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US places Saudi Arabia on "Priority Watch List" for beoutQ piracy

The kingdom has failed to reel in piracy TV network, US report says
beIN Sports has long claimed that beoutQ is stealing its signal and broadcasting it as its own (Reuters/File photo)

The US has put Saudi Arabia on a "Priority Watch List" for the second year in a row for failing to protect and enforce intellectual property (IP) rights around the world. 

The US Trade Representative (USTR), in a report on Thursday, named the kingdom as one of 10 countries that are failing to prevent the theft of IP. 

The main offender in Saudi Arabia seems to be "beoutQ", a rogue television network that broadcasts pirated content.

BeoutQ launched in 2017 to stream content taken from Qatar's beIN Sports media group, which holds exclusive rights to broadcast international tournaments to the Middle East and North Africa region.

Last year, beIN's managing director said the network had later "morphed into the largest commercial theft that's ever been seen in the world of sport and entertainment". 

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In addition to placing Saudi Arabia on its watch list, the USTR also ordered an "Out-of-Cycle Review", a tool that allows the US to increase efforts to resolve the issue "through heightened engagement and cooperation with trading partners and other stakeholders".

"The United States continues to remain concerned about reportedly high levels of online piracy in Saudi Arabia, particularly through illicit streaming devices [ISDs], which right holders report are widely available and generally unregulated in Saudi Arabia," the report said.

"The United States encourages Saudi Arabia to increase IP enforcement actions and IP awareness campaigns particularly targeted at reducing online piracy and to combat the perception spurred by beoutQ's activity that pirating copyrighted material is permissible." 

In January, the European Commission slammed Saudi Arabia for “causing considerable harm to EU businesses” through beoutQ, as well as another piracy broadcaster called Arabsat. 

Last year, the English Premier League and FIFA, football's world governing body, said they planned to take legal action against beoutQ, accusing the network of illegally broadcasting World Cup matches in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia has denied the claims, suggesting instead that the piracy was operating out of Cuba.

In October 2018, beIN launched a compensation claim worth $1bn against the Saudi piracy channel while Qatar filed an action at the World Trade Organisation.