“Rights stuff”: how the World Cup is undermining Al Jazeera Sport popularity in the Arab world

Palestinians are switching off Al Jazeera and switching on Israeli TV. The incredible move has occurred for one reason only: football. As reported by AFP yesterday, more and more Palestinians are buying Israeli TV subscriptions to follow the Word Cup. A subscription to Israeli TV costs 25 dollars, against the 100 boxes asked by Al Jazeera Sport.

Many polemics arose all across the Arab world at the time when Al Jazeera announced to have bought exclusive rights for the World Cup and to be willing to “resell” the championship for 100 dollars to end-users.  A very high fee to bear for low income viewers in many places in the Arab world -which is not made up only by the rich Gulf states-. Together with this, Al Jazeera Sports has been strongly fighting piracy or “rebroadcasting” practises that were quite enough tolerated all across the Arab world. The AFP reports that “Harun Abu Ara, the head of Al-Quds educational television, a local Ramallah station, had to stop showing the matches a few days ago when he was warned against doing so by lawyers from Al-Jazeera“.

“Since we stopped rebroadcasting the matches we have received dozens of calls a day from customers who were used to watching them on our channel,” he said. “If we are prohibited from rebroadcasting Al-Jazeera, the natural result is that the viewers, especially the poor, are going to turn to Israeli television, because it is cheaper.”

It seems that Israeli TV is winning over this copyright war amongst Arabs. There is also a “jamming” war happening over the Arab skies: Al Jazeera has denounced that its AJ Sport TV signal was deliberately  jammed on Nilesat and Arabsat. Although the two major Arab satellite providers are declining the allegations, there is a very good chance for this story to be true. That wouldn`t be a surprise in the relations between Al Jazeera and the other Arab media players (and the governments backing them, i.e. mostly Egypt and Saudi Arabia). Politics have always played a major role in media relations in the Arab world, and this won`t be the first time, despite Nilesat (Egypt) and Arabsat (Saudi Arabia) deny accusations.

But this time the game is bigger, because Arab viewers are passionate football consumers. And because Israeli TV is taking advantage of an inter-Arab fight. Of course, not the first time this happens, too.

The whole “rights issue” related to the World Cup exclusivity to Al Jazeera Sport is something that looked so much promising at the beginning (in terms of profit and popularity) but now it is seriously risking to become a losing game for the Qatari station.

Public discussion on Creative Commons just started in Jordan

The public discussion of the first Arabic Creative Commons (CC) 3.0 license draft started yesterday. Jordan will be the first Arab country to discuss version 3.0 which is a major step in the diffusion of the CC philosophy across all the Arab world. Creative Commons is an international non profit organization founded in 2001 by Larry Lessig professor of Law in Stanford and author of many important books about the sharing of creativity on the Internet. CC provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry.

It’s a major shift from the copyright “All Rights Reserved” philosophy to the more flexible “Some Rights Reserved”. This shift is not simply concerning the juridical sphere of legal rights. It goes towards the empowerment of users and creators, educators and artists, individuals and communities of individuals that want to share and learn one from each other in a legal way.

The copyright as a method to protect information goods (video, books, music, etc) was born in a “analogue environment” marked by scarcity of production and difficulty in the distribution process. These material obstacles have been clearly removed in the “digital environment” which is on the contrary marked by the abundance of information goods and by a very easy process both in production and in distribution. But the legal obstacle of “all rights reserved” remains within this changed framework preventing many new subjects to use this huge amounts of information goods to learn, create by themselves and share with the others.

In this perspective, the battle for knowledge sharing is key in the Arab world as it is in Europe and in the US.

Copyright might seem not a big issue in the Arab world, where piracy is widespread and openly tolerated (and many more urgent problems have still to be solved). But, indeed, Arab media is booming thanks to Gulf investments and cash: the Gulf itself is setting the trends and standards for the future of the media all across the Arab region.

Having a closer look to what is currently happening in that part of the Arab world,  we will see that restrictions and persecutions on piracy issues have started, both in Saudi Arabia and in the UAE.

Copyright law is going to be enforced also in the Gulf, and this trend will go soon towards the Arab Mediterranean region.

So it is very key to start a debate on those issues right now. This is not a “technical” discussion happening among lawyers or geeks communities. It is very key for all the communities of individuals, particularly those who believe that the future of humankind lies in the sharing of knowledge and experiences. And the sharing of knowledge and creative works is the only antidote that we have against the alleged “clash of civilization”.

Mabrouk to Ziad Maraqa of Agip organisation, CC Jordan lead, and to all the others in the Arab team, for this first great achievement. Everybody in the Arab world is invited to join the discussion and to contribute to the debate at:

http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/cc-jo/