Mid-East piracy. It’s even worse

Yesterday we ran a story quoting a senior Rotana executive describing the catastrophic situation for pay-TV broadcasters and software distributors in the Middle East. New data from Jordan suggests his quote, that “piracy is killing us” is no understatement.
Jordan, normally a law-abiding country and without the reputation for blatant piracy as seen in Egypt or the Lebanon, is said to be suffering from 99% piracy of DVDs and 61% piracy of commercial software. Yesterday we quoted Yousef Mugharbil, president of Rotana Digital Entertainment, saying that it was the relaxed attitude of governments and law-enforcement officials that was the most disappointing aspect of the problem. “You cannot operate any successful business model with piracy rates of that level. The pay-TV industry is massively hurt by piracy, as is the music industry, when you have no regulatory bodies prepared to enforce the rules against copying and piracy,” he said.

His words are echoed by Jordan’s Intellectual Property Association which states that some 5000 retail outlets spread through greater Amman operate in flagrant violation of Jordan’s own nominally tough rules and regs. As well as depriving broadcasters, studios and distributors of a lawful return on sales of their services, even the government suffers because there’s no VAT/TVA on these “informal” distribution methods. It also makes life especially tough for legitimate outlets like Virgin Megastore.

The situation in Egypt and the Lebanon is claimed to be every bit as bad. Jawad Abbassi, general manager of research specialists Arab Advisors Group told delegates at its Media & Telecommunications conference in Amman that as far as broadband signal distribution was concerned, their recent studies showed that there was a 41.8% “neighbourhood piracy links” in the Lebanon, and 43.1% in Egypt. “This illegal reselling of signals is most alarming and significantly skews the data coming from these countries, and must be a worry to those operators who see apparent low official connectivity as being attractive prospects, when in reality just about everyone is wired up,” he said.

Much the same situation applies to pay-TV signal distribution when highly informal cable relays criss-cross neighbourhood streets depriving the three pan-regional broadcasters of any sort of legitimate revenue stream.