BeIN: We won in last week's beoutQ court ruling; Arabsat: No, we did
By Callum Murray
A bitter dispute over the activities of pirate broadcaster beoutQ has taken a new turn after BeIN Media Group, the Qatar-based international pay-television broadcaster, last week claimed a decision by the Tribunal de Grande Instance, Paris’ High Court, as a major victory in its battle against beoutQ, only to be directly contradicted by Arabsat, the Saudi Arabia-based satellite provider that was BeIN’s opponent in court.
Arabsat claimed that it had, in fact, won the case, and said that it “reserves the right to take legal action against BeIN” over an alleged “media smear campaign,” involving “bogus and misleading claims.”
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.”
BeIN brought the case in France, a jurisdiction only marginally affected by the activities of Arabsat and beoutQ, because it claims to have been denied access to justice under the Saudi legal system in this high-profile, politically-charged dispute.
BeIN told Sportcal today: “The single and sole purpose of this case was to have an independent court of law confirm that Arabsat carries beoutQ – this was confirmed clearly and beyond any doubt whatsoever. In addition to this case, Arabsat’s distribution of beoutQ has also been definitively confirmed by leading, international technology experts Cisco, NAGRA and Overon.
“BeoutQ’s social media channels themselves have openly publicised the Arabsat frequencies that carry its feed. And literally hundreds of legal take-down letters have been sent by rights-holders and ourselves to Arabsat over the past two years – simply by way of one example, Fifa’s statement this weekend makes their position perfectly clear.”
BeIN’s argument is that it never expected a foreign jurisdiction to rule in favour of its demand for Arabsat to be ordered to take down beoutQ’s signal, but that it was worth losing in court over that demand – and even facing the fine of €31,000 ($34,841) that was levied on it by the court – to establish the fact that Arabsat is carrying the beoutQ signal.
However, Arabsat has explicitly denied that the ruling establishes that it carries beoutQ’s channels, saying: “The judiciary’s ruling rejected all allegations made by beIN against Arabsat, confirming Arabsat’s valid position regarding all the accusations and defamation attempts led by Qatar’s media group, which sought to link our organization to the dubious beoutQ piracy.”
BeIN has repeatedly referred in its allegations to the reports it commissioned from three of the world’s leading digital security and technology companies, Cisco Systems, NAGRA and Overon, which, it has claimed, “definitely established” that beoutQ is carried by Arabsat.
NAGRA was cited in last week’s court ruling, seen by Sportcal, and reproduced here in a translation from the original French: “The reports compiled by NAGRAVISION following the tests carried out at the BeIN companies’ request conclude that the beoutQ channels were available on June 18 and 24, 2018 on the 11919 MHz H frequency and the 12207 MHz V frequency via the satellite Badr-4, operated by ARABSAT according to the company that performed these tests...
“Moreover, it appears from ARABSAT's own website that its Badr-4 satellite covers the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa); and according to the footprint shown on the site map, its coverage also extends to parts of Europe, including the extreme south of France.
“These elements are sufficient to justify ARABSAT’s requirement to defend itself in the case.”
One interpretation of this passage is that the judge is saying that there is enough evidence (provided by NAGRA etc) to ask Arabsat to defend itself, and that the case is relevant to a French court because Arabsat’s signal touches the south of France. However, the ruling stops short of definitively establishing that Arabsat carries beoutQ.
Conversely, BeIN’s view is that the court concluded that beoutQ is carried on Arabsat, arguing, in response to Arabsat’s argument that no case can be brought, that a case can indeed be brought precisely because beoutQ is carried on Arabsat.
Fifa weighs in The strength of BeIN’s argument was apparently enough to convince Fifa, soccer’s world governing body, which said that it is “aware” that every game of the Fifa Women’s World Cup presently under way in France is being pirated by beoutQ, and that it is continuing to “explore each of its legal options as a means to address beoutQ’s unauthorised broadcasts.”
In a statement issued at the weekend, Fifa said: “BeoutQ’s unauthorised transmissions of the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2019 are made available by way of Arabsat satellite frequencies. Fifa is therefore seeking the cooperation of Arabsat in addressing the misuse of Fifa’s intellectual property.”
The Women's World Cup began on 7 June, and every one of the games is reported to have 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.
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 began streaming geo-targeted coverage of Saudi Arabian team matches on the AFC's own digital and social media channels, despite BeIN’s exclusive MENA contract. The AFC has, however, denied cancelling the contract.
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.Sportcal