Software piracy or violation of a software license, is an illegal action that occurs due to unsanctioned use, distribution, exploitation and/or reproduction of copyrighted software. With the technology roar, it is very fundamental that an economy in its full strength and thrive be able to protect the rights of software developers and afford them with suitable protection. The protection of original work of authorship is essential with respect to protecting the rights of the original authors, and this includes the protection of software codes or software applications, programs and its databases. Federal law Number 40/1992 (as amended) on copyrights and related rights (Copyright Law) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) governs any infringement or any disputes arising that are software-related. Software protection falls under the ambit of copyright protection in the UAE. Copyright Law in UAE targets to safeguard rights pertaining to software and technology. The copyright filing of software is carried out by the UAE Ministry of Economy. An author is any person who creates such software or any person whose name shall be mentioned upon the publication and attributing such person as the author. The authors of works and owners of any related rights of the software shall benefit from protection in case of any violation or infringement of rights arising all across the territory of UAE. Any infringement of rights in one emirate shall amount to an infringement being caused in all the other emirates. Protection of software or related rights that are afforded in one emirate shall extend to all the other emirates as well.
Protection of Software
The Copyright Law mandates that computer programs and applications, databases and similar works as and when determined and declared by a ministerial decision. The authors of such works and owners of any related rights of the software shall benefit from protection in case of any violation of rights in relation to copyright protection arise within the territory of UAE (Article 2 of Copyright Law). Therefore, any infringement of rights in relation to copyright protection arising in one emirate shall occur to an infringement in all the other emirates and protection afforded in one emirate shall extend to all the other emirates as well. Protection of software would include the title of work in case it extends to innovative work and would also extend to the written innovative broadcast program. However, protection shall not be extended to ideas, procedures, abstract principles, facts and to works that have fallen in the public domain. It shall protect the innovative expression of any of these works. The author of the software publisher has the sole right to exploit such work and make it available through computers, data or any other communication networks as he deems fit.
The successors of the author and the author himself may only be in charge of authorization of the work that has been copyrighted, whether such exploitation of work includes reproduction, electronic storage, rental or publication in any manner whatsoever (Article 7 of Copyright Law).
A single copy of the computer programs, applications or its databases can be made with the knowledge of the legitimate possessor. Such a person making the single copy shall have to obtain an appropriate license from the legitimate possessor. Computer programs do not allow the right to rent unless such computer program would be the principal object of the rent. Financial rights shall be protected all through the lifetime of the author and following the author's death, from the date of the commencement of the new calendar year till a lapse of 50 years (Article 20 of the Copyright Law).
Transfer of Financial Rights
The author or successors of the author are entitled to the right of transferring some or all of his financial rights to third parties (physical/juridical). Such transfer has to be done in writing and postulate the transferred right along with the duration of the transfer, object of transfer and place of exploitation. The author is the owner of all the financial rights that have not been unequivocally assigned. The transfer of financial rights that are regarding the computer applications, programs and databases shall be governed under the contract license conglomerated with the program while appearing on the support carrying such program or on the screen of the computer upon downloading or storing such program. It is imperative that the purchaser or user of such program be made aware of such terms before downloading such program and be made to agree to the terms and conditions included in such license post which such purchaser or user shall be obliged by such terms (Article 12 of Copyright Law).
Penalties for Software Infringement
The Copyright Law has provided for penalties on any person that causes infringement or violation of copyright on software or any related rights, and the same have been discussed below:
- Punishment of a minimum of three months and a fine ranging from anywhere between AED 50,000 to AED 500,000 upon any person who indulges in the infringement of copyright by causing to download or store in the computer any copy of the computer program or computer applications or databases without the granting of any license from the author or the rightful owner of such work. In case of repetition of the offence, imprisonment of a minimum period of 9 months and a fine of a minimum of AED200,000 shall be imposed on such offender indulging in recurrence of the offence (Article 38 of Copyright Law).
- Any person who uses a computer program or computer applications or its databases without obtaining a license in advance from the author or his successors shall be subject to a fine ranging between AED 10,000 to AED 30,000 for each program, application or database being used in violation of the Copyright Law. For a recurrence, the penalty shall amount to a minimum of AED 30,000. The Court is also entitled to close such program, application or database for a period not exceeding three months, in case such an offence has been committed in the name or to the benefit of a juridical person or commercial/vocational establishment (Article 39 of Copyright Law).
- The Court is entitled to confiscation and destruction of any counterfeited copies resulting out of violation of the rights of the legitimate author or its successors. Any copies produced from the legitimate work that is safeguarded under copyright protection or any reproduction therefrom shall be subject to confiscation by the Court's discretion. Any equipment or devices that are used in the preparation of such offence shall also be subject to destruction or confiscation and will not be permitted to be utilized for any fixed period of time declared by the Court which may not exceed a period of 6 months. The summary of the court ruling shall be in the public domain by publication in one or more daily newspapers, and the expenses of the same shall be borne by the condemned party (Article 40 of the Copyright Law).
Hence, these are the penalties that shall be imposed on any violation of rights or infringement of work occurring under the Copyright Law with fine and/or imprisonment being enforced on the condemned party. With the boom of technology, the development of software is on the rise and the protection of the authors of such works is pertinent and crucial. The Copyright Law in UAE provides a platform for the protection of such copyrights that are enjoyed by works relating to software development, applications, databases and applications.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.