(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi Arabia's Board of Grievances (BOG) upheld on Tuesday the recommendation of the Ministry of Information to impose a jail sentence on a Saudi businessman trading in pirated goods.
"The conviction is seen by the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAA) as a precedent for merchants to strictly comply with Saudi piracy laws and serves as a deterrent to would-be violators," Scott Butler, AAA chief executive officer, told Arab News on Tuesday.
Rafeik Al-Okaily, the ministry's director of copyrights, said the Violation Review Committee recommended a fine of SR150,000 and a 10-day prison sentence for the Saudi trader.
Butler added that in delivering its judgment, the BOG had also quashed doubts about the enforcement of piracy laws in Saudi Arabia, which has recorded the highest piracy rate in the GCC at 60 percent.
"The adjudication of the case is a very important victory for anti-piracy advocates as it is the first-ever court judgment in the Kingdom resulting in imprisonment," Butler said.
He added the judgment is a strong deterrent to prevent such criminal activities from proliferating in the country, knowing the Saudi judiciary is prepared to apply the full force of the law in trying cases related to piracy.
"Piracy has resulted in huge losses to the Saudi economy with studies indicating that reduction of piracy rates could have potentially yielded up to 1 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) in the past two years," he said.
This clearly represents a huge incentive for the Saudi government, Butler added, to step up its efforts to break up pirate syndicates.
"For our part, the AAA, along with our strategic partners, is certainly eager to provide all necessary support to ensure that anti-piracy laws are strictly enforced in the Kingdom," Butler said.
He also disclosed that in the landmark piracy case, the convicted trader's retail outlet and warehouse had been raided seven times since 2006, resulting in the seizure of over 100,000 counterfeit products and several reproduction equipment.
Each of the first six offenses resulted in escalating fines by the Violation Review Committee. Following the seventh raid in 2010, the Ministry of Information recommended to the BOG, the highest judicial authority, imprisonment for the trader.
Butler noted the Piracy Law Fear Factor survey commissioned by AAA and participated in by intellectual property rights holders from the Business Software Alliance (BSA), electronic games industry, pay TV and movie industry, revealed that up to 89 percent of respondents believe that owners of businesses engaged in piracy won't get imprisoned in the Kingdom.
"Nonetheless, 67 percent of respondents believe that imprisonment will help solve the problem of piracy in the country," he said.
The AAA has noted that for many years, piracy rates have been higher in Saudi Arabia than in any other country in the Gulf region in the movie industry, reaching the 90 percent range.
Butler, who is based in Dubai, is in charge of the GCC countries for AAA, which represents various movie studios in the US such as Fox and MGM.