Qatar asks for WTO adjudication in Saudi piracy dispute
November 19 2018 11:26 PM
World Trade Organization


*Saudi-based pirate channel beoutQ broadcast beIN Sports programmes

Qatar has stepped up its fight for justice in a dispute against Saudi Arabia at the World Trade Organization (WTO) , with a request for adjudication of its complaint that Riyadh had violated its intellectual property rights.

Qatar launched the dispute in October, saying Saudi Arabia was blocking Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN and refusing to take effective action against the piracy of beIN content by a sophisticated pirate operation called "beoutQ".

Qatar's latest WTO filing, dated November 9 and published on yesterday, said Saudi Arabia had refused to meet Qatari officials to try to resolve the dispute, as required by WTO rules.

A Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi officials have previously said that the country is taking action to combat piracy and is committed to protecting intellectual property rights.

The request for a WTO adjudication panel reiterated Qatar's original complaint, and also argued that beoutQ was violating not only Qatar's rights but those of many other countries, whose TV programmes could now be watched for free in Saudi Arabia.

"The IPTV applications on beoutQ set-top boxes provide access, in the territory of Saudi Arabia, to hundreds of television channels and thousands of on-demand programs from around the world, without the authorisation of the intellectual property right holders," Qatar's latest filing said, referring to applications for so-called Internet Protocol television.

Saudi Arabia was making it impossible for Qatari nationals to protect their intellectual property rights, giving Qatari nationals less favourable treatment than Saudi and other nationals, and making it unduly difficult for Qataris to seek judicial remedies, Qatar said.

It also criticised "Saudi Arabia's omission to prosecute, as a criminal violation, piracy on a commercial scale, of material in which copyright is owned by, or licensed to, Qatari nationals, and other rights holders from around the world."

Global sports network beIN Sports is blocked in Saudi Arabia under a boycott the kingdom imposed on Qatar over a year ago.

To get around its own ban on subscribing to beIN Sports, the Saudis managed to illegally broadcast the programmes on its beoutQ channel via a Riyadh-based satellite, Arabsat.

Premier League clubs face losing £10mn a year as the spread of piracy drives down the value of TV rights.

beIN Sports - which pays £328mn to broadcast matches across the Middle East - predicts it may have to cut what it offers by up to 50% because of the rising number people who can now view sport for free.

Sources say piracy was also a key factor in driving down what Sky is paying the Premier League over the next three years - a 12.1% fall from £4.1bn to £3.6bn.

beIN Sports has borne the brunt of piracy being carried out on an industrial scale by Saudi Arabia via the rogue channel, beoutQ.

But the piracy is no longer confined to the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region.

Last month the BBC and Sky asked the EU to take formal action against Saudi Arabia because beoutQ has now become a sophisticated international piracy operation, operating in Europe as well.

beIN Sports has warned that the ‘contagion of piracy’ is spreading worldwide after it emerged that beoutQ boxes were on sale in London, the United States and parts of Africa.

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