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Overview: Copyright Registration in the Middle East

Published on : 01 Sep 2020

Copyright Registration in the Middle East 

Admittedly, the Middle East has something of a "Wild West" reputation, when it comes to some business behaviors. One of the most protuberant of these is the Middle Eastern perception of copying someone as a form of flattery, rather than as theft. In this era, where platforms like Instagram and Pinterest reign supreme, the idea of free design has been distorted. While people are happy to pay for construction, because that is tangible, the design is thought to be 'just a piece of paper'. However, the impression that the Law here does not protect designers is, to an acute degree, unfounded. In the UAE, the Ministry of Economy is the highly competent authority that registers and protects intellectual property. 

However, it is important to note that the number of copyrights registered annually in the GCC countries is a relatively small figure, and furthermore, that copyright litigation here is rare. When it does occur, it ends up being a time-consuming, and cost-ineffective ordeal for copyright holders. While a unified system pertaining to copyrights in the GCC countries does not exist, copyright registration is recommended in order to maximize protection; this ensures that infringers shall be subject to limited damages, fines and possible imprisonment. 

This article shall explore copyright registration in the GCC countries- a domain that should be taken into consideration in order to evade the possibility of continued infringement. 

Copyright Registration in the United Arab Emirates 

Upon the creation of the object to be copyrighted, copyrights can be registered in the United Arab Emirates in accordance with the UAE Federal Law Number 7 of the Year 2002 Concerning Copyrights and Neighboring Rights.

For it to be eligible to be copyrighted, the object should have been the direct result of intellectual work, as opposed to plagiarism, and should be expressed in any objective form. The copyright can be registered in the UAE upon the filling out of a simple form, and the deposition of one sample of the work to the office of one of the following organizations:

  1. The Copyright Department of the UAE Ministry of Economy (Copyright Department) – response may be expected within 1 - 3 months;
  2. The Dubai Copyright Office (the local hand of International Online Copyright Office INTEROCO, European Union) - response may be expected within ten days;
  3. The U.S. Copyright Office (they may be reached via post).


Is the registration of a company or product logo/ insignia/ brand mandatory in the United Arab Emirates? 

It must be noted that the registration of a copyrighted object is a voluntary right of author/ registrant in the UAE. However, in case these very trademarks or copyrighted objects are being employed in the market in order to promulgate goods/services to customers, the registration of their copyrights is mandatory, in order to avoid penalties that may be levied on account of deception of UAE consumers (as per the UAE Executive Regulation of the Consumer Protection Law). 

How does UAE Law define copyright?

As per the United Arab Emirates Federal Law Concerning Copyrights and Neighboring Rights, copyrighted work refers to any created compilation, that may lie in the scope of letters, arts, sciences, in whatsoever mode of expression, and intended for whatsoever purpose. 

To faintly capture the jurisdiction of this term, the term 'copyrighted work' could be used to refer to registered logos, books, pamphlets, essays and other written works, computer programs and applications, databases, lectures, addresses, sermons, dramatic, dramatic-musical works and shows, verbal or non- verbal music compositions, sound and audiovisual works, architectural works, engineering plans and layouts, works of drawing, painting, sculpture and lithography, and engravings or similar works in the scope of fine arts, photographic works and works analogous to photography, works of applied and plastic art, illustrations, geographical maps, sketches, three-dimensional works relative to geography, topography and architectural designs. 

Characteristics of the awarded Copyright Certificate 

As previously established, the copyright registration process is about six months long if the approached authority is the U.S. Copyright Office, and about ten days if the request is issued to the INTEROCO European Copyright Office. The issued copyright certificate shall stay valid over the rest of the course of the author's life, and fifty years after his death. The jurisdictions that the certificate covers shall be the 167 countries that are party to the Bern Convention, of which the UAE has been a signatory since 2004. The authorship of the copyright may be privately held. Either a private individual or a legal entity may be the right-holder; interestingly, partial ownership by physical persons and companies is allowed. The price of copyright registration in the country is USD 4000, with the registering organizations of the INTEROCO or the U.S. Copyright Office. We shall delve further into the intricacies of these vis-à-vis the questions posed below.  

How long does the copyright protection last? 

The registered copyright object is protected in the UAE, all through the lifetime of the author, and an additional fifty years beginning from the first day of the calendar year following the death. Correspondingly, the economic rights of the authors of collective works (except those of the authors of applied arts) shall be protected for a period of fifty years beginning from the first day of the next calendar year, in case the author is a legal person.  

