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Posting a Photo, Video Online Without Consent is Considered a Crime in UAE

By Hanssie on November 11th 2013

It’s probably happened to you before. You wake up one morning after a night out, groggily get on your Facebook account and see a collection of tagged (embarrassing) photos of yourself posted by your traitorous friend who missed the “What happens in Vegas..” memo. Before you can untag and send an evil message off to your former traitor friend, your mother has messaged you asking you why you had a lampshade over your head on top of a bar.


Well, if you lived in UAE (United Arab Emirates), posting a photo or video of others on a social media network or any “informational network” (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, blog) without their permission is a crime and is punishable by fine or jail time. You could be fined up to Dh500,000 or about $140,000 or face up to 6 months in jail if convicted for  infringing on someone else’s privacy by posting an image without their consent.

[Rewind: IKEA In Hot Water for Photoshopping Women Out of its Catalog in Saudi Arabia]

Earlier this summer, a man was arrested for posting a Youtube video of an Emirati beating a South Asian motorist after a traffic accident. The Emirati faces fines of up to AED10,000 and up to a year in prison for assault, while the man who filmed the incident could face up to double the fines and prison time if convicted of filming without permission.

I guess that means if you’re in a UAE, you should stick to selfies.

[via @ArabCrunch]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Michael Rapp

    And, regarding, the original post:
    when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
    Obey local laws. Always.
    So there should not be a problem with asking permission first, which ought to be good polite practice anyway, especially when being a guest abroad.
    Remember: you are a calling card for your home country.

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  2. Michael Rapp

    Although the fines are a bit stiff, here in Germany some of it applies, too.
    Everybody owns the right to his or her pictures taken; (this does NOT mean copyright of the picture, simply I have the right to have pictures of me taken or not).
    Some exceptions apply, though:
    – public gatherings, like the Oktoberfest or street carnival or demonstrations, where there are a lot of cameras to be expected in any case;
    – unrecognizability and “neglegible relevance”; If you’re unrecognizable and you being in the picture or not has no relevance to the artistic impact of the picture (like you from behind, very small, near the Eiffel Tower, along with 10,000 other tourists).
    Otherwise, the artist owning the copyright of the image and the person depicted have to get on the same map regarding the picture and its publication.
    Which makes it hard for candid street photography; you absolutely have to get a release before you publish the picture, unless you want to find yourself in a hefty lawsuit.
    On the other hand: if the photographer makes money off a picture of you, you should a) be asked and b) receive some money, too.

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  3. Jamie Craven

    Impossible to police for a start, then you have to think about how this would be policed/regulated and how does an individual prove they they have the permission from another to post a photograph online, also would an individual that gives permission for something to be posted online therefore have the right to demand it be removed at a later date.

    I really can’t see how this would work, and what if your photographing or recording a carnival of some sorts and hundreds of individuals are framed in he photograph or perhaps your at a sporting event, this would make such things as photography impossible, or are the UAE to make exceptions in such case, which would make it a joke.

    Either way its a joke trying to dictate to an individual that you cannot take a photograph and post it without the consent from your subject matter, what about the photographers rights as an artist, rights to express yourself, which we know is limited in the UAE anyway, law’s there are very strict especially on dress code.

    I cannot for the life of me understand the reasoning behind such a law as this.

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    • Hanssie

      I agree. It is impossible to police. Good example about the carnival, too. I didn’t even think of that.

      It seems like they made up the law because of the one case I mentioned in the article to protect that Emerati. But we shall see what comes about.

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    • Josh

      The law is based on the idea that an individual automatically owns the copyright for their own image.

      It is up to the photographer to maintain their own compliance with the law. Which includes getting a model release if necessary to prove permission to post the photos.

      As for photographing a carnival, etc…, the permission is required from the property owner, not the individual attendees, unless you focus on the image of a particular individual and separate them from the crowd.

      I agree that it has difficulties for the photographer (me), but that doesn’t automatically make it bad. Assuming it does means that you assume that your right to photograph me trumps my right to live my life away from the public view.

      As for the very publicized case of road rage posted online which is causing as much trouble for the cell-phone videographer as it is for he idiot he filmed, that wouldn’t be the case if the video had been given to the posted as evidence of the crime it showed, rather than posted on YouTube.

      Last thought: perhaps you shouldn’t assume that a culture is automatically worse than what you know, just because it is different. Try living in the UAE, and working as a photographer here. There is a huge demand for photography, and there is a much better recognition of the value of photography here. It doesn’t suck.

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