WTO tells Saudi to obey global rules in Qatar broadcast disputeWTO tells Saudi to obey global rules in Qatar broadcast dispute
FILE PHOTO: Employees work in a broadcast control room at the beIN Sports studio that will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha

GENEVA (Reuters) – A World Trade Organization panel ordered Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to adhere to global intellectual property rules in a ruling on a dispute with Qatar which accuses Riyadh of blocking its broadcaster after the Gulf neighbours fell out in 2017.

Doha filed its complaint in 2018, saying Saudi Arabia was blocking Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN and refusing to take effective action against alleged piracy of beIN’s content by “beoutQ”, a sophisticated pirating operation.

The three-person panel ruled that Saudi Arabia’s failure to act against beoutQ was a breach of WTO rules. “…the Panel recommends that Saudi Arabia bring its measures into conformity with its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement,” it concluded, in reference to a global pact on intellectual property.

However, the panel also supported Saudi Arabia’s view that it could block Qatar’s broadcaster from obtaining legal counsel in Saudi Arabia on grounds of national security.

“Qatar comes out ahead overall,” said a trade official familiar with the ruling.

Qatar described the ruling as a “resounding victory” and said that Saudi Arabia needed to respect the rights of high profile sports and entertainment.

“Saudi Arabia has a strong record of protecting intellectual property and is committed to applying its national law and procedures in full conformity with WTO rules,” Saudi Arabia’s mission to the WTO said in a statement.

Riyadh can appeal the ruling although the appeal could fall into a legal void since the WTO’s Appellate Body does not have enough judges to handle new cases.

(Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Additional reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov in London and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Nick Tattersall)