementation of the sanctions while they are actively involved in negotiations with the United States."

As for Zookz.com, they claim to be reimbursing members who paid fees upfront, but that remains to be seen.

From their website that is no longer accessible:

"ZookZ website is temporarily not operating due to circumstances beyond our control and we are sorry you can't get the music and movies you love at this time.

"Due to this interruption, ZookZ is returning all membership fees paid to date by our existing customers. Your business is greatly appreciated and we look forward to getting you the best movies and music again soon.

"ZookZ would like to thank its loyal customers, supporters and the people of Antigua for their continued support and understanding as ZookZ moves to return to full-service. - The ZookZ Team."



Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher



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