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beIN Launches Website Targeting Alleged Massive TV/Web Pirate

Qatar-based sports broadcaster beIN Media Group has launched a website laying out its case against Saudi Arabia-based network beoutQ, which it said "consistently steals content from both international leagues and networks for illegal broadcasts."

BeIN said that since the network's launch in 2017, beoutQ has illegally broadcast billions of dollars worth of entertainment content. The site was launched following the World Trade Organization's (WTO) agreement to consider Qatar's claim that Saudi Arabia has failed to provide "adequate protection" for intellectual property rights, particularly those of Qatari-based entities like beIN.

Then there are the IPTV apps which beoutQ set-tops use to stream pirated movies and TV shows, said beIN.

According to Qatar's request for WTO resolution of the issue, "since Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Qatar, ...beoutQ has begun operating, broadcasting beIN's signal without authorization in Saudi Arabia and beyond, and allowing access to hundreds of beIN proprietary channels and programs via the internet and satellite broadcasting. The scale of the operation and the financial and technical support received indicate that it enjoys the support of Saudi Arabia. Relief has been sought through the Saudi legal system and appeals have been made to the Saudi government for help, all to no avail. The actions of Saudi Arabia are a concern not only to Qatar but for other WTO members whose rights holders license content to beIN..."

According to beIN, that piracy includes NFL, the NBA, Olympics, Formula 1, Premiere League and Asian Cup, in what beIN calls "the most sophisticated piracy operation that the world has ever seen," including "inserting its own logos and branding; selling subscriptions; carrying separate advertising; and even adding its own commentary" on 10 encrypted channels.

Saudi Arabia has countered that it regretted Qatar's request to WTO and that it "diligently protects the legitimate rights of all IP owners properly registered in Saudi Arabia." It also said that given the severing of diplomatic ties, WTO dispute resolution is impossible given the need to protect its security interests.

The U.S. sided with Saudi Arabia, arguing that WTO should not undercut a member's own assessment of its national security and said the parties should try to resolve the dispute outside the WTO dispute settlement process.

BeIN has launched an arbitration claim against Saudi Arabia for over $1 billion in damages and FIFA signaled its plan last July to take legal action.

"FIFA has observed that the pirate entity named ‘beoutQ’ continues to use illegally the 2018 FIFA World Cup broadcast signal," FIFA said in a statement at the time. "Accordingly, FIFA has engaged counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia and is working alongside other sports rights owners that have also been affected to protect its interest."

In 2018, the U.S. put Saudi Arabia on the IP watch list citing "IP challenges."

“What started out as a concerted and targeted campaign against beIN has now morphed into the largest commercial theft that’s ever been seen in the world of sport and entertainment, affecting everyone from the biggest organizations in sport to Hollywood movie studios and international broadcasters," said beIN Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region CEO Tom Keaveny.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.