by Tony Attwood
The directors of Dreambox, Dreambox TV Limited, and Digital Switchover Limited, have now been jailed in England for offering illegal access on TV of matches involving Premier League clubs.
The League might be feeling a bit jolly about that, but is perhaps less happy knowing that BeoutQ is still broadcasting Premier League games and is by and large untouchable, being based in Saudi Arabia where the rules of copyright protection are, what shall we say… different.
And yet Saudi Arabia are full members of Fifa and so untouchable in football terms, while being able to do things their own way, not bound by thoughts of gender equality, or indeed international copyright agreements.
Rather interestingly the BBC and Sky have asked the European Commission to take action against Saudi Arabia. The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union who, we are, or perhaps are, or maybe, were, or could about to be not, members of.
BeoutQ has supplied decoder boxers across the world (including the UK) and other pirate broadcasters then pick up the signal and re-sell it as their own. Or indeed just offer it for free and make money from sponsorship and advertising.
So it is nice to know that there have been letters of complaints to the European commissioner for trade but that really seems rather hopeful as the UK might well not be part of the EU by the time the case is heard.
The issue of broadcasting rights being broken is just one of many that will need to be thought through once again, after the UK leaves the EU in a few days, weeks, months or some other time or not as the case may be. There is no clear agreement on what happens to EU players who are bought by UK clubs under the freedom of movement agreement. Those who are already here can stay, but those who are thinking of coming are most likely thinking twice since there is not absolute agreement yet as to their status because no deal with the EU has been agreed by the UK (at least as I write this).
Of course in the issue of Saudi Arabia ignoring copyright regulations will go on for a long time, but the UK will have to be prepared to take on the fight on its own when future middle eastern companies with no regards for copyright decide to harness Premier League games and make them freely available. The EU will have no interest in that once the UK has left.
According to a Guardian report, “The BeoutQ service is transmitted internationally on 10 channels by the Saudi-headquartered satellite firm Arabsat, which counts the Saudi state as its largest shareholder, and also offers streaming.
“It was set up last year, initially pirating the feed of Qatar’s BeIN Media Group, the owner of beIN Sports and The English Patient film studio Miramax.”
It seems the setting up of the service came about after Saudi Arabia set upan economic boycott of Qatar. The aim appears to be to weaken Qatar’s economy. BeIN Media has also launched a $1bn legal case against Saudi Arabia.
But who can really take on Saudi Arabia – a country which at any time could simply turn off the oil supply? Not many I think. It is just another political and economic mess.
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