WTO publishes findings in beoutQ case; has implications for Newcastle acquisition

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The World Trade Organization’s June 16 report “Saudi Arabia – Measures Concerning the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights (Report of the Panel)”, confirms that the video piracy operation known as beoutQ, which illegally redistributed the video programming of Qatar-based beIN Media and other sources; was backed by Saudi Arabia.

The WTO panel that produced the report recommends that Saudi Arabia “bring its measures into conformity with its obligations” under the WTO’s TRIPS multilateral protection framework for intellectual property.

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The WTO panel working on this case concluded that despite Saudi Arabia claims that the WTO panel lacked jurisdiction in the case, Saudi Arabia identified no basis for that.  It also found that Qatar established that Saudi Arabia took steps to prevent beIN Media and seven football rights-holders from obtaining legal counel toward the enforcement IP rights through civil courts in the Kingdom.

The report

Read WTO summary, Dispute Settlement (DS567): Saudi Arabia – Measures concerning the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights via the WTO Web site

Read the Full Report and the Report Addendums

Read all associated documents

Further reporting in The Guardian newspaper

Why it matters

UEFA and FIFA both made unambiguous statements in support of the WTO’s findings upon release of the report.  Needless to say that this is an extremely serious case, involving nation-state actors.

The report is a timely reference in the Premier League’s decision as to whether or not to permit the £300M investment (an 80% stake) in the Newcastle United football club, whose programming was pirated by beoutQ – by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information and GCAM sent notice to Qatar that “served effectively to strip beIN of the legal right to protect any intellectual property rights related to the beIN channels.” In August of that year, beIN’s legal programming was blocked in Saudi Arabia.

At about the same time, beoutQ began satellite distribution in the Middle East and North Africa region, and online distribution that reached worldwide.  At one time, beIN Media estimated that its losses amounted to about $2 billion in revenue, every six months.

A huge amount of evidence and commentary was collected.  The report’s addendums include summaries of arguments submitted by 13 countries on five continents.  The addendums also reference extensive documentation in the form of independent technical studies, news articles, and statements from sports leagues, industry vendors, media industry organizations, pay TV services, academia, and TV broadcasters.

Illegal satellite redistribution was put to an end in late 2019.

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