Everything you need to know about Photography laws in UAE

Everything you need to know about Photography laws in UAE

Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates are densely packed with tourist, family, and visitor attractions. Given the UAE’s reputation for technological advancements, it’s unsurprising that many visitors wish to photograph the country’s landmarks and must-see attractions. However, it is critical to understand that you must adhere to specific guidelines; and laws when photographing in public in the UAE. Anyone unaware of the photography laws may face jail time or hefty fines. This article will discuss all the rules governing Photography in the UAE.

Laws relating to Photography

Taking Photographs of someone without their consent (invasion of privacy)

Taking photographs or videos that may infringe on another person’s privacy is punishable under UAE law. Article 378 of the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law 3 of 1987), and Article 21 of UAE Cyber Crime Law; are the laws that help protect an individual’s privacy in the UAE. 

UAE Penal Code (Federal Law 3 of 1987)

Article 378 of the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law 3 of 1987) makes it clear that “whoever publishes news; photos, or comments about another person’s private or family life secrets, regardless of whether they are true. Such person shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year; and a fine not exceeding ten thousand Dirhams, or with either of these two penalties”.

Federal law no.2/2006 on Cyber Crime Law in UAE

According to Article 21 of the Federal law no.2/2006 on Cyber Crime Law in UAE, “whoever uses a computer network, an electronic information system, or any other information technology means for invading another person’s privacy in a way that is not permitted by law. Such as photographing others or creating, transferring, disclosing, copying, or saving electronic photos. The person shall be punished with a minimum of six months’ imprisonment and a fine of at least 150,000 dirhams but not more than 500,000 dirhams, or with both.

Dubai’s Code of Conduct

Under Article 4.5 of Dubai’s Code of Conduct, “Photographs of people in public places; particularly of women and families, shall not be taken without their consent. Photographing people frowned upon in Dubai’s local culture”.

Anyone who found indulging in such activities, not only will the camera or device seized; and the recordings destroyed, but the photographer or videographer may fined and imprisoned as well. The same penalty also applies to those who publish such images without permission.

Sharing pictures or photographs without permission

According to Article 23 of Federal Law No. (7) of 2002 On Copyrights and Related Rights, “Whosoever without the permission of the person who appears in the photograph, whoever takes a photograph of another in any manner has no right to keep, exhibit, publish, or distribute the original or copies thereof”.

Nevertheless, the Photograph may be published if:

  1. It captured at a public event, or
  2. it is of an official or public person or a celebrity; or 
  3. Public authorities authorized the publication as a service to the public interest, provided that the exhibition or circulation of the portrait does not jeopardize the person depicted in the Photograph’s position.

Photograph of Military areas, Government Buildings and other restricted areas

For security reasons, military installations, government organizations, and political structures cannot be photographed. As a result, it is against the UAE’s photography laws to capture footage of restricted areas. For example, government entities include the Dubai Civil Defense, the Dubai Finance Department; the Dubai Chamber, the Dubai Government’s Legal Affairs Department, the Dubai Courts; and the Dubai Public Prosecution, US Embassy & Consulate. Due to security concerns, photographing sensitive locations such as military sites, palaces, courts, embassies; and airports prohibited in the UAE.

In one of the incidences report by the Khaleej Times, an Arab university student was fined AED 5,000 by the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance for photographing in ‘restricted areas.’

The student appealed the ruling, admitting that he took photographs in the area solely for the sake of his hobby and was unaware that the area was restricted.

The defendant petitioned the Court of Appeal to vacate the fine imposed by the Court of First Instance, as well as his confiscated camera. The student claimed that he paid the penalty with funds from his college tuition. 

Held: However, the court dismissed his appeal because a person unaware of the law cannot escape liability for violating that law and thus adjourned the Arab student’s case.

Filming/photographing in restricted areas of the airport requires prior approval.

Frequently, we see signs in airports stating that no photography is permitted. The appropriate authorities must approve any request to film or photograph aircraft within or near the airports. Permits and/or airport security passes required for all filming, Photography, and related tours at Dubai International (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC). Drone filming strictly prohibited in or near airports. 

Take care not to photograph in restricted areas such as immigration or security checkpoints, embassies, airports, or security facilities. It may result in a one- to a three-month prison sentence and a fine of up to Dh.5000.

Photographing while driving in Dubai

Taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds to take a photo is a traffic violation that will result in fine and black points. The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has issued a warning to motorists about the dangers of snapping photos while driving, including selfies, and has indicated that offenders would face a Dh800 fine and four black points.

The purpose of this article is to provide a general overview of the subject. Please do not hesitate to contact experts like HHS Lawyers and Legal Consultants to learn more about the laws and acts that constitute illegal Photography in Dubai or the rest of the UAE.

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