Laws Regarding Software Infringement in the UAE

Software infringement means the illegal copying, distribution, or sale of a particular piece of the original software. However, generally, the software is patented; if someone commits software infringement, he is liable to a penalty for violation of patent laws. The rapidly growing technology innovations and frequent use of software have made it essential to protect software developers’ rights from the illegal acts of piracy and infringement of software licenses in the best interest of the general public and the developers. The pirates and software invaders, without any authorization or license and consent of the author or developer, distribute, share and reproduce the material illegally. By doing so, they infringe the rights of original authors and copyright holders and put them in a gross loss by illegally selling their work, such as software programs, databases, applications, and software codes, without their knowledge and permission. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) struggles to combat the software and copyright protection matters and solutions to such problems. In collaboration with the WIPO, various countries around the world are striving to chart out ways to control software infringements for the good of the public and the copyright holders.

The United Arab Emirates (the UAE) is actively battling software and copyright-related crimes in its all emirates. The UAE has the lowest rate of unlicensed software installations due to its strict laws and penalties to reduce these violations. The Government has implemented copyright and data protection laws to protect the original authors’ and developers’ rights. Despite all these efforts to control piracy and illegal distribution of software material, some people are involved in distributing and selling copyrighted software on the internet and in other ways. The UAE software protection comes under copyright protection laws; it deals with all software infringement-related disputes. It is governed by Federal Law Number 40/1992 (as amended in 2002) on copyrights and related rights (Copyrights Law). The aim of copyright law in the UAE is to protect the copyright holders’ rights against any infringement regarding their work. The registration of software and any application in the UAE is governed by the Intellectual Property Protection Department (the IPPD) of the Ministry of Economic (the MOE) to protect copyright holders’ rights. The MOE ensures the use of legitimate software in all relevant institutions. Under the UAE Federal Law, Number 7 of 2002, management of institutions/organizations shall face criminal prosecution for using illegal software. The copyright holders shall enjoy the protection of the law and benefit from protection if any infringement occurs to their work across all UAE emirates. If one emirate introduces any enactment regarding the protection of rights related to software, you can file a complaint with help of intellectual property lawyers that would be applicable in all other emirates as well.

Article 2 of the Copyrights Law confers rights upon the authors of the works and owners of software-related materials to enjoy the law’s protection to their title of the work, either its innovative or written innovative broadcast program. This protection does not include ideas, procedures, abstract principles, facts, official documents, and works in the public domain under Article 3 of Copyrights Law. Only the software publisher or author and his successors have rights to publish, distribute, object, exploit or withdraw publication of any software-related work as per Articles 5 and 7 of the Copyrights Law. No further copies are allowed to make without prior permission of the author. The author(s) ‘ financial rights are protected throughout all his lifetime and after his death for fifty years, beginning from the subsequent calendar year after his death under Article 20.1 of the Copyrights Law. The rights of broadcasting organizations would be protected for twenty years from the following calendar year in which it was first time broadcasted or transmitted under Article 20.9 of the Copyrights Law. The Copyrights Law has also defined penalties and fines for the infringement of the software owners’ protection rights or works related to it.

From Article 37 to Article 40, it has provided penalties for the law violators. Under Article 37 of the Copyrights Law, if a person without written permission of the author or right holder or successor of related rights trespasses moral or financial rights, sells, offers for circulation, rents out, broadcasts any software related work on the internet or through any means, he shall be liable for a punishment of imprisonment for minimum two months and a fine amounting to AED 10,000 (UAE Dirhams) minimum or AED 50,000 (UAE Dirhams) maximum or anyone of them. If the convicted person repeats this act of infringement, he would be punished with imprisonment for a minimum of six months and a fine of AED 50,000 (UAE Dirhams) minimum. Suppose a person commits copyright infringement by his act of downloading or storing in a computer any copy of the computer program or applications or databases without getting a license or permission from the author or right holder or successors of the related software. In that case, he will be punished with imprisonment for a minimum period of three months and a fine comprising of AED 50,000 to AED 500,000 (UAE Dirhams). In case of recurrence of the offense, that person will be imprisoned for a minimum period of nine months and a minimum AED 200,000 (UAE Dirhams) fine under Article 38 of the Copyrights Law. If any person uses a computer program or applications and database without prior permission in the form of a license from the author or successor, he shall be penalized with a fine amounting to AED 10,000 to AED 30,000 (UAE Dirhams) for each program, application, or database. If repetition occurs, the penalty shall be a fine of AED 30,000 (UAE Dirhams) minimum. If the offense is committed in the name of any juridical person or a commercial or vocational establishment, the court is authorized to close such a program for a maximum period of three months as per Article 39 of the Copyrights Law. According to Article 40 of the Copyrights Law, the court is empowered to confiscate or order the destruction of counterfeited copies or copies reproduced, the equipment, devices used for the commission of the offenses related to software-related rights or order of closing such establishment for a maximum period of six months. A summary of the court ruling shall be published in one or more daily newspapers at the condemned party’s expense for public awareness. Whosoever is found guilty of commission of the infringement of the software-related laws in the UAE. He/she will face imprisonment and heavy fines under the provisions of law. The Copyrights Law protects the authors and software developers and their successors with a complete set of laws to benefit from this protection of rights.