25 February 2020CopyrightRory O'Neill

Sports rights owners criticise Saudi Arabia, Netherlands in USTR submissions

Sports organisations including FIFA, UEFA and the National Football League (NFL) have urged the US to keep Saudi Arabia on its priority watch list for IP infringement.

Saudi Arabia has attracted the ire of major sports copyright owners over its alleged backing of pirate outfit beoutQ.

The groups filed submissions to the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) as part of its annual ‘special 301’ review, which identifies countries the US considers IP infringement hotspots.

The USTR cited concerns over piracy when listing Saudi Arabia on the priority watchlist in 2019.

In its submission this month, FIFA said beoutQ was using Saudi-based Arabsat satellites to broadcast its stolen content.

FIFA, as well as other football associations such as UEFA, have licensed exclusive broadcasting rights for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to Qatari broadcaster beIN Media Group.

In its own submission to the USTR, beIN claimed that Saudi Arabia has facilitated the “boldest, most sophisticated pattern of internet and broadcast piracy that the world has ever seen”.

According to beIN, “Saudi pirates operate without a fear of prosecution by Saudi authorities”.

The Sports Coalition, which contains the NFL, the National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball, did not mention beoutQ specifically, but alluded to piracy of live sports events in its submission.

The group recommended that the USTR place Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands on the 2020 priority watchlist.

The Sports Coalition submission listed several piracy services operating out of the Netherlands, which it said merited the country’s inclusion on the priority list.

The USTR will hold public hearings as part of the special 301 review tomorrow, February 26.

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