Translating the Creative Commons Licences into Arabic

The Creative Commons announced yesterday the release of the official Arabic translation of v 4.0 of the Creative Commons licence suite. I was fortunate to be a member of the translation team and I would like to share some of the lessons we learnt from doing this project.

The Creative Commons licences are legal tools that allow creators and content owners to legally make their works available for use and remixing in a way that overcomes the restrictions imposed on culture by copyright law. The Creative Commons has transformed the way creative works are legally shared as there today over a billion works licensed under Creative Commons and which can be legally downloaded and shared from platforms such as Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, and others. The international Creative Commons licences became available in Arabic only now, but there are already many Arabic language websites that use them including official government websites, such as Al-Meezan by the Government of Qatar, as well as non-governmental websites, such as 7iber in Jordan.

Even though a previous version of the Creative Commons licenses (v 3.0) had an Egyptian adaptation that was available in Arabic, this new Arabic translation is the first global Arabic language Creative Commons licence that is not tied to a specific jurisdiction. The need to make this Arabic translation universal made this project extremely challenging as there are 17 different Arabic-language copyright laws in the Arab World that use different terminologies for even the most basic copyright concepts. For example, the term ‘copyright work’ translates to مصنف (Musannaf) in some countries and to عمل (Ammal) in others. The same goes for other core copyright terms such as originality, reproduction, adaptation, and circumvention.

Fortunately, Arabic is one of the official languages of the United Nations, which means that international copyright treaties are adopted in Arabic. The existence of an Arabic text of an international nature provided us with a neutral authority that we can rely upon in choosing the most appropriate term for our translation. Therefore, we relied upon the text of the Berne Convention, the WCT, the Marrakesh VIP Treaty, and the Beijing Treaty as our primary authority for translating copyright terms. For terms that we could not find in these treaties, we looked at the 17 different copyright laws available in the Arab World and considered the frequency of how often a term appeared as the basis for choosing one over another.

This approach provided us with a systematic approach to translation, but it was not very easy to follow. The Arabic text of the international copyright treaties is not consistent. For example, the term ‘reproduce’ is translated as  نسخ (naskh) in Berne, Marrakesh, and Beijing, but as استنساخ (istinsakh) in the WCT, the term ‘distribute’ is translated as يوزع  (yuwazzi’) in the WCT, Marrakesh, and Beijing, but as تداول (tadawul) in Berne, and the term ‘circumvent’ is translated as تحايل (Tahayul) in the WCT and Beijing, but as تفادي (Tafadi) in Marrakesh. In some cases, there was no consistency even within the same treaty. In cases where a most commonly used term could not be identified, the translation team voted on the most favoured term and consistently used it in the translation.

Something that I found extremely interesting during this project is that certain extremely significant copyright concepts do not have a common label to identify them at all in Arabic. For example, the right of integrity, which is a right that is found in practically all Arab copyright laws, is not explicitly named as such in any of these laws except one. This probably because there is, in fact, no formal one-word label for this concept even in the Berne Convention. The Marrakesh VIP Treaty does mention this right as such, and translates it as حصانة (Hasannah), however, the majority of the members of the translation team did not feel that term would be understood as such in Arabic, and instead used the only reference found for it in a domestic Arabic copyright law (Algeria) which is سلامة (Salama).

Translating the Creative Commons into Arabic was a fun and engaging exercise, and it taught us, the contributors to the translation project, something new about the way copyright laws are drafted differently across the region.

Overview of the Kuwaiti Copyright Law of 2016

Kuwait passed a new Copyright and Neighbouring rights Law in June 2016. This is new law replaces the 1999 copyright law – the first copyright law that Kuwait ever had. This new law is probably motivated by Kuwait’s accession to the Berne Convention in 2014.

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Patents Granted in Oman in 2016

There are three ways to acquire patent protection in Oman. You can either go to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) and file a patent application there, or you can go to Saudi and apply for a GCC level patent, or you can use the international system for patent registration provided by the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). A few times every year, MOCI publishes in the Official Gazette the patent applications that it receives domestically or through the PCT. I took a look at these patent announcements that MOCI published in 2016 to see how many patents are filed and granted in Oman and to see how their inventors are.

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Registration of Copyright Works in Oman in 2016

Unlike patents and trade marks, copyright works do not need to be registered to acquire protection in Oman. However, the government still provides a mechanism for registration to those who wish to do so. This does not grant those who register with any special legal rights, but, in theory at least, it can provide additional evidence in case the ownership or the existence of a work is contested. Once or twice a year, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) publishes in the Official Gazette the details of the works that have been deposited for copyright registration. In 2016, MOCI published only one list in Official Gazette issue no 1158. I took a look at this list to see how many works were registered this year, by who, and for what kind of works.

Continue reading Registration of Copyright Works in Oman in 2016

Oman Legal Citation Standard (OLCS)

Anyone doing legal research in Oman would know that there is no standard way for citing Omani laws. That’s why Yousuf Al Busaidi and I decided to create a standard for citing Omani legal authorities in a consistent and predictable manner so that those writing about Omani law do not have to reinvent the wheel every time they write a new paper, and those reading papers about Oman understand what is meant by the citation.

The standard we created is called the Oman Legal Citation Standard (OLCS). It is inspired by OSCOLA and is designed to work as a supplement to it. Version 1 of the OLCS is short and only covers primary and secondary legislation. We are aware that it does not cover a major category of legal authorities: court decisions, but we hope to cover this in one of our upcoming releases.

You can view the OLCS on Qanoon.om, if you have any comments on the standard feel free to share them with us.

Resources for Omani Legal Research

One of the biggest struggles that Omani law students and researchers face when considering doing any research about Oman is the lack of resources for this research whether it is in terms of literature, case law, or any information about Oman. Even accessing the law itself in Oman is not straight forward and cumbersome. The struggle is real, Oman is not a popular research topic and access to information in the country leaves a lot to be desired. However, I think that there are a lot of legal resources on the internet that many researchers are not aware of and that could be extremely useful when doing any legal research about Oman. Here are a few of them:

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My PhD App Toolkit

I thought I’ll write a post about the tools that I use for doing my PhD. My PhD is a library research that does not require me to do interviews or collect data, which makes it quite straightforward, but still when you work on creating a document that is hundreds of pages long based on hundreds of articles you need to have a set of digital tools to process and organise all your content. Here are the tools that I have found to be most useful:

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What is the Modified Arab Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Treaty?

The Arab Copyright Treaty [الاتفاقية العربية لحماية حقوق المؤلف] of 1981 is an old international copyright treaty that nobody seems to take seriously in the Arab World and which was recently updated through a the Modified Arab Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Treaty [الاتفاقية العربية لحماية حقوق المؤلف والحقوق المجاورة], but it seems that nobody has noticed this at all. I recently discovered that Qatar formally acceded to this Treaty, so I thought I’ll write a little bit about it.
Continue reading What is the Modified Arab Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Treaty?

DRM, New Business Models, and User Rights

Digital rights management, or DRM for short, are the digital locks that control the way users access and interact with digital goods. For example, you cannot copy the video off a Blu-ray disc because these discs are equipped with technological protection measures that enable the user to view the video, but not do anything else with it. These technologies were created by the content industry to combat online piracy because it was thought that classic copyright law on its own is not sufficient to protect the interests of the content industry. So the content industry thought, ‘the answer to the machine is the machine’, and created a technology to combat the piracy enabled by new internet.

But then again, there is no perfect technology, and because the objective of all content technologies at the end of the day is to deliver a certain song, video, or some other content to the end-user, all DRM technologies are susceptible to circumvention. Once a single circumvented copy of a work is made available online, it does not matter that all other copies are protected, because it only takes that one single incident of circumvention to provide all illegal sharing platforms with a source to duplicate and distribute on their networks. Even after all these years and all the DRM technologies developed, it remains extremely easy to find online illegal copies of movies and songs.

DRM did not provide a solution to piracy, and instead has limited the ability of legitimate users, who pay for the content, to properly enjoy the content they legally acquired. If you purchase a movie or a TV show episode from the iTunes Store you cannot watch it on an Android device, a PS4 or an XBox, whereas if you illegally download it you can play it on any device you want. One might say that there are numerous online video stores and you can buy your content from the store that works for your device instead of complaining about Apple’s DRM, but what if I own multiple devices, should I buy the same content multiple times just to make sure that it works on all my devices, or should I have the right to use the content the way I choose if I pay for it legally. Similarly, if a device is discontinued or a business goes bankrupt, DRM does not allow the user to make sure that the content remains usable in the future.

With that being said, we need to acknowledge that DRM has enabled the creation of some extremely useful business models that provide us as consumers with different options on how to pay for content. As DRM enables businesses to control how often a file is played or how long a file remains valid, we are now able to rent a digital file or pay for a subscription. Thanks to such technologies we now have things like Netflix and Spotify that charge us a tiny fraction of the money we used to in the past for consuming the same amount content.

I don’t think that the existence of DRM itself is the problem, the problem is the fact that many laws around the world make it illegal to circumvent DRM. As a legitimate user, I should be able to circumvent DRM if DRM restricts me from carrying out legitimate uses or subjects me or my property to risk, and companies that apply harmful DRM to content should be held accountable and punished for doing so. The law protects against the circumvention DRM irrespective of whether the work to which DRM is applied is protected by copyright (i.e. in the public domain) and irrespective of whether or not the circumvention is undertaken to carry out a use that is permitted by copyright (e.g. for the purpose of quotation or review) – this does NOT make any sense.

Even though international treaties, such as the WIPO Copyright Treaty, require States to protect against the circumvention of DRM, these treaties permit States to have exceptions to allow the public to circumvent DRM in certain cases, but not all countries take advantage of these flexibilities. For example, the copyright law in Oman does not allow ANY exceptions to the anti-circumvention measures found in Article 40(1) of the law.

DRM continues to be used in more and more online services, but if no action is taken, the restrictions imposed by DRM will override all the checks and balances that copyright law is meant to respect in order for society to fairly benefit from cultural works.