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WTO panel to rule on Saudi Arabia piracy allegations

The World Trade Organisation will establish a panel to rule on allegations that Saudi Arabia is failing to take effective action to halt the piracy of beIN Sports’ programming.

Saudi Arabia has blocked beIN Sports from being available in the country following a diplomatic dispute with Qatar.

Qatar raised the dispute in October and claimed that Saudi Arabia has also been behind the launch of beoutQ, which has been accused of piracy with its sports coverage in the region.

The WTO has agreed “to establish a panel to rule on Saudi Arabia’s alleged failure to provide adequate protection of intellectual property rights”, a spokesperson said.

BeIN Sports is the rights-holder for the English Premier League across the Middle East and North Africa. However, beoutQ has been broadcasting live coverage of the football league, as well as a range of other sporting events. Subscribers can access our long-read on the ongoing tussle between the two parties.

Saudi Arabia had argued that further investigations by the WTO could infringe on the country’s national security. The USA and Trump administration has supported the kingdom’s case although this is believed to be down to the fact that it has invoked the same national security defence in the trade cases it is fighting with the WTO over US steel and aluminium tariffs.

Qatar’s representative to the WTO said: “Legal experts have found no basis for using the pretext of national security to cover up crimes of IP rights piracy.”

BeIN Sports said: “There has been an utterly unprecedented and brazen act of theft of intellectual properties rights over the past 18 months…[affecting]…rights-holders, broadcasters, movie studios and other stakeholders across the world of sports and entertainment – and the responsible parties must be held to account.”

The dispute stems from a blockade that was imposed on Qatar in June 2017 by Saudi Arabia, as well as Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE.