Protecting creativity in Saudi Arabia
In 1982, Saudi Arabia joined the World Intellectual Property Organization after it recognized that intellectual production was important in stimulating global economic expansion and the growth of new technologies.
Over time, developing and developed countries are setting strict rules on intellectual property, not only for security or to ban infringements, but also to encourage talented artists to be more creative in the knowledge that their creations will be safe under the strict rules.
Thus, Saudi Arabia has enacted the laws and regulations that guarantee the protection of the rights of authors, inventors, industrial design and trademarks owing to their great impact on the recent economic, cultural and social developments. Examples of such regulations are copyright law, trademarks law, and patents and trade names law. More emphasis will be placed on copyright law because of its significant impact on the content industries.
Any interested person who would like to share and produce his creative production to the public will have the right and proper understanding of the copyright. He needs to be aware of it to implement these terms in order to protect his work and to promote the culture of intellectual creativity.
The copyright is a kind of intellectual property that provides and gives exclusive usage and control of the rights to its own creator. On the other hand, if there is any copyright infringement of the protected object or right, the law will be sure to compensate the damaged party.
Saudi copyright law has become increasingly complex over the years to respond to a sophisticated communications’ environment. In this high-tech age, there are many new ways of producing creative works, and many ways of imitating or exploiting them without the creator’s permission. The photocopier, sound recorder, videocassette recorder, and personal computer digital reproduction of creative objects are just a few examples of modern devices that help creators to communicate with their audiences, but that also make it harder to control unauthorized use.
The owner of a copyright under Saudi law has the exclusive rights to reproduce his work and to manufacture and distribute copies of it. The copyright law provisions criminalize any act of issuing, copying, selling, renting, distributing, importing or exporting any classified work without permission of the owner.
As for the penalties, the violator will be penalized with a fine not exceeding SR10,000 ($2,666) or with closure of the establishment engaged in the violation for a period not exceeding 15 days, or both penalties, as well as compensation to the copyright owner for any losses or damages resulting from this infringement.
If an infringement happens again, the violator will be penalized with an increase in the fine, or the establishment may be suspended for a period not exceeding 90 days, or both penalties may be applied together.
Awareness of the importance of copyright in Saudi Arabia is improving. The role of the Internal Information Agency at the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information needs to be more influential in taking the lead in raising awareness about intellectual property concepts. Also, the Saudi Chamber of Commerce is required to take action in raising this awareness.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif