Legal Download 2.0 - Legal issues for UAE bloggers

Potential Pitfalls in the World Wide Web: Legal Issues for Bloggers in the UAE

Tags: DLA Piper Middle EastUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Tsung Wei Wong Published  July 2, 2008

A few months ago, we examined the top ten legal risks facing companies that operate websites. In this month's Legal Download, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the legal risks in a specific type of website - the Blog.

Web logs, more commonly known as ‘blogs', began as online journals through which people could participate in the internet by posting their thoughts and opinions. With the explosion of the internet, blogging rapidly evolved from personal blogs into forms such as video blogs (‘vlogs'), photo blogs (‘photoblogs') and even blogs containing only links (‘linklogs'). Blogs are also characterised by type of user (companies using blogs as a form of corporate communication) and by device (blogs written on mobile devices, known as ‘moblogs').

Arguably, the one factor that remains constant is that legal risks in blogs exist; and yet recent research conducted by the UK's YouGov found that only 5% of internet users are clear on their legal rights and responsibilities when posting comments online; and only a third (33%) of regular internet users read the legal terms and conditions, disclaimers or guidelines for posting comments on the internet forums they use.

We consider below some of the legal risks in blogging with a special focus on legal risks specific to the UAE.

Copyright Infringement

When posting material on your blog, whether it be penning your thoughts or posting pictures or videos, always make sure that it belongs to you or, if not, that you have the consent of the author to use his/her material for this purpose.  If not, you may be liable for infringing the copyright of the author and, in the UAE, such infringement can render you liable to hefty fines and penalties.

On the flip side, if you do have original material on your website, it is always useful to ensure that your readers know that it belongs to you, by bringing it to their attention through the terms and conditions of your blog. If there is any material in particular that you want to protect, the trade mark office in the UAE allows copyright owners to register their copyright material - you may wish to avail yourself of such protection.

Trade Mark Infringement

Users familiar with how to set up websites can start their own blogs, simply by going ahead to register a domain name. Other users can use blogging facilities offered by Google's, Typepad, or a myriad of other online blogging hosts, which allow you to simply log on and choose your desired blog name in order to get started. Either way, take care that you do not make use of someone's registered trade mark as part of your domain or blog name in such a way that you may be accused of infringement of that trade mark, especially since trade mark infringement is subject to strict laws and penalties in the UAE.


Catchy content such as pictures, photographs or even short movie clips can make your blog more interesting - but if you intend to post photos onto your blog, do note that the UAE has strict laws relating to photographing someone else and/or publishing someone's photos without their permission, particularly those of women. It is therefore always a good idea to ask for your subject's consent before you do so.

Likewise, the UAE's law regarding information technology crimes control imposes strict penalties for acts such as insulting Islamic sanctities or rituals, insulting any recognised religion, promoting or encouraging sins, posting news or photos relating to the private or family life of individuals (even if true), or posting information that facilitates and promotes concepts that violate public order and ethics, through any electronic means used to process data or store data.

Registering as a Business

The internet is full of examples of bloggers who made it big (in 2005, Fortune magazine listed eight bloggers that business people "could not ignore") - and if your blog becomes successful, then it may be time to consider if your blog should be a business. Registered company structures can provide legal protection and help you to separate your personal from your business liability. There are various different types of corporate structures available in the UAE, depending on whether you are operating from a free zone or in ‘onshore' Dubai and whether you are a citizen of the UAE or otherwise - you will need to consider these factors to find out what structure is most suitable for you.

The above are just some of the legal issues and liabilities that you as a blogger need to be aware of when you set up your blog and, perhaps, have in mind when you blog your next entry. In our next issue, we will consider the legal issues and implications of corporate blogs - what companies need to be aware of when they enter the world of blogging.

The author, Tsung Wei Wong, is a Legal Consultant with the Technology, Media & Commercial Group of DLA Piper Middle East LLP

3838 days ago
Rami Olwan

I think that blogging does not raise novel legal issue that should be studied in- depth by any legal scholar. All what has been said in this article was mentioned numerously by intellectual property lawyers and internet scholars when they started to write about the legal implications associated with the use of internet and e-commence. I was hoping to see in this article some kind of concentration into the particularity of the U.A.E civil legal system (trademark, copyright and civil laws) and to what extent judges are capable of addressing those matters in case they have been brought before them. Some of the important issues that the author did not cover include: privacy, jurisdiction, and trade secrets. There is not mention also of the proliferation of code of conducts for bloggers…

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