On May 25th, The United Media Services company, headed by Tamer Morsi, the owner of the Egyptian Media Group and Di Media company, signed a new protocol with National Media Authority, headed by Hussein Zain, in the context of preserving the Egyptian media heritage,  whether produced previously or currently by the Egyptian national Television and the latter owns its digital rights. The protocol requires that this content be made available exclusively on the newly digital media content platform, “Watch iT”, to deliver the content in a better and sophisticated manner and in accordance with modern media means and modern content forms.

“Watch iT” platform was launched by the United Media Services company on May 1st, just few days before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, providing only 15 drama serieses, all of which is produced by Synergy Art Production company, headed also by Tamer Morsi.

This announcement was received with a widespread denouncement and social media platforms had a growing trend of discussions about the Egyptian Media Group endeavor to monopolize the artistic heritage of Egyptian Television (aka Maspero) to broadcast through their newly launched streaming platform for a fee, the very same content that is -till now- available free of charge through “Maspero Zaman”, a TV-owned official channel on YouTube.

This announcement comes at a time when the Egyptian authority is dominating the process of artistic production and distribution through a number of companies headed by Tamer Morsi, which entailed imposing coercive conditions on the entertainment industry and its workers, the first of which was to reduce the rates of wages for both famous stars and small workers forcing a number of leading stars like Adel Imam, Yousra, Nelly Karim and others, to drop out of the most important artistic season of the year after many years of continuous work. Moreover, this has led to restrictions on major production entities operating in Egypt for decades such as Al-Adl Group.

It is noteworthy that the Egyptian Media Group is the co-owner of On TV, Al Hayat, DMC and CBC channels that provide various media services, which enables it to dominate the distribution process of all dramatic content, especially in the annual marathon of Ramadan. Thus, it’s capable of preventing a large production entity like Al-Adl Group from selling its productions in a decent rate.

The seizure of Maspero heritage places the Egyptian authority in a critical situation since this huge library owned by Radio and Television Union (RTU), which includes a long decades of artistic and cultural production, is originally owned by the government, and by extension it belongs to the public, so the public is entitled to have this content available free of charge. Accordingly, the protocol signed a few days ago, is an outright violation of the rights of viewers who have been involved in the production process of such works through tax revenues.

In addition, this decision involves a further infringement of the intellectual property of artists and writers of this content, as they and their heirs are entitled to benefit from the resale of this artistic product commercially. Of course, there are a number of these actions that have exceeded the intellectual property time limit, as some of which date back to more than fifty years, but this converts it into a public domain status in accordance with the law, so no one has the right to resell or provide it commercially.

Shortly after the announcement, Egyptian lyricist Ayman Bahgat Kamar, son of late Egyptian author Bahagat Kamar, warned of passing this agreement writing on his Facebook page: “A warning to those concerned, I and all the heirs of the old and creative authors have not given up the digital [content] rights that belong to our fathers. And in case any of this content rights were commercialized, all legal measures will be taken.”

On May 26th, the official page of Watch It on Facebook posted a statement affirming, for the very first time, that the platform is owned by the Egyptian state and that it is very keen on the protection of the intellectual rights of creators and the protection of Maspero heritage from all kind of piracy acts. It’s worth mentioning that Maspero Zaman, the official channel on YouTube, was launched on February 2015, few days after reporting that 500 plays was stolen from Egyptian television union and posted on Internet.

“The new platform is seeking a lot of media rights in different areas to entertain the viewers,” previously commented Tamer Mursi, CEO of Egyptian Media Group.

It appears that the newly platform management is seeking to dominate all kind of digital content, not only the dramatic content but also the sports section. Just a days ago, the platform management announced that Watch It had already bought the exclusive digital rights of the Egyptian football league for four years to come, at the same time that the group acquires the television rights of the Egyptian football league for ON Sports channel owned also by Egyptian Media Group.

It is not possible to predict what the immediate future of the entertainment industry will bring, but the current evidence confirms that it will not be, in no way, in the interest of the Egyptian viewer.