Safe Use of Photographs Under Local Copyright Laws

Posted on February 23rd, 2015

Few are the people who are aware of the laws that apply to their daily use of the Internet, the social media they are on, or even the photographs that they, their friends or favorite bloggers or actors constantly upload.

In this article, we will clarify what rights you have on the photographs you post online, when it is legally safe to use others’ photographs and when it is not, and what are the legal recourses in case of infringement to the copyrights.

1. What is copyright?

Internationally, copyright is known to be the legal protection extended to the authors or owners of original published and unpublished intellectual and artistic works.

Said authors or owners have exclusive rights to reproduce their works, transform them or publicly perform or transmit them.

The above is adopted by Qatari Law no.7 of 2002 on the Protection of Copyright and Neighboring Rights (hereinafter referred to as the “Copyright Law” or the “Law”), notably in article 7 of this Law.

2. Are photographs protected under copyright laws?

Photographs are classified as artistic works by most copyright laws including Qatar’s above-mentioned Law.

In fact, Article 2 of the Copyright Law states that the protection covers photographic and similar works.

The owner of the copyright in a photograph is in fact the photographer. No other person is allowed to use his photograph without his permission.

3. When is it safe to use other people’s photographs?

In some events, the use of a photograph without a prior permission is allowed. This is usually the case when a photograph is in the public domain and has no legal owner or when the photograph is designated “copyright-free”, or when the source is cited, etc.

Qatar’s Copyright Law allows the use of protected works in general, including photographs, without the author’s express authorization in events such as the following:

- If the work is reproduced after being seen or heard through an informatory display of current events such as television or any other information mass media, provided it is attributed to the author

- If the use of the work is for the purpose of teaching provided that the use is nonprofit making and that the work is attributed to the source;

- If the use of the work is exclusively for personal enjoyment;

4. When is it not safe to use others photographs?

Generally, any use of photographs without the approval of the author or owner of said works is illegal unless the use falls under the events where copyright laws consider it legal to use them, as described above.

Qatar’s Copyright Law even provides for specific provisions with regards to the safe use of photographs by their owner. In fact, it is worth mentioning that article 14 prohibits any person taking a photograph of another person from publishing, displaying or distributing the original photograph or any copy thereof without the permission of the person subject of such photograph.

This means that even the owner of photographs of people should obtain the prior approval of the person showing in the photograph before using it.

5. The legal recourses in Qatar

Owners of copyrights may submit an application to register their works to the Bureau for the Protection of Copyright and Neighboring Rights, which is established within the Commercial Affairs Department in the Ministry of Business and Trade. The Bureau would subsequently release certificates of registration to the owners of copyrights.

In the event of infringement of copyright, the owner of a copyright holding a certificate as detailed above could have recourse to the competent courts who would order conservative measures and sanctions such as ordering the cease of use of the copyright or what is internationally known as “Cease and Desist” and in some cases the imprisonment of the infringing party, and/or payment of fines, and/or indemnification to the damaged party, etc.

By Aline El Sayed - Senior Associate - Al Misnad Law - In Association with the Law Offices of Khalifa Al Misnad