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Saudi sued for $1bn by Qatar for pirating sports coverage

October 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Footballers seen during the opening match of the FIFA World Cup 2018 on June 14, 2018 [@QatarAirways / Twitter]

Saudi Arabia is facing a $1 billion lawsuit after being accused of “breaching international law” in relation to the streaming of sporting events owned Qatari based media group beIN.

Yesterday, beIN Corporation, the Doha-based parent of the beIN Media TV group, also said it would launch WTO proceedings against Saudi after accusing the kingdom of intellectual property rights violations.

Both actions were announced in statements. The piracy-related cases, targeting the Saudi state, are the latest flashpoint in a diplomatic dispute between the Gulf countries that has been running for nearly 18 months.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia and three Arab allies cut diplomatic and transport links to the gas-rich neighbour, accusing Doha of financing terrorism. Doha has denied the allegations.

Sophie Jordan, general counsel for beIN Media, complained to the Financial Times about the “plague of piracy” in Saudi. “This case has implications far beyond beIN — in beoutQ”, said Jordan, “Saudi Arabia has created a plague of piracy and unless the whole sports, entertainment and broadcast industry takes a stand, its impact will be devastating and irreversible.”

Read: Qatar to sue Saudi Arabia and UAE for ‘piracy’

Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied involvement in beoutQ in a public statement. Saudi authorities have maintained their innocence saying that they had confiscated more than 15,000 satellite receivers for pirating sports content in recent months, but beoutQ devices can still be found in the kingdom and other neighbouring countries.

Earlier this week, lawyers for Arabsat told the FT it vehemently “denies any involvement with beoutQ or in any way facilitating beoutQ’s transmissions in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else”.

Their protest has gone unnoticed as global sports bodies have also threatened legal action in Saudi Arabia according to the FT. Both FIFA and the English Premier League have said that the theft of intellectual property undermines multibillion-dollar broadcasting contracts.

The illegal streaming came to attention last year. BeIN said it has spent billions of dollars on exclusive rights, ranging from English Premier League football matches to Formula One Grand Prix races.