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News Saudi’s crackdown on piracy as Newcastle bid tabled The Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) has announced its intention to block 231 websites that it says violate regulations and rights. The move comes as Saudi investors table a bid English Premier League football club Newcastle United. The stand on piracy comes as the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that “prominent Saudi nationals” promoted illegal broadcasts by the pirate network beoutQ which, in particular, gave access to live Premier League action. Any bidders for a Premier League club must pass a ‘fit and proper person’ test and the WTO report is damaging in that regard. The new interest in stopping piracy may also benefit reported moves by Saudi Arabia to enter the bidding for Germany’s Bundesliga rights in the Middle East, in the latest move to make new investments in international sport and confound rival Gulf-state backed media. Germany’s top division is currently in exclusive talks with beIN Sports to renew the Qatar-based network’s $250 million five-year deal, which runs out at the end of the 2019/20 season, but reports suggest that a representative for the Saudi state has contacted rights holder DFL seeking to acquire the Middle East rights. The Bundesliga announced in late June 2020 that European pay-TV network Sky and online service DAZN would pay €4.4 billion to screen matches in Germany for four years from the 2021-22 season. The domestic rights deal was €200 million less than its previous contract, in the first sign that the market for live sports has weakened because of the coronavirus crisis. The FT and others report that Saudi Arabia has tried to force its way into the bidding at the last moment. SAIP says the initiative continues the efforts of Saudi Arabia to minimise violations against intellectual property rights, and follows an online inspection campaign on websites and platforms that violates intellectual property laws including sites broadcast from outside the kingdom, saying that it recently monitored, examined, and analysed 231 websites that violate Intellectual Property law to prevent it from being browsed from the Kingdom. According to SAIP, monitored sites included a group of violations, such as downloading and watching movies and series, directly broadcasting sites of encrypted sports channels, downloading books in PDF format sites, downloading and listening to music sites - all carried out without obtaining a prior licence or authorisation from the rights holder. SAIP said it had also detected websites selling subscriptions for encrypted TV channels through software or illicit streaming devices (ISDs) to break barriers for the purpose of displaying materials in illegal ways. “SAIP confirmed that these practices violates the copyright protection law and entail financial penalties and fines that may reach up to 250,000 Saudi riyals [€60,000],” it said. “In addition to the applied fines, the violation may cause the closure of the site, or the cancellation of the commercial licence, and in some cases it can cause to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or defamation at the account of the infringer and removing the infringement.” Authorities in Saudi Arabia have written to the Premier League insisting that they will counter piracy of broadcast rights, in the latest move around the potential takeover of Newcastle United. A letter from the head of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) has been sent to the Premier League, UEFA, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee in the hope of providing reassurance that the kingdom does accept “a responsibility to help fight piracy”. Disney to close UK linear channels Disney has confirmed that, from October 1st, its Disney+ D2C service will be the exclusive UK home for content from Disney Channel, Disney XD, and Disney Junior – effectively ending the their linear channels carried on UK pay-TV platforms BT TV, Sky and Virgin Media. “The direct-to-consumer service, which garnered more that 54.5 million subscribers worldwide in its first seven months, will now premiere all the latest films, series and specials from the three Disney Channels, along with offering a rich and expansive back catalogue of Disney Channel titles in the UK,” said the broadcaster. “The Walt Disney Company remains committed to our kids channels business and continues to execute distribution agreements for Disney channels in many markets where Disney+ is also available, with the goal of giving our fans multiple entry points to our storytelling,” it added.” “This represents a landmark moment,” commented Paolo Pescatore, TMT analyst at PP Foresight. “The streaming revolution is gathering pace and cannot be ignored,” he added, noting that companies can no longer continue to support a slew of channels and cannibalise revenue streams. “The future is all about streaming and this latest move sets a benchmark for others to follow. All in one place still represents the Holy Grail for telcos,” he said, describing Disney’s move as “one further step towards less fragmentation, and one huge leap for companies to connect with new audiences and understand better their habits.” 6 EUROMEDIA