In a move that may benefit the potential takeover of English Premier League football club Newcastle United by Saudi interests, the kingdom’s IP body, the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP), has announced its intention to block 231 websites that it says violate regulations and rights.
The announcement follows a damning report from the World Trade Organization (WTO) which found that “prominent Saudi nationals” promoted illegal broadcasts by the pirate network beoutQ, which in particular, gave access to live Premier League action. This had been considered by some observers as a reason for a hold-up in the Premier League giving its approval to the deal.
SAIP says the initiative continues the efforts of Saudi Arabia to minimise violations against intellectual property rights, and follows an online inspection campaign on websites and platforms that violates intellectual property laws including sites broadcast from outside the kingdom, saying that it recently monitored, examined, and analysed 231 websites that violate Intellectual Property law to prevent it from being browsed from the Kingdom.
According to SAIP, monitored sites included a group of violations, such as downloading and watching movies and series, directly broadcasting sites of encrypted sports channels, downloading books in PDF format sites, downloading and listening to music sites – all carried out without obtaining a prior licence or authorisation from the rights holder.
SAIP said it had also detected websites selling subscriptions for encrypted TV channels through software or illicit streaming devices (ISDs) to break barriers for the purpose of displaying materials in illegal ways.
“SAIP confirmed that these practices violates the copyright protection law and entail financial penalties and fines that may reach up to 250,000 Saudi riyals [€60,000],” it said. “In addition to the applied fines, the violation may cause the closure of the site, or the cancellation of the commercial licence, and in some cases it can cause to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or defamation at the account of the infringer and removing the infringement.”
SAIP stressed that “it will not tolerate the accountability of all those who violate the laws and regulations, nor will it condone these violations, and calls upon citizens and residents to support those efforts to respect intellectual property rights through communicating via its official channels and contribute to reporting directly to everyone who does work that violates the laws and protection of intellectual property rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.
In correspondence sent to UEFA, and seen by the BBC, SAFF president Yasser Hassan Almisehal wrote: “Sporting rights are the lifeblood, which feed the future not just of elite clubs, but of the entire sporting pyramid.
“With our sporting ambition comes a responsibility to help [fight] piracy and as a nation we already have the rigorous governance framework to do just that,” he asserted.
It is understood that Almisehal has also written to the Premier League, football’s world governing body FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) offering similar assurances.
The proposed £300 million (€331m) takeover deal is 80 per cent-financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), whose chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In takeover cases, the Premier League carries out an owners’ and directors’ test, which looks into the background of prospective club owners.