When compared to most countries around the world, the United States has some of the toughest copyright laws around. While many countries view infringement as a relatively petty issue, in the U.S. custodial sentences are in place for many offenses.
Viewing local laws and attitudes as some of the best around, each year the USTR produces its Special 301 Report in which it criticizes trading partners for letting standards drop. This year there were just two Middle Eastern countries on the list – Lebanon and Kuwait – but according to a report in a Saudi Arabian newspaper, the U.S. isn’t afraid to flex its muscles against citizens of other allies in the region.
In an article published in the Makkah Daily Newspaper (Arabic), it’s being claimed that after illegal software was found on their laptops, 34 Saudi students studying in the United States were disallowed from completing their studies.
Citing Rafiq bin Ibrahim Aqeeli, Director General of the General Administration of Copyright at the Ministry of Culture and Information, the newspaper says those same students were subsequently expelled from the United States, forcing them to complete their studies in another country.
And the claims don’t stop there. Citing the same government source, Makkah Daily reports that the U.S. also intercepted 40 Saudi tourists at the border with illegal software on their laptops, denied them entry, and sent them home. Australia had also deported three Saudi university students for the same reasons, Aqeeli said.
But despite the clear claims from the Saudi government, ejecting students from the country on copyright grounds seems like a hugely draconian response, even by U.S. standards. However, looking into Saudi Arabia’s recent responses to copyright infringement one can see a country sometimes taking harsher measures than those usually seen in the United States.
Three weeks ago the Saudi government reported on its anti-piracy activities for 2013. Rafiq bin Ibrahim Aqeeli said his inspectors had carried out 2,500 inspections at stores, service providers, plus businesses and corporate headquarters
More than 7,590 “violations” were identified, 667 of which were related to copyright. As a result several businesses were penalized with enforced temporary shutdowns ranging from 14 to 60 days, to a total of 3,562 days overall.
“Last year the offences varied between copies of books and intellectual works, audio-visual materials and computer programs, while other infringements included the use by corporate facilities of computer software without permits, receiving satellite feed via individual subscriptions, and violations by newspapers using images without the consent of the copyright owners,” Aqeeli said.
The Ministry of Culture and Information says it will collaborate with the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to crack down on software piracy in line with its stance on reducing the effect software piracy has on the local economy. Violators can look forward to imprisonment, heavy fines and being “defamed” by having their names published in local newspapers.
In April, the Saudi government confirmed it had blocked 22 domains, including The Pirate Bay, on copyright grounds.