Qatar-based sports broadcaster beIN Media Group has won a victory at the WTO in its efforts to protect transmissions of major soccer league action.
The World Trade Organization has concluded that Saudi Arabia has been "directly or indirectly...preventing beIN from obtaining Saudi legal counsel to enforce its IP rights through civil enforcement procedures before Saudi courts and tribunals."
That came in a report following a year-and-a-half of study of the allegations leveled by beIN, including declarations in support of the allegations by Premier League, FIFA, UEFA, LaLiga, Bundesliga and others.
“Today’s WTO ruling is a historic vindication of intellectual property rights. The decision is founded on rules that 164 nations have agreed to apply," said Stephen Nathan QC, Blackstone Chambers, counsel for beIN Media Group. "The WTO has established that, since 2017, the Saudi government has played a central role in enabling and promoting beoutQ’s theft of world sport and entertainment – the most widespread and damaging piracy operations that the world has ever seen. Saudi Arabia’s breach of international law is clearly established; the damage to the Premier League, other rights-holders and broadcasters has been colossal and it has been brought about by Saudi Arabia’s promotion and support for the beoutQ piracy, coupled with its abstention from taking any meaningful steps to stamp it out as the WTO panel has held.”
BeIN has argued that Saudi Arabia-based network beoutQ "consistently steals content from both international leagues and networks for illegal broadcasts."
BeIN says 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 WTO's 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, says beIN.
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.
"[We agree] with the WTO panel’s recommendations and demands that KSA takes the necessary steps in order that it conforms to its obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement with immediate effect in order to protect legitimate media rights partners, such as BeIN, and also football itself," said FIFA in a statement. "The WTO panel’s recommendations are clear and piracy of football matches is an illegal activity and will not be tolerated on any level."
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