BeIN launches US$1bn suit against Saudi Arabia over BeoutQ ‘piracy plague’

BeIN launches US$1bn suit against Saudi Arabia over BeoutQ ‘piracy plague’
Qatari network takes action over illicit state-sponsored sports content redistribution.

Qatar-based broadcasting giant BeIN Media Group has launched a US$1 billion international investment arbitration against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over ‘the most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting the world has ever seen’.

The move has been prompted after BeoutQ, a Riyadh-based pirate channel operating in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), illegally distributed billions of dollars’ worth of premium sports content over the past year.

The service was launched following the suspension of diplomatic relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in 2017, with the latter consequently banning BeIN to force the company out of the local broadcasting market to devalue its investments in Saudi Arabia.

BeIN claims that it has suffered damages in excess of US$1 billion as a result of the discriminatory measures implemented by Saudi Arabia, which it says has included baseless competition law proceedings, ongoing harassment of BeIN employees and disruption of the broadcaster’s major sporting events.

BeIN added that it is seeking full compensation for the damages in what is thought to be the only known investment arbitration ever to be brought in connection with state-supported illegal broadcast piracy.

“After failed attempts to resolve this dispute through dialogue, we have now been forced to issue a notice of arbitration due to Saudi Arabia’s concerted campaign to prevent BeIN from operating in the country, despite BeIN having the legal and commercial right to do so,” said Sophie Jordan, BeIN’s Executive Director of legal affairs.

“We are a well-respected global broadcaster, providing millions of customers around the world with top quality programming. Quite clearly, we are being unfairly used as a political football in a wider regional dispute. But this case has implications far beyond BeIN – in BeoutQ, 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.”

BeIN’s decision to take action came on the same day that the State of Qatar filed a case with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva based on numerous violations by Saudi Arabia of its obligations under the WTO’s agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights.

BeoutQ’s widespread piracy operation has affected various flagship sports properties, with the channel stealing coverage of the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, Formula One, global tennis tournaments and various other events. FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, then said in July that it was taking legal action in Saudi Arabia against BeoutQ, with various other bodies calling for the channel to be shut down.

Saudi Arabia has long denied that it is behind BeoutQ, but BeIN announced in August that digital security, media solutions and technology companies Cisco Systems, Nagra and Overon had all investigated and confirmed that the piracy channel is being distributed on Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat.

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