Gulf States Urged To Mount Campaigns Against Media Piracy

RIYADH, 26 May 2007 — Gulf governments have been urged to step up efforts to fight pirated media and stolen pay-TV channels in the region.

“We have problems in the Gulf, even in Saudi Arabia, with compounds having cable systems that do not pay us for our content,” said Greg Sweeting, Showtime’s vice president for legal and business affairs.

Sweeting urged the authorities to work aggressively to safeguard intellectual property rights and combat piracy. “The enormous problem of piracy is threatening to undermine jobs, expertise and massive investments brought to the region by legitimate entertainment providers.”

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been placed by the US government on low level of monitoring lists, indicating the concerns about copyright violations, according to a report published in USA Today.

Other countries placed on low level monitoring lists include Canada, Colombia, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland and Romania. There has also been widespread piracy so far as Indian films and music audios are concerned.

Referring to the urgent need to combat piracy, Sweeting said, “We truly understand that there is a missing link of understanding and hence Showtime, Orbit, ART, or AlJazeera are ready to spend all the time necessary to help them get that understanding,” said Sweeting.

It is the presence of those four huge operators that makes the MENA region the most competitive pay-TV market in the world. He said that these operators, who have invested billions of dollars in the region in the last decade, were frustrated after spending huge sums on infrastructure and staff to see pirate providers exploiting their content.

He said pirate copies of Hollywood movies removed the value for cinema owners and pay-TV providers in being able to show such films. Sweeting revealed the major problem of TV channels, which are legitimately licensed in countries such as India, being illegally broadcast in the Middle East.

“There have also been a number of illegal decoder boxes coming through in the last few years,” said a local entertainment industry vendor Arif Jawad.

“We need to try and combat them, but it’s hard work.”

He, however, said recent treaties and legislations, which have come into effect in the region, would help broadcasters mount a “strict and aggressive enforcement of our rights.”

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