BSA loses anti-piracy fight in Dubai's Court of Cassation

In a press briefing on Sunday the BSA’s regional director, Jawad Al Redha and legal expert Essam Al Tamimi, managing partner in Al Tamimi & Company described the outcome as “the wrong application of the law."

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By  Greg Wilson Published  November 4, 2001

The anti-piracy drive in Dubai ran aground on Saturday, when the Court of Cassation ruled against the Business Software Alliance (BSA) in favour of the defendant, National Engineering Company.

Although the decision by the Court of Cassation upholds a previous ruling of a “lower court” the legal debate appears to be far from over.

In a press briefing on Sunday the BSA’s regional director, Jawad Al Redha and legal expert Essam Al Tamimi, managing partner in Al Tamimi & Company described the outcome as “the wrong application of the law."

The National Engineering Company ruling flies in the face of two previous end-user anti-piracy convictions. In Abu Dhabi earlier this year, two engineering firms were fined of using illegal copies of software. “Both companies were found guilty and fined,” comments Al Tamimi.

“The law is clear… a license is needed from the author, without that software cannot be copied, sold or imported… this doesn’t only apply to software but to other intellectual property,” he adds.

According to both the BSA and Al Tamimi & Company, the confusion over copyright law in this particular instance stemmed from a report prepared by an ‘unqualified’ IT specialist.

Further details on the role, responsibilities or qualifications of the ‘judicial IT specialist’ were sketchy at best.

“I believe that, by relying on a report prepared by an IT specialist who is neither familiar with the application of the Copyright Law nor the UAE’s obligations under international treaties, such as TRIPS and the Berne Convention, the court has not applied the law in a proper manner,” says Al Redha.

According to Al Tamimi, the information provided by the technical expert was contradictory to evidence from the Ministry of Information (MoI), which confirmed the software on the seized PCs was in fact illegal.

However, the information provided by the technical expert used in the National Engineering Company case was enough to provide “reasonable doubt,” in the mind of the judge, says Al Tamimi.

Far more worrying than this one particular case, are the implications of the Court of Cassation’s ruling. A strong line on protecting intellectual property has proved key in attracting foreign investment — particularly from the IT community.

Consequently, Al Redha is anxious that the ruling not be misinterpreted. “This shouldn’t send the wrong message… both the BSA and the [MoI] will continue to prosecute people for the use of illegal software,” he adds.

The MoI is, currently amending the 1992 copyright laws to incorporate greater TRIPS obligations and help in future interpretation of copyright laws.

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