The Arab world's top broadcasters have united to lobby against 30 pirate TV stations and websites that they claim cost them millions of dollars a year in lost revenues.
Rivals MBC, OSN, and the Rotana Media Group have held a meeting in Egypt as part of a joint attempt to clamp down on the illegal broadcast of Hollywood and Arabic movies.
As many as 15 satellite channels that broadcast in the Arab world are "run by criminals," said Sam Barnett, the chief executive of MBC Group- whose assets include Arabs Got Talent.
"These pirate channels are essentially taking content for free. They're downloading movies off the internet, they're buying DVDs, and then they're broadcasting," he said.
Another 16 websites, many of which are in Arabic, are also in breach of copyright, according to MBC. "These channels and these sites are stealing our content," said Mr Barnett.
The stations and websites in infringement of copyright law are not being named by The National for legal reasons.
The pirate stations are using feeds to regional satellite operators to broadcast their offerings. Mr Barnett is urging satellite operators to shut down the pirate channels, without the need for the broadcasters to pursue lengthy court action.
"It's the rights that we've purchased that are being stolen. Yet the burden of proof seems to be upon us," he said. Mr Barnett said the offending channels are broadcasting both Hollywood and Arabic films to which MBC and other broadcasters hold the regional rights.
They devalue the market for broadcast rights in the Middle East region, which Mr Barnett said is worth almost US$100 million (Dh3.67 million) a year.
"If [the piracy] continues, it will not be worth $100 million, because we're not fools to continue paying for stuff that has already been [broadcast by the pirate channels]," he said. "We pay a big number for a movie, and these guys are getting it for free. In terms of the rights being abused, we're talking tens of millions of dollars."
MBC has also raised the issue with three government ministers in Egypt, a spokesman for the Dubai-based broadcaster said.
David Butorac, the chief executive of OSN, confirmed that he attended the meeting in Cairo last month. "We've been working as an industry," he said.
"We have compiled significant evidence of illegal activity which we have presented to the satellite industry." Mr Butorac said that the total cost of piracy to the Arab television industry was "well in excess of $100 million". Rotana Media Group, which is controlled by the Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, was also part of the meeting in Cairo.Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire holds a 19 per cent stake in Rotana.
Peter Einstein, who was appointed deputy chief executive of Rotana Media Group on September 1, said the company was concerned about the use of its Arabic content by pirate broadcasters.
"Regardless of how much it costs [the industry], it shouldn't happen," said Mr Einstein, who was also present at the meeting in Cairo. Anti-piracy campaigners said illegal TV stations damage the creative industries in markets like Egypt.
"Egyptian movies are loved by the Arabs. Egypt has continually validated it's capabilities for outstanding creativity," said Scott Butler, the chief executive of the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance.
Mr Barnett said he was confident that the offending channels would be closed down. "Ultimately this will be fixed. Because it's just such a brazen, criminal act," he said.