WTO to investigate beIN piracy claims

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The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is to investigate Qatar’s allegations of intellectual property breaches against Saudi Arabia, dismissing the latter’s objection over what it said were national security concerns.

The WTO has agreed “to establish a panel to rule on Saudi Arabia’s alleged failure to provide adequate protection of intellectual property rights”.

Qatar claims that Saudi Arabia has been blocking the Qatari-owned beIN Sports network and refusing to take effective action against the piracy of its content by a 10-channel system operating as ‘beoutQ’, allegedly broadcasting to the Middle East on an Arabsat satellite transmitted from Saudi Arabia. beIN Sports holds the legal rights for the broadcast of all Premier League fixtures across the Middle East and North Africa.

“Legal experts have found no basis for using the pretext of national security to cover up crimes of IP rights piracy,” commented Qatar’s representative to the WTO.

In October 2018 beIN launched an international investment arbitration against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for damages totalling more than $1 billion (€0.87bn), claiming it has unlawfully been driven out of the Saudi market and subjected to what has been described as the most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting that the world has ever seen.

“There has been an utterly unprecedented and brazen act of theft of intellectual properties rights over the past 18 months,” beIN commented following the WTO decision, suggesting the alleged breaches had affected “rights holders, broadcasters, movie studios and other stakeholders across the world of sports and entertainment,” declaring that “the responsible parties must be held to account”.


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