Tech & Sourcing @ Morgan Lewis


The UAE enacted a new Federal Law No. 38 of 2021 concerning copyright and neighboring rights (New Law) that replaced the old Federal Law No. 7 of 2002 (Old Law) and came into force in January 2022. The New Law provides a clearer framework in an increasing digital environment for businesses.

What Does the New Copyright Law Protect?

The New Law lists 12 statutory types of works that are protected as copyright, and most notably includes the introduction of “Smart applications, computer programmes and applications, databases and similar works determined by a decision of the Minister.” The New Law also continues to provide protection for more traditional works, including written works, speeches, plays, musicals, audio and video work or audio visual work, architectural work, art works, applied art, photographic, charts, maps, plans, 3D modelling for geographical and architectural designs, and derivative works.

Work Made for Hire

The New Law notably deems that a business will be considered the legal owner of a work if the work was created by an employee, commissioned by the business, and the employee is compensated for such. Subject to agreement to the contrary, the business will be the default owner where the employee created the work within the scope of their employment and if such a work was achieved using the employer’s resources and if the employee created the work for the benefit of a third party. This provides particular clarity for tech companies that commission software engineers and developers.

Exceptions for Fair Use

The New Law provides for exceptions considering a global digital environment under the doctrine of fair use, developed over time in UAE courts to strike a balance between a creator’s rights and the notion that there are reasonable and legitimate circumstances to reproduce works. Exceptions arise in the following circumstances:

  • The reproduction is an incidental and integral part of the process of transmitting the work between different parties over a medium or network or a part of a process that involves enabling access to a legal copy of a digitally stored work.
  • The reproduction is made by a person licensed by the rightful party or by law to carry out the broadcast or transmission of the copyright protected work.
  • The reproduction takes place in the context of steps, which from a technical standpoint are incidental and inevitable to accomplish a lawful action and in a manner that ensures that the copy is automatically erased without being able to be retrieved.

What Does Case Law Say?

In September 2022, the Dubai Court of First Instance found in favor of an online platform provider who brought a case against a subscriber for putting their content online on another third-party platform. While the test case was heard under the Old Law, the decision in parallel to the enactment of the New Law demonstrates that the UAE is taking a zero-tolerance stance to data and IP violations.