Copyright Law in the United Arab Emirates: Explained

UAE Copyright Law Explained for Businesses

Though the word “copyright” is ubiquitously used in everyday conversations, it is seldom explored meticulously in the context of the United Arab Emirates law. Copyright denotes the representation of the labor put in by an artist or an author to express an original idea through craft. To hold a “copyright” basically means to legitimately secure the rights to produce, adapt, disseminate, and create copies of the original work. Soaring technological advances and a rise in cyber thefts have made the protection and enforcement of copyrights a rather complex endeavor.

In the UAE, under the Federal Law No.7 of 2002, a diverse array of original and tangible works such as books, lectures, musicals, architectural drawings, photographs, computer software, and other similar creations are subject to copyright protection.

Copyright in UAE: Performers’ Rights

The essence of copyright in the UAE is spread between two brackets – copyright and related or neighboring rights. While the UAE law interchangeably uses “Related rights” and “Neighboring rights”, both essentially pertain to allied rights that safeguard the legal interests of particular classes of individuals, who are associated with cultural performances, such as broadcasters, performing artists, and phonogram producers. In 2016, the UAE announced that it is considering establishing a committee for the purpose of providing licenses to music performers and acquiring royalties on behalf of composers.

Moral Rights and Economic Rights

The UAE copyright law protects two kinds of rights – moral rights and economic rights. Moral rights denote the inherent rights an owner has over his intellectual work and for being identified as the originator of the masterwork. The law also takes into consideration his right to hinder alteration, distortion, or mutilation of the same. As per the law, exclusive rights are granted to the creator to withhold his creation from being circulated, to take up a pseudonym, or to maintain anonymity.  The right of divulgation, under the moral rights, guarantees the owner rights to control the time and location of the work being publicized.  The perpetual nature of the moral rights makes it infeasible to transfer to another individual and thus the author or creator continues to hold the rights.

Our article on Copyright for Writers explains the set of rules which authors need to keep in mind when producing content.

Economic Rights in the UAE encompass a set of rights that permits copyright holders to retain ownership but allows authorized reproduction and dissemination of their work in return for remuneration. In addition to the right to reproduction and distribution of the work, this set of rights also permits adaptations, public communication of the work, broadcasting over airwaves, and propagation on digital media. Economic rights cannot be transferred or assigned to another even if the item as a whole is sold to the person.

Protection to Creators

As per the law in UAE, an author or a composer has his exclusive rights secured from the time his work originates until a period of 50 years after his demise. For broadcasting organizations, the protection term expires twenty years after the start of the succeeding calendar year, from the date of the first transmission. There are certain exceptions that come under the UAE copyright protection law. These are the legal documents such as regulations and contracts, newspapers, and articles in the media as well as work that come under the domain of public property.


Have you just wrapped up an artistic or literary creation and contemplating the need for legally protecting it? Our seasoned team of expert attorneys and IP professionals possess collective expertise in diverse disciplines to handhold you through the intricacies of copyrights.


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