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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Qatar, Saudi Arabia ‘hit pause’ on beIN broadcast dispute at WTO


Shortly after the 2017 blockade, the Qatari broadcaster was blocked in Saudi Arabia, a move that was followed by the emergence of Saudi piracy outlet ‘beoutQ’, which broadcasted stolen content.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia agreed on Friday to pause their dispute over the findings of a report by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regarding copyright theft of Doha’s beIN Sports by Riyadh in 2017, according to a Law360 report.

In June 2020, the WTO found that Saudi Arabia had breached its obligations under the organisation’s Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS Agreement”) by refusing to take legal action against the Riyadh-linked pirate broadcaster “beoutQ”.

The WTO also found the Saudi government guilty of engaging “in the promotion of public gatherings with screenings of beoutQ’s unauthorised broadcasts” including the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The dispute occurred during the 2017 Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] crisis, under which Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed an illegal land, air and sea blockade on Qatar based on unsubstantiated claims that Doha supported terrorism. Claims that Doha has always vehemently denied.

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Now, a year after the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration, which resulted in the restoration of diplomatic ties, Qatar and Saudi Arabia agreed to suspend appeals over the WTO’s report.

“Qatar agreed to the proposed suspension of the appellate proceedings pursuant to the terms of Al-Ula Declaration signed on 5 January 2021,” said the Qatari government, as quoted by Law360.

Doha also confirmed “the suspension of any further proceedings to adopt the panel report, while the mutually agreed suspension remains in place”.

According to the legal news outlet, the Qatari government’s latest move means that WTO’s report is not legally binding.

beIN-beoutQ dispute

Shortly after the blockade, beIN Sports was blocked to hundreds of thousands of subscribers in Saudi Arabia.

Two months later, Saudi-linked outlet beoutQ began broadcasting content stolen from beIN Sport through Riyadh-based communications satellite operator, Arabsat.

BeoutQ’s sophisticated theft of intellectual property developed when it launched set-top boxes and started selling subscription packages to air English, Italian, Spanish and German football games.

The channel also pirated numerous international sporting events including the Super Bowl LII, the UEFA Champions League Final, the NBA Finals, multiple Formula 1 races, and all 64 matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“Since August 2017, beoutQ has been stealing the broadcast feed of some of the most internationally renowned sports brands and rights holders in the world, pirating everything from the Olympic Games, Formula 1 and Wimbledon tennis, to the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League and LaLiga,” beIN said in a statement on 16 August, 2018.

In October last year, it was reported that Qatar and Saudi officials reached an agreement to lift the ban on beIn Sports in Riyadh. However, beIN sources failed to give clarity on the details of that deal were at the time.

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