European Commission slams Saudi Arabia for beoutQ support | Security | News | Rapid TV News
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The major target of the Saudi Arabia-based beoutQ has been Qatar’s beIN Media Group but the European Commission has now condemned the Kingdom for causing “considerable harm” to EU businesses through support for the piracy operation.
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In a report published following representations by rights-holders, broadcasters, pay-TV providers and other stakeholders across European sport, the European Commission has identified 13 priority countries on which “the EU will focus its action” regarding the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in third countries. It singles out Saudi Arabia for criticism following what it calls “the unprecedented two-year theft” of European sport programmes by beoutQ and fellow Saudi-based satellite firm Arabsat which broadcasts the pirated streams.

Specifically, Saudi Arabia was selected based on representations made by the likes of European football governing body UEFA, the Premier League, LaLiga and beIN Media Group – regarding what it described as ‘rampant’ copyright piracy. It also took submissions from other industries harmed by deficient patent and data protection regimes. Saudi Arabia, along with Nigeria, was one of only two countries added to the European Commission’s bi-annual “priority list”.

Explaining what it regarded as the “serious shortcomings” in Saudi Arabia’s protection and enforcement of intellectual property, the report said: “Saudi Arabia was selected because of its global role as a regional transit country for counterfeit and pirated goods destined for the EU, and because stakeholders report high-scale satellite and online piracy and ineffective enforcement measures to tackle them.

"BeoutQ makes available – without authorisation – content belonging to EU sport event organisers and EU rights-holders (authors and related rights-holders) in the territory of Saudi Arabia, in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in the EU” before adding that, according to submissions, Saudi Arabia has “not taken sufficient steps to stop the infringement despite the fact that the satellite services of BeoutQ are being {until recently had been} transmitted by the satellite (Badr-4/Arabsat- 4b) of the partly state-owned Arab Satellite Communications Organisation.

The report also noted even though beoutQ channels have not been distributed over satellite since August 2019, beoutQ boxes are still widely in circulation in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, and continued to provide illegal access to third-party IPTV pirate apps.

In July 2019, world football governing body FIFA with UEFA, AFC, Bundesliga, LaLiga, Premier League and Lega Serie A made a joint statement, calling on authorities in Saudi Arabia to support them in ending “the widespread and flagrant breaches” of intellectual property rights taking place in the Kingdom following what they said was a thorough analysis by technical experts of how beoutQ operates from a technical perspective. “We are satisfied that beoutQ is operating specifically to target customers in KSA and is utilising the facilities of at least one KSA-based entity,” the organisations said. The football’s governing bodies said they had spoken to nine law firms in KSA, “each of which either simply refused to act on our behalf or initially accepted the instruction, only later to recuse themselves”.

Commenting on the report, European Commission commissioner for trade Phil Hogan said: “Protecting intellectual property is critical for the EU’s economic growth and our ability to encourage innovation and stay competitive globally. As much as 82% of all EU exports is generated by sectors which depend on intellectual property. Infringements of intellectual property, including piracy, threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs in the EU every year. The information gathered in the report will enable us to become even more efficient in protecting EU firms and workers against intellectual property infringements like counterfeiting or copyright piracy.”

The Saudi government has always denied any involvement or support of beoutQ and piracy in general.