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.[1]  In early August 2017, beoutQ began broadcasting Qatari broadcasts stolen from the Qatari company, beIN.[2]   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.[3]  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. . . .”.[4]  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.[5]

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.[6]  The countries are each members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and claim that the Qatari government funds terrorism.[7]  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.[8]  Qatar asserts Saudi Arabia has violated its obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS Agreement”).[9]

The company caught in the middle of this dispute, beIN Sports, is one of the fastest growing sports networks in the world.[10]  The company serves many soccer viewers in the U.S. as well as around the world.[11]  On the other hand, there have been suspicions and accusations that beoutQ is a product of the Saudi Arabian government.[12]  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.[13]  FIFA is the international organization that governs all football, or soccer.[14]  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.[15]  However, currently, Saudi Arabia only faces beIN’s arbitration and Qatar’s Request for Consultation before the WTO.[16]  Qatar’s complaint to the WTO comes at a time when the rest of the world is scrutinizing Saudi Arabia for alleged humanitarian violations.[17]  It will be interesting to see if the WTO takes alleged violations into account when evaluating Saudi Arabia’s conduct in this case.

[1] Bryce Baschuk, Qatar Accuses Saudi Arabia of Broadcast Piracy in WTO Dispute, Bloomberg BNA: Int’l Trade Reporter (Oct. 4, 2018),

[2] Joyce Hanson, Qatar Seeks WTO Talks with Saudi Arabia Over IP Piracy Row, Law360 (Oct. 4, 2108, 9:44 PM),

[3] 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 [hereinafter Request for Consultation by Qatar].

[4] Id.

[5] Hanson, supra note 2.

[6] Baschuk, supra note 1.

[7] Id.

[8] Request for Consultation by Qatar, supra note 3 (explaining that the TRIPS Agreement is “the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property”).

[9] Id.

[10] AT&T/Direct TV has Dropped beIN Sports, Business Wire (Aug. 29, 2018),

[11] Id.

[12] Sam Carp, BeoutQ Illegally Shows Opening Premier League and Ligue 1 Games, SportsPro (Aug. 16, 2018),

[13] Holly Ellyat, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Clash Over World Cup Piracy Just Got Worse, CNBC Sports (June 27, 2018, 10:59 AM),

[14] FIFA (last visited October 16, 2018)

[15] Id.

[16] Hanson, supra note 2.

[17] 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),

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