Newcastle takeover: Saudi Arabia announces crackdown on piracy

General view inside the stadium looking out to the city ahead of the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leicester City at St. James Park on January 01, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has announced a crackdown on websites illegally streaming sporting events, amid suggestions that piracy was a key issue holding up the Newcastle takeover from being completed

A bid to buy Newcastle, led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia's public investment fund (PIF), is awaiting the outcome of the Premier League's owners' and directors' test after a £300m deal with current owner Mike Ashley was agreed in April.

However, the bid has been met with fierce criticism from Amnesty International over the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, as well as opposition from broadcaster beIN Sports, who claim Saudi Arabia is involved in the illegal streaming of Premier League matches.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman
Image: Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman

Last week, a World Trade Organisation (WTO) report found that "prominent Saudi nationals" promoted illegal broadcasts by the pirate network beoutQ, contradicting the Saudis' previous claims that the network, which used footage from Qatari broadcaster beIN, was acting independently of their influence.

Now, in a statement on Government social media channels - Saudi Arabian officials say they have conducted an "online inspection campaign" designed to stop "websites and platforms that violates intellectual property laws including sites broadcast from outside the Kingdom".

The statement said: "SAIP [Saudi Authority For Intellectual Property] recently monitored, examined, and analysed 231 websites that violates Intellectual property law to prevent it from being browsed from the Kingdom.

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"Those detected sites included a group of violations, which are 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 and all been done without obtaining a prior license or authorization from the right holder.

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"SAIP has also detected websites that are selling subscriptions for encrypted TV channels through softwares or illicit streaming devices (ISDs) to break barriers for the purpose of displaying materials in illegal ways."

The Authority said those breaching copyright protection law could incur fines of up to 250,000 Saudi riyals (£54,000), while the website committing the offence could also be closed and those responsible jailed for no longer than six months.

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The SAIP added that it "will not tolerate the accountability of all those who violate the laws and regulations, nor will it condone these violations".

Last week,Newcastle received a new £350m takeover bid from the CEO of US TV company Clear TV, Henry Mauriss.

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