The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has called upon the US government to keep Saudi Arabia on a Priority Watch List in the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR)’s annual ‘Special 301 Report.’
The 2020 Special 301 Report identified 36 countries that the USTR says do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property (IP) rights or otherwise deny market access to U.S. innovators and creators that rely on protection of their IP rights. Of these 36, ten have been given special priority. One of those is Saudi Arabia.
According to an Associated Press report, a letter from the IOC to the USTR said “We are extremely concerned with the impact that online piracy could create during the next 12 months.”
Read the full news report by the Associated Press
But why Saudi Arabia?
The IOC is hoping to rekindle awareness of a piracy operation that originated in Saudi Arabia a few years ago, and was resolved just last year, in 2020.
There is a long back story. In 2017, Qatar-based sports broadcaster beIN Media fell victim to a massive piracy attack originating in Saudi Arabia by a piracy operation called beoutQ; which was accused of being backed by the Saudi state as part of the political tension between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The beoutQ situation lasted for three years and was finally ended in 2020. beIN Media had estimated that the damage caused by beoutQ ran will into the billions of dollars, every quarter. In 2020, the World Trade Organization called upon Saudi Arabia to uphold WTO IP protection principles and disavow piracy.
beIN Media (and beoutQ) serve(d) as international outlets for many sports leagues, including the English Premier League (EPL). In an ironic twist the Saudi Public Investment Trust Fund (PIF) was on the verge of buying an 80% share of the EPL team Newcastle United – which raised difficult questions as to whether the accused backer of a major piracy operation would suddenly have ownership rights to EPL content.
The sale was eventually abandoned when the Saudi fund withdrew its offer. The Chairman of the PIF is Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.