Qatar's beIN demands $1 bln compensation for Saudi TV for IP rights violations

AFP, Monday 1 Oct 2018

Qatari sports broadcasting giant beIN on Monday launched a massive $1-billion compensation claim against Saudi channels it accuses of "flagrantly breaching international law" by showing live sports programmes.

At the same time in a related case the state of Qatar also launched an action at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, accusing the kingdom of violating intellectual property rights, over beIN.

Both moves were announced in statements, one from the Doha-based sports broadcaster and the other from Qatar's ministry of economy and commerce, though it is unclear yet where the compensation claim will be heard.

On the government action, Qatar said in its statement to the WTO that the kingdom's actions were a "violation" of trade rights.

The WTO confirmed through a spokesman it had received Qatar's "request".

It is the latest escalation in a long-running dispute over illegal broadcasts fuelled by a bitter and ongoing diplomatic crisis between two of the world's richest countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Qatar has accused pirates in Saudi Arabia of industrial-scale theft of its sports broadcasts, including this summer's football World Cup, through one such channel called beoutQ illegally transmitting its broadcasts.

Riyadh denies the claim and says it has nothing to do with beoutQ.

Sophie Jordan, executive director of legal affairs with beIN, said it had been "forced" in to making the arbitration claim.

"Quite clearly, we are being unfairly used as a political football in a wider regional dispute," she said.

BeIN alleges that for the past year beoutQ has been illegally transmitting its broadcasts via Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat.

'State-industrial theft'

It argues that the money it has spent on securing exclusive football rights, not only the World Cup, but also live matches from high-profile domestic competitions such as the English Premier League and Spain's La Liga, has been undermined by beoutQ as part of a sophisticated and organised "state-industrial theft".

"As a result of the arbitrary and discriminatory measures implemented by Saudi Arabia -- beIN has suffered damages in excess of US$1 billion," it said in its statement.

Other sports had also been affected, including Wimbledon and Formula One, it alleged.

Other broadcasters also have had their programmes stolen, says beIN, including NBC Universal, Telemundo, and Eleven Sports.

The row between two increasingly powerful sporting countries, has dragged in seemingly reluctant major sporting federations, alarmed that the huge-scale piracy may put at risk future expensive television rights' deals, a major source of revenue.

FIFA and the Premier League said they were preparing to take legal action in Saudi Arabia against the pirates.

France's Ligue 1, whose champion club Paris Saint-Germain are Qatari-owned, has also demanded an end to the piracy.

Super-wealthy gas emirate Qatar, the controversial 2022 football World Cup host, has long used sport in an attempt to build its global reputation.

But since June 2017, it has been cut-off by Saudi Arabia and its allies which accuse Doha of supporting terrorism and being too close to Riyadh's archrival, Iran -- charges Doha vehemently denies.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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