Copyright Protection vs Digital Infringement

Lara Ababneh senior associate in the Dubai Office of Al Tamimi & Company explores how copyright holders and authors can protect themselves against copyright infringement

Tags: Al Tamimi and Company - DubaiCopyrightIntellectual PropertyUnited Arab Emirates
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Copyright Protection vs Digital Infringement Technology has made copyright infringement easier, says Ababneh, but copyright holders and authors can protect themselves.
By  Lara Ababneh Published  February 9, 2011

Authors of copyright works and holders of neighboring rights enjoy protection under the UAE Federal Law No. 7 of 2002 Concerning Copyrights and Neighboring Rights (the UAE Copyright Law). In line with the laws of most countries, protection is provided to authors of works, which include literary works, computer software, databases, lectures/speeches, plays, musical works, plans, drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographic works, broadcasting and other intellectual works.

In fact, using, copying and downloading software, materials from websites or distributing any material in any manner, for any purpose, commercial or personal, without the author's written permission, constitutes copyright infringement - with limited exceptions.

Nowadays, it is common for authors to find their articles copied on many websites, for software developers to find their proprietary code freely available, and for singers to find their material available on peer sharing websites even though these websites have copyright notices to warn users not to post any episodes, songs, advertisements, TV shows etc., without obtaining permission from the creator of the work or being the creator of the work itself.

New technologies and tools such as smart phones, smart PCs and app-based devices, coupled with the increasing use of social media, have turned the internet into an all encompassing means of communication and appropriation. With this type of usage, comes the increased ease and speed with which people access copyrighted material for free.

Whether it be songs, films, software, books or intellectual capital, most of this material is under some form of copyright and, in a lot of cases, the presence of this copyright is not a deterrent. Since source material can now be downloaded and shared through a wide variety of tools, even non-technically minded users are able to effectively gain access, use and share, vast amounts of copyrighted data, often without the knowledge and understanding that what they are doing is illegal.

In extreme cases, heavy file sharing users and peer software providers, are unconcerned with the repercussions of copying and distributing copyrighted material. This is partly due to the somewhat anarchic mentality of some of these users, who are prone to want to ‘beat the system' by illegally downloading data, music and videos, and partly due to the fact that government sanctioned enforcement is still extremely rare, Governments are ill equipped to police the vast amounts of data being shared and copied in their jurisdictions, and the cross border nature of peer sharing means that in many cases, they cannot enforce legislation. It is now becoming clear that the individual owner of the copyright needs to take personal responsibility for monitoring the dissemination of material they own.

So, if the internet is such a threat to copyright, why do authors use it so assiduously as a marketing and distribution tool? The simple answer is that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Authors or copyright owners cannot avoid a vehicle which allows them to gain a global footprint for their work in a very short period of time, Similarly, as consumers' purchasing habits move towards more internet-based shopping, ignoring the internet would close the door to what is fast becoming the largest revenue stream in many sectors. Technology provides great opportunities for the creator of copyright works, and therefore cannot be avoided. The question that arises here is how users can protect their rights as a copyright creator from potential digital infringements?

Firstly it is very simple to discover if material has been copied, an internet search will, in most cases produce the required evidence. New services such as Copyscape and TurnItIn which check for duplicated content online are now becoming more readily available and can be used by copyright owners to identify the individuals copying their works and making it available to download on the internet.

Once the information on the websites containing the infringed material has been obtained, the infringer can be sent a notice, requesting they cease and desist from copying. Most experts will recommend a deadline is given to the perpetrator, notifying them they have a set amount of time to comply with the request and stop infringing the owners' rights. Furthermore an effective tool is to send a notification to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that hosts the infringing website and demand that the ISP take down the copyrighted material which is being posted illegally.

When the copyright owner proves his ownership, most websites tend to comply with cease and desist letters by removing the infringing material as this is often posted by third parties.

UAE Copyright Law, like the laws of most other nations, protects copyright works regardless of whether the work is registered or not, and irrespective of whether or not it has a copyright notice. Copyright owners can prevent anyone else from infringing their work by bringing an infringement action before a civil court. The Copyright Law also provides for criminal penalties for infringement of copyright in the form of fines and, in some cases, imprisonment.

In the end, it the responsibility of copyright owners to protect their work and hence they should invest time in tracking down the infringers and then take appropriate action through their attorneys.

Lara Ababneh is a senior associate with Al Tamimi & Company, Dubai.

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