Who is eligible to be an author to copyright in the UAE? 

The author of copyright could be any physical person, or a group of private individuals, whose information is elucidated upon in the application form. These UAE authors' rights are recognized and protected in all countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. As per UAE Copyright Law, the author is the individual responsible for the creation of the work, or the individual who has his name mentioned on the work; if the work has been attributed to him at the time of publication, this author is eligible. 

Which are the documents that need to be prepared for lawful copyright registration in the UAE? 

The documents that require to be presented include: 

  1. the application
  2. a sample of the work to be copyrighted
  3. the photo I.D. or passport of the person who is to assume authorship
  4. essential information about the right-holder (owner) 
  5. a confirmation receipt of the official registration fee payment
  6. the contact details of the applicant

Is the UAE a signatory to the Berne Convention governing international copyrighting? 

The United Arab Emirates is indeed party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, as of 14 July 2004. The Berne Convention is an international agreement governing copyrights; it was first ratified in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886. It was precisely this Convention that formally set in stone several aspects of modern copyright law; it introduced the novel concept that a copyright exists the very moment that a work is "fixed". It also puts forth, and actively enforced a requirement that countries recognize copyrights held by the citizens of all other countries that are signatories to the Convention. The World Intellectual Property Organization administrates the Berne Convention. 

Copyright Registration in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 

While there certainly are a large number of myths afloat in the ether about copyright protection in Saudi Arabia, some of which ring to the tune of- "it is not possible for non-Saudi nationals, and foreign companies to benefit from copyright protection", this is simply not the case.

Like the UAE, the Kingdom is also party to the Berne Convention, which sets out the quintessential intellectual property principles including "national treatment" and the "automatic" protection of copyright works.

Is Copyright protection available in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia certainly has copyright legislation in place in order to secure the protection of copyrighted objects. The Law, Royal Decree Number M/41, dated 30 August 2003, and its corresponding implementing regulations are possessive of detailed provisions on the subject matters of protection, infringement, exceptions, ownerships clauses, and procedure to enforce rights. 

Which objects are eligible for copyright protection in Saudi Arabia? 

Literary, artistic and scientific works are protected in Saudi Arabia. Literary work is a term that could be employed to refer to books, articles, magazines, software, and artistic work (which may include paintings, photography, sculpture, lithography and maps etc.) 

What is the process for registration of Copyright in Saudi Arabia?

As of now, there is no concrete procedure in place for copyright registration. Nonetheless, as previously established, since Saudi Arabia is privy to the Berne Convention, any work which falls in the purview of protectable subject matter, and fulfils the condition of originality and authenticity, shall be protected without registration. Provisions pertaining to copyrights in TRIPS agreements are also applicable in Saudi Arabia, given that it is a member of WTO.

Which ministerial authority in the country is responsible for Copyright protection?

In Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Culture and Information is responsible for the protection and enforcement of copyrights in Saudi Arabia. The Copyright Protection Division is a highly germane department that has significant oversight within the ministry. 

How long does copyright protection stay in effect? 

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it greatly depends upon the type of work involved. 

  1. The protection of work for a singular author extends to span his/her lifetime, and for 50 years after the death of the author.
  2. With regard to joint work, the protection shall extend over the span of the lifetime of the authors, and for 50 years after the death of the last surviving author.
  3. With regard to corporate entities, the protection of fifty years shall start from the date of the first publication of work onwards. 
  4. Photographs are all protected for a definitive period of 25 years.

The SAIP Launch of the Optional Copyright Registration System – A Paradigm Shift

Notably, in December 2019, the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property announced the launch of the optional registration service with regard to the copyright system; this allows the authority to register credited work and documentation, and serves as an electronic database for them. The works that currently are able to enjoy the optional registration service include computer software and apps, in addition to architectural designs.

With the single-minded goal of the establishment of a safe atmosphere to harbor innovators, the approval for the optional registration list of copyrighted works was adopted upon the issuance of the approval of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, pursuant to the missions and prerogatives assigned to it, as per the Council of Ministers Resolution Number 496, dated 9/14/1439 A.H. In its third article, it stipulates that the authority shall bear the onus for the organization of the domains of intellectual property in the Kingdom, and their development, nurturance, protection, and elevation. 

