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Antigua distances itself from download site

According to a statement purportedly from the Antiguan government's counsel, unlimited download site Zookz isn't operating with its approval or knowledge. According to Zookz, it doesn't matter.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
2 min read

Another reminder about music sites that sound too good to be true arrived in my in-box Friday.

Earlier this month, I blogged about Zookz, a new site currently in beta testing that allows users to download an unlimited number of MP3 audio files or MP4 video files for a single monthly fee ($9.95 for audio or video only; $17.95 for both). This seems to be an amazing deal compared with similar services--eMusic, for instance, offers a limited number of downloads for a monthly fee, and all-you-can-eat subscription services like the Zune Marketplace disable some portion of your downloads if you stop paying your subscription. Zookz has no such limitations.

The company claimed it could do this because it's based in Antigua, which isn't subject to the same restrictions as the U.S. But apparently, the Antiguan government doesn't want to have any official association with the service. According to a press release that I and some other bloggers got Friday, "The Zookz.com web site is not operating under the authority or with the knowledge of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda." It continues, "Zookz.com is not authorized by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, or by the World Trade Organization, to offer entertainment downloads in contravention of international law."

I asked the company for their response, and they basically told me that they don't have to have the permission of the Antiguan government or the WTO. According to a statement from William Pepper, legal counsel for Zookz: "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." If that lost you, he continues, "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."

I'm not versed in international law, but in my experience, when lawyers start firing press releases back and forth, it doesn't bode well for the long-term survival of the businesses involved. As I blogged last week, if you want to check out Zookz, do it now.