I have heard many people who have come up with some kind of indigenous and creative work stating that, ‘I have a copyright over this, so no one else claims it as their own.’ Which is fair and right, as every such person who is the author or the inventor of any original works should be attributed for their work. Our world has progressed tremendously in terms of digitalization which resulted in easy access to other people’s original work and reproduce or exploit such work for their own use without even acknowledging the actual owner of such work. Innovation is not just limited to a certain place or persons; it is present in every corner of the world. Therefore, it goes without saying how important it is to have dedicated legislation protecting the rights of such innovators.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is widely recognized for its incredible architectural structures, artistic designs and various other kinds of innovative works and it can be attributed to many individual’s contributions to innovative ideas. UAE incorporated its first intellectual property law in 1992, which was revised in the year 2002. UAE has become signatories to several international conventions and treaties in order to ensure that Intellectual Property Rights are protected in line with international standards. In the UAE, there are codified legislation governing various aspects of intellectual property rights. This article will be focusing on copyright registration in the UAE.
Federal Law Number 7 of 2002, as amended by Federals Law Number 32 of 2006 on Copyrights and Related Rights (the Copyrights Law) is the legislation that covers all the rights pertaining to copyright holders. In layman terms, copyright can be defined as an exclusive right conferred upon the owner of any original creative work to reproduce, distribute, print, transfer, perform, publish and exploit their work; this right is protected and sanctioned by the provisions of law governing such works. Precisely, the right to copy or reproduce the work in any form rests with the owner of such original work. Article 2 of the Copyright Law provides with the list of works for which the author and owner of such works can claim protection:
Article 3 of the Copyright Law provides for works which are excluded from claiming copyright protection, wherein it states that, any kind of mathematical concepts, abstract principles and facts, work methods and procedures or ideas are restricted from obtaining copyright protection, except where the above-mentioned works have been expressed in an innovative form. It further excludes any official legal documents like written statutes, court decisions, international convention, etc., informative content like news and reports on current events, works that are already in the public domain, from claiming copyright, except if such works encompass innovative elements.
In UAE, the Ministry of Economy (MoE) is bestowed with the authority to register intellectual works. A work can be copyrighted if it is intellectually created and not plagiarized and where such work is communicated in objective form. The copyright can be registered in either of the three competent authorities:
The registration in the U.S. Copyright Office shall be done via post and can take up to at least six (6) to twelve (12) months.
The documents shall vary depending upon the type of work and the person claiming for a copyright. Therefore, it is recommended to take guidance from an experienced copyright lawyer who is well-versed with the registration process for kinds of work.
Article 20 of the Copyright Law states that the copyright will be protected throughout the lifetime of the author and for a further period of fifty (50) years, starting from the first day of the calendar year subsequently after the death of the author. In cases of theatrical, musical, or corporate bodies the copyright protection shall be for a period of fifty (50) years on the works first published after the death of the author. Whereas, the broadcasting rights are protected for a period of twenty (20) years, commencing on the following year from the year when such broadcast has been first transmitted and also the copyright protection of the authors on applied work shall lapse on expiry of twenty-five (25) years, since the commencement of such rights.
The copyright owners enjoy both economic (financial) rights and moral rights.
However, the above mentioned are the general and basic rights which a copyright holder can avail. There are several other rights governing the neighboring rights of the work. In general, the registration of copyright is not compulsory and the author is at discretion if to get the work copyrighted or not; however, the UAE Executive Regulation of the Consumer Protection Law makes registration of copyright mandatory for cases where the work is being displayed in the market to for the purpose of making such work available to be purchased by the customers. Absence of registration in line with the Consumer Protection Law can result in attracting penalties upon the author who put their work in the market for the purpose of trade.
It is pertinent to note that copyright infringement constitutes both a civil suit and a criminal suit. Any person who unauthorizedly uses the work of the copyright owner and thereby, infringing the rights conferred on the copyright holder shall be guilty of copyright infringement. The case of copyright infringement shall be submitted to the competent court, who will then accordingly pass an injunction order and also take required measures to further prevent any unauthorized use of the copyrighted work. However, the injunction order can be contested by the party against whom such order is passed within a period of twenty (20) days from date when such order was issued. Article 37 lays down that any person who is found to be guilty of committing copyright infringement shall be made subject to imprisonment for a period of two (2) months and also shall be imposed with a fine of minimum UAE Dirhams ten thousand (AED 10,000) and maximum UAE Dirhams fifty thousand (AED 50,000).
Where such infringement is repeated then the punishment shall be imprisonment of nine (9) months and a fine of at least UAE Dirhams two hundred thousand (AED 200,000). The Copyright Law further states that the court can either confiscate or destroy the infringed copies. In case where any person is found to use any computer program or databases without acquiring permission from the owner of such program, shall be imposed with a fine of minimum UAE Dirhams ten thousand (AED 10,000) and a maximum fine of UAE Dirhams thirty thousand (AED 30,000).
UAE became a signatory to the Berne Convention on the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in the year 2004. The Berne Convention is an international agreement which covers all the aspects of copyrights. By the virtue of being a member to the Berne Convention, the registered copyright can avail protection in almost 167 member countries of the Berne Convention. Unlike the common law countries, where the ownership of the employee’s work done for the employer is automatically vested in the employer, even without any written assignment of the same. This concept is based on the doctrine, “work made for hire”. However, that is not the same case in UAE which is a civil law country, the ownership vests with the employee and the employer can avail the ownership only via a valid assignment of the ownership of the work by the employee to the employer. Therefore, it is mandatory that such a clause as to the assignment of copyright ownership is clearly specified in the employment contracts. Private individuals, legal entities or companies or both private individuals and legal entities or companies can be owners of the copyright. The purpose of having copyright law entailing protective provisions is to ensure that creativity is encouraged.