The Premier League asked the United States to keep Saudi Arabia on a watch list as the country ‘remained a centre piracy’.
The league sent a letter to the US Trade Representative (USTR) on February 5 this year about unsuccessful attempts to take legal action against pirate network beoutQ and complained about the ‘failure to take action’ by the Saudi government itself.
BeoutQ illegally began to stream content licensed to beIN SPORTS, a Qatar-based company which holds the rights to Premier League football in the Middle East and north Africa, in 2017 until it ceased broadcasting in August 2019.
Arabsat, a satellite network owned by the Saudi state, has denied having any connection or involvement to beoutQ, but the Premier League was highly critical of what it sees as a lack of action from the Saudi government to clamp down on the piracy.
The news comes as the Premier League considers a takeover of Newcastle by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund (PIF).
The Premier League wrote: “Despite repeated complaints by beIN and other rights holders, Saudi Arabia has never brought criminal action against beoutQ, or its Saudi facilitators.
“Notably, the current offline status of beoutQ satellite broadcasting is not the result of any Saudi criminal enforcement action.”
The Premier League said the beoutQ set-top boxes could still be used to access sports content illegally by using internet protocol television (IPTV) apps.
The letter ends: “In conclusion, Saudi Arabia continues to deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights, as (i) Saudi Arabia remains a centre of piracy, impacting rights holders from around the world; (ii) the Saudi government persists in its failure to take action against beoutQ and other pirates, whether criminal or otherwise, that would deter the continuing growth of Saudi-based piracy; and (iii) the Premier League remains unable to gain access to the legal system in order to seek civil remedies against piracy.
“In view of this long-standing situation, the Premier League respectfully requests that USTR maintain Saudi Arabia’s position on the Priority Watch List.”
The USTR has kept Saudi Arabia on its watch list, and confirmed in a report published on Wednesday: “The United States continues to remain concerned about reportedly high levels of online piracy in Saudi Arabia, particularly through illicit streaming devices (ISDs), which right holders report are widely available and generally unregulated in Saudi Arabia.
“The United States encourages Saudi Arabia to increase IP enforcement actions and IP awareness campaigns particularly targeted at reducing online piracy and to combat the perception spurred by beoutQ’s activity that pirating copyrighted material is permissible.”
Amnesty International has warned the Premier League that it must also address serious concerns regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, or that it “risks becoming a patsy”.