In recent years, rightsholders have repeatedly teamed up with Egyptian law enforcement to tackle several large pirate sites and services.
Several of these actions took place in coordination with sports broadcaster beIN. The company is very active in the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA region) where a large part of its subscriber base resides. Traditionally, this is a region with plenty of enforcement challenges.
beIN Shares MENA Piracy Concerns
Despite recent successes, these challenges remain. A few days ago, beIN and subsidiary Miramax submitted an overview to the U.S. Trade Representative, as input for the annual “Special 301” review. The submission focuses exclusively on the MENA region.
“[T]here is still a huge amount to be done. beIN and other intellectual property rights owners, continue to sustain huge revenue losses from piracy in MENA, which greatly threatens the development of the legitimate audio-visual sector,” beIN writes.
“In many countries, commitment to intellectual property enforcement, and general respect of intellectual property remains very low. In many countries, piracy continues to be the primary way for people to consume premium sports and entertainment content.”
The submission signals a variety of piracy-related problems in countries such as Jordan, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, UAE, and Lebanon, where lacking enforcement is a recurring theme. However, our attention was mostly drawn to the comments regarding Egypt.
Similar to other countries, many pirate sites are easy to access in Egypt and dedicated piracy devices and subscriptions are openly sold there. While the ACE actions have shown that there is some cooperation from local law enforcement, plenty of concerns remain.
Paid Pirate Site Blocking Licenses
One particularly problematic development relates to site blocking. Rightsholders historically faced difficulty getting support from local authorities on the site-blocking front. Last year, there appeared to be some progress on this front, but not the type beIN wanted.
Site blocking is an option in Egypt today. However, instead of it being part of a legal or administrative process, pirate site blocking is offered as a ‘privatized’ service by an unnamed commercial company.
BeIN inquired about the available blocking options, but it believes that the fees that are currently charged are too steep.
“In 2023, beIN was made aware that license to order such blocking has been granted to a commercial entity, which is offering this to rights owners as a paid service. The fee offered to beIN was neither proportional nor realistic to the service being offered.’
The ‘pay to block’ offering came as a surprise to beIN, which hopes that the Egyptian government will reconsider the blocking scheme. Perhaps after a nudge from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
“beIN is not aware of any other country, where enforcement of IPR has been privatized in such a manner. beIN would urge the authorities in Egypt to reconsider their approach,” the company informs the USTR.
How Bad Is It?
TorrentFreak asked ACE, which is well-connected in Egypt, to share their thoughts on the matter. At this time, however, the anti-piracy group prefers not to comment.
Without more details on the scheme and the blocking company involved, it is hard to grasp what’s going on precisely. In theory, the fees being charged could simply be used to cover the costs, instead of blocking being a for-profit business.
Interestingly, it appears that not all rightsholders are increasingly concerned about Egypt. The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which represents major rightsholder groups including the MPA and RIAA, removed the country from its watchlist recommendation for the first time this year.
Since 1989, IIPA has listed Egypt as either a “watchlist” or “priority watchlist” recommendation in its “Special 301” submissions to the USTR, but that’s no longer the case today. So, not all is bad.
A copy of the submission beIN and Miremax sent to the USTR for its upcoming 2024 Special 301 Review is available here (pdf)
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.