GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
Al Balushi
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Are Current Copyright Laws in the GCC Appropriate for the Digital Age?
Paper Proposal Text :
Are Current Copyright Laws in the GCC Appropriate for the Digital Age?

The biggest problem with internet piracy is not that it harms the business of content producers, but that it normalizes the act of breaking the law and creates a society that does not have respect for the legal system. The problem of piracy is not necessarily the lack of awareness of copyright law, but the fact that copyright law itself might not match the reality of how users create and consume culture on the internet today - especially as internet users in the GCC do not have practical alternatives to pirated works.

The invention of internet and the digitization of cultural works made it possible for us to access and share knowledge and culture in fast and cheap ways that were not possible in the past, but as copyright has expanded in scope and duration, it seems that almost every single way we interact with content on the internet is an infringement of copyright law. This is mainly because copyright law is based on the concept of “copying” where the permission of the author is required every single time a copy is made, regardless of whether or not attribution is made and whether or not the commercial interests of the author are affected.

In the old days of books and traditional media, you did not have to make a copy of a work to buy it, read it, or lend it to somebody else. In the digital environment you have to create a copy of a work every single time you want to do anything with it. If you want to read an ebook you have to download a copy of it to your computer, if you want to read it on the go you have to make another copy of it on your portable device, and if you want to lend it to somebody else you also to make another copy for them. Every single incident of copying here triggers the provisions of copyright law and, if no specific exception in the law is found, requires the explicit permission of the author for it to be legally allowed.

Copyright laws in GCC states have become more and more protective of copyright works over the years without necessarily taking into consideration how this protection affects the entitlement of society for fair access to cultural works. This expansion in protection can be seen in the widening scope of the subject matter of protected works, the extension in the term of protection, the reduction in the limitations to copyright, and the unjustified protection of technological protection measures.

This paper will briefly examine the history of copyright laws in the GCC and the main differences and similarities between these laws. This will be followed by an examination of the problem of having limited copyright exceptions in the GCC to address the special needs of users of copyrighted works in the digital environment and whether or not GCC states should adopt a general “fair use” exception similar to that found in the US. The paper will then discuss other control matters related to the digital age such as the provisions relating to technological protection measures and the copyright term. The paper will also discuss the issue of orphan works and the role that open access initiatives can play in mitigating some of the challenges associated with of copyright law. The paper will end with a number of recommendations on the domestic, GCC, and international levels.