Rights-holders urge US to keep Saudi on watchlist over piracy

Major sports federations have urged the US government to keep Saudi Arabia on its main list of countries that do not adequately protect intellectual property as a result of the widespread piracy of content in the region.

The federations, including the International Olympic Committee, Fifa, Uefa and a coalition of US sports bodies such as the National Football League, National Baskeball Association and Major League Baseball have written to the US Trade Representative ahead of its annual ‘special 301’ review of countries that fail to adequately protect IP.

The USTR is scheduled to hold hearings on the issue on Wednesday. It added Saudi Arabia to its priority watch list last year.

The coalition of US sports bodies also called for the Netherlands to be added to the watch list due to several piracy services it said were operating out of the country.

The submissions follow the European Commission’s decision early this year to add Saudi Arabia to its bi-annual priority watch-list over its failure to protect intellectual property in areas including sports broadcasting

Last year, Fifa and Uefa joined with the Asian Football Confederation and Europe’s top five football leagues to publish a report that accused satellite operator Arabsat of distributing the pirate broadcasting service beoutQ, which is alleged to be operating from Saudi Arabia.

Arabsat has consistently denied the accusation.

The publication of that report followed the decision by the group of football rights-holders to abandon attempts to take legal action against beoutQ in the Saudi Arabian courts due to their inability to secure legal representation in the country,

Arabsat has since stopped carrying beoutQ on its satellites, but the pirate service remains available through its IPTV-enabled set-top boxes.

The beoutQ service was launched in the wake of the Saudi-led economic blockade of Qatar which began in June 2017.