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Scope of Copyright Protection

Copyright is the exclusive right that is granted to authors or artists for the literary or artistic works they create to publish, broadcast, assign or sell their work for a fixed period of time. Copyright protection is granted for the expression of ideas and not for the ideas themselves. A person having an idea regarding a flying horse communicates the idea to another who creates a sketch of the same. Here the copyright protection is given to the second person who expressed the idea of a flying horse through a sketch and not to the first person even though the original idea regarding the flying horse had emerged out of him. Also every different form of expression is granted a separate protection.

In the above mentioned example, if a third person looks at the sketch of the flying horse and writes a poem describing the same then again this third person is granted a separate copyright protection for his work. Here it is noticed that the idea of the flying horse is one but the manner and form of expressing it varies from person to person. Two people may get inspired by the same idea and express it in their own original ways. It is essential that the expression should be original.

In the above mentioned example, a fourth person getting inspired by the painting also composes a poem describing the flying horse, he is also granted copyright protection. The mode of expression of the third and the fourth person is the same and they both got inspiration for the poem from the sketch of the flying horse but their expression is original and emerges out of their own mind. Had it been that the fourth person copied the poem of the third person then it would amount to infringement and he would not be granted any copyright protection. The reason for granting protection only to expressions of ideas and not ideas themselves is that if a person is granted monopoly in ideas then it would greatly hinder the various creative expressions. Also, there is no way to record and evidence the emergence of an idea in a person and hence it would create confusion and would result in more infringements.

According to the Berne Convention all “literary and artistic works” are given copyright protection. The expression “literary and artistic works” according to article 2 of the Berne Convention includes every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain, whatever may be the mode or form of its expression, such as books, pamphlets and other writings; lectures, addresses, sermons and other works of the same nature; dramatic or dramatic-musical works; choreographic works and entertainments in silent show; musical compositions with or without words; cinematographic works to which are assimilated works expressed by a process analogous to cinematography; works of drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture, engraving and lithography; photographic works to which are assimilated works expressed by a process analogous to photography; works of applied art; illustrations, maps, plans, sketches and three-dimensional works relative to geography, topography, architecture or science.

The Berne Convention also further provides that it is the matter of the country’s legislations to decide the exact scope and extension of the copyright protection it shall grant. The present article discusses the scope of copyright protection granted by UAE through its federal law no. 7 of 2002 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the law’).

Article 2 of the law provides for a list of works created by authors that shall enjoy copyright protection. This protection is enjoyed by authors, the assignees and licensees as the case may be. The list provided by the law goes as follows:

    1. Books, pamphlets, articles, and other written works.

    2. Computer programs and applications, databases, and similar works as determined by a ministerial decision.

    3. Lectures, speeches, sermons, and any other works of similar nature.

    4. Theatrical works, musical shows and pantomime.

    5. Musical compositions with or without words.

    6. Audio, visual or audiovisual works.

    7. Architectural works, and engineering drawings and layouts.

    8. Works of drawing in lines or colors, sculpture, engravings, lithography, printing on textiles, wood and metals, and any similar works of fine arts.

    9. Photographic and analogous works.

    10. Works of applied arts and plastic arts.

    11. Illustrations, geographical maps, sketches, and three – dimensional works relative to geography, topography or architecture and others.

    12. Derivative works (works derived from other works, the poem that was inspired from the painting in the example discussed is considered as a derivative work). The protection granted to derivative work in no way prejudices the protection to the original work.

    13. Title of the works when they have innovation and creativity in them.

    14. Written innovative broadcast programs.

Article 3 further defines the scope of copyright protection by specifying the works that are excluded from the protection. It provides that the protection is not granted to ideas, procedures, work methods, mathematical concepts, abstract principles and facts themselves. The copyright protection is however granted to the innovative expression of the same.

There are certain works that are meant for the use of the public and therefore allowing any monopoly rights to anyone over such works would prove to be prejudicial to the public at large. Such works are enlisted by the law as under:

    1. Official documents regardless of their original language or the language in which they were reproduced such as texts of laws, regulations, decisions, international conventions, court decisions, arbitral awards, and decisions issued by administrative committees having judicial competence.

    2. News and reports about incidents and current events which constitute mere information releases.

    3. Works that have fallen into public domain.

The information or content in such work cannot be granted copyright protection but the creative expression of the same maybe granted protection. Creative expressions may be in the form of compilation, arrangement or any such innovative method.

The copyright protection is granted from the date of the first publication of the work. There is no necessity for the work to be registered with the Ministry of economy for receiving protection. But the registration of the work has better evidentiary value and therefore recommended.

For legal advice regarding the subject, please call +971 4 4221944, or call 800-LAWYER (529937).

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