BeIN welcomes French court ruling confirming Arabsat's involvement with beoutQ
By Jonathan Rest
Arabsat, the Saudi Arabia-based satellite provider, has been distributing beoutQ, the platform at the centre of a high-profile, politically-charged piracy operation, despite two years of denial, the Paris High Court has ruled.
BeIN Media Group, the Qatar-based international pay-television broadcaster, is claiming the decision of Tribunal de Grande Instance, Paris’ High Court as a major victory in its battle against beoutQ, which has been pirating BeIN's premium sports content, including every match from the Fifa Women's World Cup presently under way in France (pictured).
BeIN said it brought the case against Arabsat before the president of the Tribunal de Grande Instance because it wanted to "establish in a court of law that, despite its denials, Arabsat has been carrying beoutQ’s pirate broadcasts."
It added: "This was definitively established 12 months ago by three of the world’s leading digital security and technology companies, Cisco Systems, NAGRA and Overon, and now it has been confirmed by a European court of law. Since beoutQ’s piracy began in 2017, Arabsat has, quite remarkably, denied any connection with the pirate broadcasting operation – despite beoutQ openly advertising on its Facebook and social media channels the relevant Arabsat frequencies. Arabsat has ignored literally hundreds of legal take-down notices from international broadcasters and rights-holders.
"Arabsat’s attempts to deceive the international community over the past two years mirror the disinformation campaign run by the Saudi-backed beoutQ. For months beoutQ falsely claimed that it was a Cuban and Colombian operation until the governments of both countries issued categorical denials. Remarkably, in response to BeIN’s independently-commissioned technical testing carried out for the French legal case, Arabsat frequently switched the Arabsat satellite frequencies on which beoutQ’s channels are carried – including to frequencies not accessible in France and North Africa – in order to deceive the court and try to evade detection and so that the French court could not make further rulings against it."
The Women's World Cup began on 7 June, and every one of the 17 games played before today has been illegally shown on beoutQ. BeIN holds the rights across the Middle East and North Africa, as it did for last year's World Cup in Russia, where all 64 games were pirated by beoutQ.
Commenting on the court ruling, Yousef Al-Obaidly, chief executive of BeIN, said: "This latest legal ruling in France shows that even if we are illegally denied access to justice in Saudi Arabia, we will use every means possible to hold beoutQ and Arabsat to account for their daily theft of rights-holders’ intellectual property.
"But we are not fighting this battle alone – the weight of the international community is now firmly coming to bear on Saudi Arabia to end its safe haven for piracy, which is destroying not only the economic model of the global sports and entertainment industry, but the livelihoods of content creators all around the world."
Earlier this week, Luigi De Siervo, chief executive of Serie A, indicated that the Italian top-flight could be ready to break its contract with Saudi Arabia over hosting rights to the Supercopa, the annual contest between the winners of the league and the Coppa Italia, because of the Middle East nation's alleged harbouring of beoutQ.
January's Supercopa in Jeddah was the first in a €21-million ($23.6-million) deal between Serie A and the ministry of sports in Saudi Arabia to stage three editions of the Supercopa in the country over a five-year period.
BeIN twice wrote to Serie A urging the league to reconsider its decision to play in Saudi Arabia, but was unsuccessful.
However, De Siervo told reporters earlier this week: "Serie A stands next to BeIN Sports against BeoutQ in the fight against piracy. For Serie A, this is a fundamental area, from which about a third of the revenues from international TV rights come. We have already taken legal action, we will start shortly to make a strong campaign towards our government and other governments to bring the beoutQ phenomenon to the total reduction."
He added: "Can you skip the Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia? It is a war that can entail all consequences."
In April, Saudi Arabia came under intense pressure from both sides of the Atlantic to shut down beoutQ. The US government slammed Saudi Arabia in Special 301 Report, designating beoutQ a 'Notorious Market', while in the UK, an urgent demand was made in parliament for the government to take action against Saudi Arabia’s theft of world sport and entertainment.
It came two months after a range of major US sports leagues and entertainment bodies and international broadcasters called on the US government to take immediate action against beoutQ.
BeIN, which has already launched an international investment arbitration claiming over $1 billion in damages from Saudi Arabia, is now locked in a legal battle with the Asian Football Confederation, after soccer's regional governing body carved out a package of rights for its top competitions for sale in Saudi Arabia alone for the 2021-2024 cycle.
In March, BeIN said that it was suing the AFC after it unilaterally removed the territory of Saudi Arabia from the broadcaster’s exclusive MENA contract, in the continuing battle over piracy.
The beoutQ controversy is playing out against the backdrop of a bitter political and economic dispute between Qatar and other Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia, with the small Gulf state having repeatedly and vehemently refuted allegations that it supports terrorism in the region.