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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Blocking Innocence of Muslims Serves No Purpose

Innocence of Muslims is a ridiculous film that is probably made with no objective other than offending Muslims worldwide. However, blocking its access in Oman serves no purpose at all.
The film has caused riots in many countries as it mocked Prophet Mohammed and portrayed him in a manner that offended Muslims all around the world.

Violent riots took place in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and the American Ambassador to Libya was killed in attacks made by fanatics angered by the film. There is no doubt that the controversial film is offensive, but there is still no justification for the violence or the death of innocent diplomats as a response to the film. A number of Muslim countries, including Oman, decided to attempt blocking access to the YouTube video showing the film from within each of these countries.

I do not understand what the purpose is behind blocking this video. It cannot logically be an attempt to make sure that the people in Oman do not see the video and therefore not get offended and take violent actions in response. It is impossible to stop the public from watching the video because it has been uploaded to a million websites already and there is no way to block each individual link to the video. People have already downloaded the video and are sharing it on Whatsapp, Facebook, and many other services for sharing content. People are not going out of their way to watch the video because they want to be offended.

They are doing this because they want to know what the fuss is all about and they want to be able to make the decision for themselves on whether or not the video is in fact offensive. Blocking access to the video in Oman does not achieve anything, instead it mistakenly portrays Oman as a backward, volatile country that cannot tolerate a lame video made by a hateful person.

The irritating part about this story is that the video in question is a mediocre production that could be mistaken for a homemade video by a high school student and should not be worth the time we spend discussing it. Blocking access to such a video could be a start of a new trend where ISPs would feel that they have to block any video made by any person making fun of Islam or the Prophet.

Protecting the sanctity of religion is important, but freedom of expression is an important pillar of society as well. We should teach our people that we can be tolerant instead of ‘protecting’ them from the opinions of other people. We need to learn that it is okay for others to have different points of view, and we must have the right to access information and make our own judgements as to what is appropriate and what is not, because censorship surely is not the answer.

The Losing Battle of DRM

The core protection of copyright law is the right for a copyright owner to stop others from copying his work. Enforcing the rights of copyright owners in the digital era has proved to be difficult due to the ease at which content can be copied.

The market solution to this problem has been the creation of certain technological measures, such as digital rights management (DRM), that copyright owners use to make it technically difficult to copy a copyright work. DRM such as the protection methods used on DVD and Blu-ray disks make it extremely difficult for the average user to copy the video from the disk and save it on a computer. DRM, like all technologies, is not perfect as people have succeeded in circumventing the majority of DRM and consequently managed to copy the underlying work.

The response by the authorities to the failure of DRM in stopping the public from illegally copying copyright works was to pass additional provisions to the copyright law that grant separate protection against the circumvention of the technological protection measures applied to the copyright work.

This DRM protection is complimentary to the copyright protection of the original work and at the same time completely independent. This means that a person who breaks a DRM technology will be held liable for the infringement of the DRM provisions of the copyright law even if he does not consequently copy any protected copyright work.

While the protection of DRM sounds like a reasonable thing to do, the reality is that DRM protection trumps a number of legally permitted uses of copyright works, such as the creation of backup copy, the translation of the work into a format readable by a blind person, or the extraction of certain segments of the work for purposes of criticism or review. Circumventing DRM protection will technically constitute an offence regardless of the purpose for the circumvention.

The issue of DRM is complicated further by the fact that more and more manufacturers use DRM to restrict the users of their devices from installing unauthorised programs on the device regardless of whether or not these third party programs that the users wish to install infringe any copyright. That is why users of Apple’s iPhone must circumvent the protection measures, or ‘jailbreak the device’, in order to install third party apps that Apple does not approve of.

This action is not exclusively done by Apple, Amazon’s new Kindle Fire also has a closed app environment even though it is built on top of the more open Android OS.
These manufacturers use DRM for this purpose to ensure that all applications that run on the device are of a certain quality and that they conform to design guidelines that ensure a consistent user experience. Other obvious reasons for having such control are to ensure that the device manufacturer gets a share of the profits of any application sold on the application instead of allowing the sale through other independent application stores.

There is a great debate on whether or not manufacturers should have the right to control what the users choose to install on a device they legitimately bought and own, but it is extremely clear to me that this whole discussion should not be part of the copyright debate as the point of copyright law is to provide an incentive for authors to create more original works, and it is not meant to deal with issues such as manufacturer control and consumer rights.

The fact that DRM provisions under copyright law allow manufacturers to impose such control is clearly an unintended consequence of copyright law, and it should not be used to further restrict the legitimate users from carrying out acts they are entitled to by law.