Copyright Registration in Bahrain

Like the UAE and the KSA, Bahrain is also a member of the Berne Convention, according to Law Number 30 of 1996, in addition to the WIPO Copyright Treaty as per Law Number 14 of 2004. Bahrain's membership in both of these treaties was effectively translated into the local legislative system, with the goal of throwing a net of copyright protection, with respect to both moral and financial rights.


The Copyright Law of 2006 sets the Bahrain intellectual property scene apart by establishing the protection period to be the authors' life plus 70 years, as opposed to the common 50 years, and by adding specific provisions with regard to customs and preliminary procedures. 

What are the Bahraini copyright registration formalities, if any? 

Like the majority of the countries in the GCC, and as delineated by the Berne Convention, copyright protection can be availed of automatically, without the need for registration or other formalities. However, should the copyrighted work be deposited before the Ministry of Information, evidence of ownership shall become governmentally touted; this would greatly assist the resolution of ownership disputes, document assignments, and any other financial transactions.

The legislative component of the Copyright Protection machine in Bahrain is admirably robust, with the laws and regulations in the Kingdom being fine-tuned to perfection. However, the wedge in the cogs is posed by the minuscule number of judicial and administrative precedents, especially with regard to I.P. enforcement– most of the provisions have been left untested. 

Copyright Registration in Kuwait 

By virtue of the Berne Convention, of which Kuwait also happens to be a signatory, copyrighted work stands to be protected, without mandating the formality of registration or deposition with the National Library. However, in order to wield the power of a prima facie ownership claim, it is recommended to adopt a formal registration procedure that guarantees protection.

What are the legal requirements to obtain a copyright in Kuwait? 

In order to obtain copyright protection, the work at hand is required to be; distinct, novel, and genuinely produced. It goes without saying that the work must have been manifested in a creative fashion, that is completely bereft of imitation, or plagiarism, so to speak.  

The procedures to obtain a copyright are elucidated upon in the following steps:

  1. The relevant application from the National Library is to be filled out. 
  2. Two copies of the work-to-be-copyrighted are to be provided.
  3. All pertinent information is to be compiled in the CD format.
  4. A Power of Attorney is required to be issued the workup to the Kuwaiti consulate. 
  5. If the agent is foreign, a local agent is required to be present. 

Can copyrights be registered? 

In Kuwait, copyrights can certainly be registered with the National Library, in order to protect the copyrighted work from misuse. 

What are the formalities for copyright registration in Kuwait? 

Under the new Kuwaiti Copyright Law of 2017, the administration of registration has been assigned to The National Library. The applicant is expected to file an application addressed to the National Library, bundled with a copy of his work. In the Law, the Library has prescribed asset of varied procedures for different types of objects and an official fee. Within two to three months, the Library shall issue a depository number to the applicants, once the formal filing has been made.

What is the tenure of active, registered copyright? 

Like many other GCC countries, the period of protection of the copyright is the life of the author, in addition to another fifty years starting from the year of death of the author. 

The period of protection for compilations published by individuals sheltering under a pseudonym, or cinematic compilations, photography works, applied arts, software or posthumously published compilations is 50 years. 

With regard to works owned by broadcasting entities, the period of protection extends to twenty years from the end of the year in which it was the first broadcast.

Copyright Registration in Oman

By now, a pattern is discernible- on account of it being a signatory to the Berne Convention like the other GCC countries, copyrighted works do not need to be registered in order to acquire protection in Oman. 

However, the government provides nationals with a voluntary right– they are provided with a mechanism for copyright registration if they wish to engage in the same. While this certainly does not grant those, who register with any special rights, it can certainly be said to be a potential tool to serve as additional evidence, in the event of ownership being contested. Once or twice a year, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued the details of the works that have been deposited for copyright registration in the Official Gazette. 


It can be universally conceded that strong profits and lax enforcement are possessive of sway, that might encourage traders to illegally market, and distribute infringed products. Regrettably, famous copyrights are routinely used, and capitalized upon for profit, without permission throughout the Middle East; this leads one to believe that a set of unified I.P. laws in the GCC is of the essence. This has the potential to eliminate a variety of infringements in the member states and clear the path for heavy-handed I.P. enforcement. Companies and industries that are registrants under this proposed system would also indubitably benefit from the unified front it proffers– it would make their I.P. impregnability more absolute. 

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