Qatar details its WTO challenge to Saudi Arabia’s failure to stop rampant copyright piracy

April 30, 2019
• Extensive evidence and legal argument now available for public review
• Unchecked Saudi-based piracy, promoted by the Saudi Government, threatens rights holders from around the world

Qatar’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced today that it has filed and published its First Written Submission in the State of Qatar’s challenge to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s failure to protect intellectual property in accordance with its international obligations as a Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The dispute is currently being considered by a WTO Panel, which will evaluate the multiple claims brought by Qatar under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). Qatar’s first written submission is available here:

As detailed in Qatar’s 112-page submission (and supported by 178 exhibits), Saudi Arabia has taken actions that represent not only violations of its obligations to protect intellectual property rights of Qatari nationals, but also the rights of nationals from other trading partners, including (among many others) the United States and the European Union. Qatar explains how Saudi Arabia has actively and aggressively violated its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. More generally, the submission explains how such violations have exposed deep-seated and fundamental flaws in Saudi Arabia’s commitment to providing enforcement procedures consistent with the TRIPS Agreement. In publishing this submission, Qatar aims to better inform rights holders and countries around the world of the threat that this unchecked piracy creates for intellectual property rights, generally, and the global sports and media industries, in particular. In a global economy whose growth depends on innovation and creativity now more than ever, strong intellectual property protection is critical.

Of particular concern, a sophisticated Saudi-based broadcast pirate named “beoutQ” has been pirating copyrighted media content of a Qatari company – beIN Media Group LLP – in Saudi Arabia and beyond, including through the sale of beoutQ subscriptions and set-top decoder boxes at numerous retail outlets across Saudi Arabia. In addition to beIN’s proprietary and licensed content, the beoutQ boxes allow access to thousands of pirated movies, TV shows, and TV channels from around the globe. Contrary to its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement, Saudi Arabia has, among other things, refused to take any effective action against beoutQ; restricted or otherwise frustrated beIN’s ability to pursue civil actions before the Saudi courts; denounced beIN’s requests to investigate and prevent the pirate’s unauthorized broadcasts; and sponsored public gatherings with beoutQ screenings.

Qatar’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry has stressed that Saudi Arabia’s actions constitute a flagrant violation of Saudi’s international and moral obligations, a position that Qatar will further demonstrate in the coming months during two oral hearings in Geneva, Switzerland, before the WTO Panel, as well as in additional written submissions.