By: Marie Claire O’Leary
On October 4, 2018 Qatar accused Saudi Arabia of supporting and encouraging the Saudi Arabian broadcast company beoutQ in illegally distributing Qatari sports broadcasts. In early August 2017, beoutQ began broadcasting Qatari broadcasts stolen from the Qatari company, beIN. Saudi Arabia willfully ignored all of beIN’s requests for an investigation into beoutQ’s piracy, and has even supported beoutQ by promoting public gatherings held by beoutQ, which broadcasted beIN’s material. On October 4, 2018, the Qatari government finally went to the World Trade Organization (hereinafter “WTO”) with a request for Saudia Arabia to “enter into consultations concerning Saudi Arabia’s failure to provide adequate protection for intellectual property rights, in particular . . . held . . . by entities based in the State of Qatar. . . .”. Along with Qatar’s Request for Consultation with the WTO, beIN Media announced its initiation of a $1 billion international arbitration claim against Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been experiencing tension since 2017 when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates decided to impose a complete economic embargo on Qatar. The countries are each members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and claim that the Qatari government funds terrorism. Saudi Arabia imposed the economic measures against Qatar in June 2017, which, among other things, impacted Qatar’s ability to protect intellectual property rights in Saudi Arabia. Qatar asserts Saudi Arabia has violated its obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS Agreement”).
The company caught in the middle of this dispute, beIN Sports, is one of the fastest growing sports networks in the world. The company serves many soccer viewers in the U.S. as well as around the world. On the other hand, there have been suspicions and accusations that beoutQ is a product of the Saudi Arabian government. Not only are beoutQ’s actions an infringement on beIN’s intellectual property rights, but of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (“FIFA”) rights. FIFA is the international organization that governs all football, or soccer. BeIN has exclusive rights to show World Cup games in the Middle East and Northern Africa, and in Summer 2018 FIFA said it was considering legal action against beoutQ. However, currently, Saudi Arabia only faces beIN’s arbitration and Qatar’s Request for Consultation before the WTO. Qatar’s complaint to the WTO comes at a time when the rest of the world is scrutinizing Saudi Arabia for alleged humanitarian violations. It will be interesting to see if the WTO takes alleged violations into account when evaluating Saudi Arabia’s conduct in this case.
 Bryce Baschuk, Qatar Accuses Saudi Arabia of Broadcast Piracy in WTO Dispute, Bloomberg BNA: Int’l Trade Reporter (Oct. 4, 2018), https://news.bna.com.proxy.wcl.american.edu/itln/ITLNWB/split_display.adp?fedfid=141974845&vname=itrnotallissues&fn=141974845&jd=141974845.
 Joyce Hanson, Qatar Seeks WTO Talks with Saudi Arabia Over IP Piracy Row, Law360 (Oct. 4, 2108, 9:44 PM), https://www-law360-com.proxy.wcl.american.edu/internationaltrade/articles/1089549/qatar-seeks-wto-talks-with-saudi-arabia-over-ip-piracy-row.
 Request for Consultation by Qatar, Saudi Arabia – Measures Concerning the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, WTO Doc. IP/D/40 (Oct. 4, 2018), available at https://dlbjbjzgnk95t.cloudfront.net/1089000/1089549/qatar.pdf [hereinafter Request for Consultation by Qatar].
 Hanson, supra note 2.
 Baschuk, supra note 1.
 Request for Consultation by Qatar, supra note 3 (explaining that the TRIPS Agreement is “the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property”).
 AT&T/Direct TV has Dropped beIN Sports, Business Wire (Aug. 29, 2018), https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180829005806/en/.
 Sam Carp, BeoutQ Illegally Shows Opening Premier League and Ligue 1 Games, SportsPro (Aug. 16, 2018), https://www.sportspromedia.com/news/premier-league-piracy-beoutq-bein-saudi-arabia-qatar-ligue-1.
 Holly Ellyat, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Clash Over World Cup Piracy Just Got Worse, CNBC Sports (June 27, 2018, 10:59 AM), https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/27/saudi-arabia-and-qatar-clash-over-world-cup-piracy.html.
 FIFA (last visited October 16, 2018) https://www.fifa.com/news/y=2003/m=4/news=what-does-fifa-mean-86831.html.
 Hanson, supra note 2.
 See Laura Smith-Spark and Nic Robertson, Apple Watch worn by Saudi journalist may have transmitted evidence of his death, Turkish paper reports, CNN (Oct. 13, 2018), https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/12/middleeast/khashoggi-saudi-turkey-recordings-intl/index.html.