Sara Taher is communications manager at iProduction in Abu Dhabi
“Creating powerful concepts and moving presentations is no easy feat. I have spent many late nights with my team mates, powering through event themes, catchy slogans and riveting marketing tools. Every pitch we present carries with it a little piece of our souls. As we eagerly (and very patiently) await confirmation from the prospective client, our hopes and dreams are crumpled when we finally discover our hard work has been actualised, without our consent.
Nobody appreciates having their ideas stolen, a definite no-no in the world of business ethics. Yet the reality is that once those precious insights you’ve created are out of your mouth, many consider them to be up for grabs. While there are legal barriers, ethical standards in business matters are a slippery slope. How do you tackle this issue in the UAE?
Legally, each writer/artist has solid ground to stand on when facing copyright infringement. The copyright law was first introduced in the UAE in 1993. Subject to the UAE becoming a member party to the World Trade Organisation, certain laws pertaining to intellectual property became effectual for all people in the country. Rights stipulated in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) are valid within the UAE. In addition, the amended Federal Law No 7, introduced in 2002, currently stands as the country’s copyright law.
Ideally, the creator should register their work for copyrighting purposes. However, failure to register does not exempt one from the legal protection; it simply makes the burden of proof in court a longer procedure. And realistically, if every company had to go to court to register each pitch and proposal, it would certainly impede efficacy. In most cases the creators should include a short insert stating that the ideas are considered the property of their company.
What happens in practice is a completely different matter. Many small companies feel that openly proclaiming rights to their own ideas might seem “rude” to the client. Other companies sulk silently as all their dazzling suggestions are fraudulently used. Again and again we see great ideas being recycled, changing hands yet barely changing in content.
There are certain tactics that can be used to discourage such behaviour. For example, many designers will submit low resolution images, or embed a logo onto them. Copywriters might only submit samples of scripts or body copy. Still others will go so far as to present a very rough sketch of the idea, giving the client a tantalising taste of what’s to come upon approval of the contract. While ingenious, these do require the client to have a decent imagination.
The other solution is to go to court. There certainly are precedents. A notable case was Mosa Isa Mosa, a UAE national, versus Etisalat. Mosa sued Etisalat for using his invention without his permission, and subsequently won Dhs30 million. Not all court trials would be as rewarding, yet such a route would definitely discourage future violations. Copyright fraud shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially since we live in a country that recognises these rights.”