Swedish court overturns jail terms for ‘pirates’ retransmitting beIN broadcasts

Internet TV company ATN went bankrupt after police raids in 2016

A Swedish court has overturned a $20m damages award to beIN after an appeal over piracy convictions. AFP
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A Swedish court has quashed jail terms for an Iraqi businessman and his son whose internet television company distributed English Premier League football matches without the permission of rights-holder beIN Sports.

The court ruled on Tuesday that the Arabic-language broadcasts were not protected by copyright under Swedish law and overturned the two-and-a-half-year jail sentence for Hamid Al Hamid, the owner of the now-bankrupt Advanced TV Network (ATN).

The court also set aside a one-year sentence for his son Ahmed along with damages of 195 million Swedish crowns ($20m) that ATN had been ordered to pay Qatari broadcaster beIN as part of the 2018 verdicts.

The Hamids, who are Swedish residents, were originally convicted of copyright violation and misusing decoding information to retransmit sports and other beIN channels to tens of thousands of subscribers around the world, said prosecutors. The Scandinavian broadcast industry hailed the verdicts as “a clear message to broadcast pirates”.

Qatar is a member of the Rome Convention that protects the rights of broadcasters but signed up only in 2017 – a year after the case was first filed.

Quashing the jail sentences, the appeal court said the case fell outside of the scope of the 96-nation convention, even though encryption of the broadcasts took place in European countries that were signed up to it.

Sweden’s prosecution authority has now appealed to the country’s highest court to try to reverse the latest ruling.

Hamid Al Hamid’s lawyer, Jonas Nilsson, said the two men had not served jail time after launching their appeals but the business had collapsed after Swedish police seized ATN’s equipment.

“It’s been a lot of stress since the police visited him and he had to close down the business,” said Mr Nilsson. “This is a very complicated issue with lots of international laws and directives and there is a unique set of circumstances in this case.

“Now that we have this verdict, he feels relieved. He wanted to put these matters behind him so he could continue with his life.”

BeIN Sports in 2019 made cuts and laid off nearly a fifth of its workers after the company said its revenue had been hit by online piracy of its TV channels.

Updated: March 09, 2022, 3:15 PM