LA Times' technology blog, the launch of Antigua-based media download site Zookz has raised the ire of the US trade commission as well as the RIAA and MPAA. However, according to the company, Zookz is permitted by the World Trade Organization under a loophole copyright sanction. You read that correctly. The US trade commission and the RIAA / MPAA is challenging Zookz the pirate with the WTO in its corner. Imagine the cage match.As reported in the
Zookz is offering unlimited movie or music downloads for $10 per month (or $18 for both). The company's low prices can be attributed to the fact that it is not paying licensing fees to copyright owners. The justification as to why Zookz can ignore US claims to intellectual copyrights is a long and complicated one.
It seems the WTO ruled with Antigua after a long series of battles over the fact that US restrictions on online gambling were found to violate free trade agreements. Despite the decision, no new forms of offshore online betting were allowed in the US. In retaliation, Antigua received permission from the WTO to suspend US copyright obligations up to a value of $21 million dollars annually.
Zookz founder Hugh Marshall launched the site in the belief that the Antigua-based company is not subject to US copyright law until those within the space reach a profit of $21 million dollars. Nevertheless, it's unlikely that this is the case as it would mean that the WTO would allow Antigua-based websites to simply give away files or sell them at rock bottom prices in order to stay below the limit. While the actual terms of the WTO's sanction is blurry, John Healey of the LA Times suggests that the annual value limit is likely to represent the loss to US industries rather than the profit yielded. As well, the fact that the site is accessible by global audiences outside of Antigua makes this a particularly suspicious venture.
While the site's 1,500 movies and 50,000 songs represent a relatively small catalogue, it appears that for now, for the price of a Netflix monthly account, Zookz users can access unlimited downloads. Obviously this is tempting. Dubious legality aside, and regardless of how you perceive the RIAA and MPAA, please remember that in this case neither starving musicians nor billionaire record labels receive payment for the downloaded works. If you're still curious about the service, you can register at Zookz.com.