Abu Dhabi police question a man for allegedly sharing films and TV shows illegally, attracting a potential fine of nearly $1 million.
OSN snares TV pirate over illegal downloads
A subscriber to the OSN television service in the UAE has agreed to pay a penalty after being questioned by Abu Dhabi police in connection with an internet piracy scheme.
He had faced a potential penalty of nearly US$1 million (Dh3.6m).
The action was taken as part of an ongoing attempt to stem illegal sharing of media content, which costs the Arab pay-TV industry an estimated $500m a year.
The man, an Emirati, allegedly helped "millions" of computer users to illegally download shows broadcast by the Dubai broadcaster OSN.
Films by major Hollywood studios and some TV series were allegedly taken from OSN's broadcasts and made available for others to download.
The man was questioned by Abu Dhabi police and confessed, according to a statement issued by OSN.
Anti-piracy experts welcomed the move but said such action was less common in other countries in the Gulf.
The man, an OSN subscriber, allegedly set up a website that facilitated the illegal sharing of files.
OSN said it had identified 802 piracy violations, which it said attract a minimum penalty of $1,200 each under its subscriber terms and conditions.
"The total amount of contractual damages reached $962,400, which the pirate was asked to compensate OSN in violations of his OSN subscription contract," the company said.
The Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAA) filed a complaint with the Abu Dhabi CID on behalf of the broadcaster, OSN said.
"Following questioning by the authorities, the internet pirate made a full confession and agreed to a settlement to avoid any further legal action leading to imprisonment," OSN said. "The undisclosed settlement amount serves as a deterrent warning to other offenders who are involved in illegal downloading."
Abu Dhabi police confirmed that a report had been prepared on the matter.
Entertainment piracy is rife in the Middle East, but perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.
Scott Butler, the chief executive of the AAA, welcomed the move by the Abu Dhabi authorities but said other Gulf countries were less proactive in the fight against illegal file sharing.
"Internet piracy is rampant in neighbouring countries," said Mr Butler.
Ali Ajouz, a media consultant in the UAE, said this year that the Arab pay-TV industry loses as much as $500m a year to illegal pirate broadcasts.
David Butorac, the chief executive of OSN, said the global media industry loses "billions" to piracy.
"It's crucial to remind people what they're doing is illegal and highly damaging," he said.
He said the action in the UAE was "unusual".
"It gives an indication of the importance with which the crime was viewed," he said.
Mr Butler said the website the man used to distribute the films and TV shows had been shut down.