‘Satellite’ Television Companies Accuse of ‘Stealing Intellectual Properties’ in Liberia

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Monrovia – FrontPageAfrica has seen documents, which seem to indicate that some television companies, which are providing satellite contents for their customers, are doing so illegally. 

The documents unearthed that those “satellite” television companies operating, are illegally broadcasting their contents, including football games, without the authorized consents from their various contents’ owners. 

Those satellite television companies, include SATCON, NANA SAT, K3 Telecom and DSTV. Among these foreign-owned companies, the first three have been directly accused by some contents’ owners of illegally streaming their contents. The documents show that DSTV has not been accused of stealing contents to broadcast to its Liberia audience.

Among the contents’ owners, including LaLiga, beIN SPORTS, SHOWTIME, CANA+ OVERSEA and PREMIER LEAGUE, the are accusing those three companies of illegally streaming their contents, mainly the football games.  

LaLiga and the rest have officially complained these companies to the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), which is the Liberian Government’s arm that has direct oversight on these television companies. 

SATCON and the other companies were also allegedly served carbon copies (cc) of the complaints against them.

As FrontPageAfrica dug deeper into these allegations, it got to know that only DSTV, which is a subsidiary of Multi Choice, has the exclusive right to beam Super Sports’ contents in English, while CANA+ OVERSEA has the exclusive right to do so in French to their Liberia audiences. 

According to the complaints to the LTA, beIN SPORTS, whose contents are also broadcast live in Liberia, states that their contents, especially the football aspect, are not, at the moment, to be sold in Liberia, but have been told that their contents are being streamed live in Liberia by those companies.

“We understand that SuperSport International Limited is the English Premier League’s License in the territory of Liberia and SuperSport has been granted live television rights in respect of the English Premier league competition during the three English football season commencing with the 2013/2014 season,” beIN SPORTS’ communication stated.

“We hereby confirm that the following should not be permitted in Liberia; importation, sale or distribution of beIN  decoding  equipment; sale of subscription  to view beIN SPORTS channels; utilization of beIN decoding equipment within re-broadcasting or commercial distribution operating  e.g. broadcast station, cable operations, pubs, clubs, hotels, compounds and viewing centers.” 

According to the LTA Act, Part XI, the LTA may issue regulations, rules or orders regarding one or more of the following: (a) requiring that certain types of telecommunications equipment be certified or approved prior to being imported, commercially supplied or attached to any telecommunications network; (b) identifying criteria for certification and/or standards for approval of telecommunications equipment for use in connection with telecommunications services or telecommunications networks; (c) identifying domestic or foreign organizations or testing facilities for certification or approval of telecommunications equipment for use in connection with telecommunications services or telecommunications networks; or (d) establishing a register of certified or approved types of telecommunications equipment, criteria for certification and standards for approval.

The Act also states that the LTA may enter into mutual recognition or similar agreements with authorities in other countries to provide for the recognition of equipment certification or type approvals conducted in the other country and/or in Liberia.

In the Spanish LaLiga Santander’s complaint, under the signature of its Legal Director Maria José López Lorenzo dated May 13, 2019, they told both NANASAT and SATCON: “We hereby inform you that the TV operator Super Sports is authorized to broadcast LaLiga’s competitions matches in all languages, except for the Spanish and French languages in the territory of Liberia. In addition, the operator Cana+ international authorized to broadcast LaLiga’s competitions matches in Liberia in French language.”

Mrs. López Lorenzo said Super Sports had informed them that this exclusive right is also being used by the stations mentioned above.  

“SuperSport has informed us that you are broadcasting to the public audiovisual contents of LaLiga’s competitions without LaLiga, Super Sports, or Cana+ International’s prior authorization or consent. In relation to the foregoing, we inform you that the above mentioned acts of infringement seriously damage our exclusive license agreement,” LaLiga’s Legal Director warned.

“Accordingly, you are hereby required to immediately stop all acts of broadcasting, and more broadly, any communication to the public of the audiovisual contents of LaLiga’s competition (live or not, in whole or in part), and within three calendar days following the receipt of this letter confirm that you have complied with our request.”

LaLiga has threatened to file a legal action against the television companies should they fail to stop streaming its contents. 

Back in 2016, Cana+ International also wrote the LTA complaining of similar contents breach by some companies operating in Liberia.

“We confirm that we are a sub-license holder of SuperSport in respect of the English Premier League in French in sub-Saharan Africa territories, including in the territory of Liberia on a non-exclusive basis within the term. We hereby confirm that no cable operator, pub, hotel or re-broadcasting operator has been authorized by Canal+ OVERSEAS to broadcast and/or commercialize our content/signal without our authorization and consent is unlawful and is causing us an irreparable harm and damage,” the letter stated.

Both NANASAT and SATCON have refused to comment on the matter after several visits to their offices for comments. Staffs at SATCON office in Congo Town refused to give audience to our reporter after the issue was explained to them.

For NANASAT on Benson Street, the four letter word, F**** was used on our reporter when he explained the nature of the story to staffs at that enity.

However, LTA, which regulates this sector, told FrontPageAfrica that they could not verify the communications from LaLiga, beIN SPORTS, SHOWTIME, CANA+ OVERSEA and PREMIER LEAGUE as to whether or not SATCON, NANASAT and others have the right to broadcast the games.

LTA’s Director of Public Affairs, Ms. Jarsea Burphy, responded: “LTA has not received any verifiable letters from any of those entities listed above.” 

She noted that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the world governing body for telecommunications has issued two general guidelines requiring all member states adhere to minimum standards for acquiring and using equipment.

The ITU mandates all equipment used may not cause interference with other legitimately assigned frequencies and will not pose an environmental hazard to the public. 

She further stated that LTA will need the coordinated efforts of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to effectively enforce compliance.

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