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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Authorities target book piracy in raids across the country

November 18, 2009 |  9:17 am

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Fearing that the United Arab Emirates might turn into a haven for intellectual property scofflaws, authorities are implementing tough new measures to keep pirated book traders at bay. 

Over the last months, the UAE's Ministry of Economy along with police forces in Dubai and Sharjah and the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance have carried out a series of raids suspected of book piracy across the country.

The task force is said to have so far busted three major traders and locked them up on charges of violating copyright law. Several book shops were shut down in the raids, while others were let off with fines, read a news release published by local media.

The raids turned out to be fruitful. A wide variety of pirated books were apparently retrieved in the operation.

“They were a combination of fiction, non-fiction as well as textbooks. Pirates target everything,” Scott Butler, head of the AAA told Abu Dhabi's The National

Butler's theory is that the pirated books are mainly printed outside the UAE and then smuggled into the federation of emirates where they are printed in large quantities and distributed to many parts of the world.

The authorities want to put an end to the business and the dens selling the pirated books across the country.

As for the traders, the AAA is hoping they will be put in prison.

"Our aim is to seek imprisonment for the offenders,” Ola Khudair, the organization's deputy chief executive, told the National newspaper. 

Hopes are now that the UAE's new zero-tolerance policy on book piracy will promote its image as a place for "safe business" and help attract more international publishing houses to open up shop in the country.

“This raid....delivers a clear message that we will not tolerate such illegal activities in our country. The success of our anti-book piracy efforts will help strengthen the image of the UAE as a safe business destination and an attractive market for the international publishing industry,” said Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz Alshihhi, undersecretary of the UAE Ministry of Economy.

International publishers have expressed delight over the UAE's determination to take on their archenemies.

"It is vitally important to combat book piracy in all its forms and we are delighted by the authorities' commitment to enforcing the UAE's copyright laws. Piracy undermines authors' livelihood, placing the future of high quality content under threat. Publishers add further value in bringing that content to market and if they cannot be rewarded for their role, they too will cease to exist,” said Emma House, international director of the Publishers Assn. in the U.K.

The drive to curtail book piracy is part of a larger campaign launched by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy earlier this month that aims to spur public awareness of intellectual property rights such as trademarks and patents, and industrial designs. The campaign is considered a first of its kind in the region and is reportedly advertised on various media outlets in English and Arabic.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Authorities in the UAE are cracking down on book piracy in the country. Credit: AFP

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