Saudi Arabia: Copyright Law In Saudi Arabia

Last Updated: 6 January 1998


Whenever mentioned in this law, the terms listed below shall have the following meanings:

Classified Work: Any literary, scientific or artistic work which has not been previously published.

Author: Any person who publishes a classified work by making reference to himself, with his name appearing on the classified work or by any other common way followed in ascribing classified works to their authors, unless otherwise indicated.

Publishing: Conveying the classified work to the public, directly or indirectly, whether by conveying the original of the classified work or by reproducing copies or pictures of it or its parts, which can be read, heard, seen or performed.

Creation: A composition in which the elements of novelty are present, or which is distinguished by a special characteristic unknown previously.

Copying: Reproduction of one or more copies of classified literary, scientific or artistic works, or of any other physical replication, including sound or visual recordings.

National Folklore: All classified literary, artistic or scientific works, which are presumed to have been created in Saudi Arabia by authors, who are presumed to be Saudi nationals, and which have been passed down from generation to generation, thus representing part of the Saudi Arabian national cultural heritage.

The Ministry: Ministry of Information.

The Minister: Minister of Information.



Protection under the jurisdiction of this law shall be afforded to authors of classified creative works in science, literature and arts, without regard to the type of the classified work, its mode of expression, its significance or the purpose of composition.


In general, protection under this law shall cover authors of classified works whose mode of expression is either written, sound, painting, photography or motion, particularly the following:

1. Books, booklets and other printed materials.

2. Classified works which are delivered orally, i.e., lectures, speeches, sermons, poems, songs, etc.

3. Dramatic works, plays, shows or any similar presentation which involves motion.

4. Classified works which have been specifically prepared for broadcast or presentation through radio or television.

5. Paintings, works of figurative arts and architecture, decorative arts, and artistic embroidery.

6. Works of practical arts, whether vocational or industrial.

7. Works of photography, including works in which methods similar to those of making photographic pictures are used, i.e., fixed pictures which are transmitted via television but which do not have a physical mounting.

8. Illustrative pictures, geographical maps, designs (graphic sketches), figurative works connected with geography, topography, architecture and science.

9. Classified sculptural works connected with geography, topography, architecture and science.

10. Computer programs.


The title of the classified work shall also be covered under copyright protection if it is distinguished by a creative characteristic, and is not merely an expression which is commonly used to indicate the subject matter of the classified work.


Moreover, the following shall also enjoy copyright protection prescribed under this law:

1. Any individual who, with the author's permission, translates the classified work into any other language.

2. Any individual who verifies, summarizes, transforms or amends the classified work, or interprets it or comments on it in any form that gives it a new form.

3. Authors of encyclopedias or extracts of poetry or prose which, by virtue of their selection or distillation, are deemed to be creative intellectual works.

4. Copyright protection enjoyed by classified works cited in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 above shall in no way jeopardize the protection enjoyed by authors of original classified works.


The following are excluded from copyright protection prescribed under this law:

A. Judiciary regulations and sentences, resolutions of administrative committees, international agreements and any other official documents. Official translations of such texts are also excluded, however, special rules concerning handling of such documents are observed.

B. Daily news items or events that are characterized as news developments, which are published by newspapers, magazines and periodicals (including radio and television).



1. The rights protected under this law shall originally be the property of the author or authors who created the classified work.

2. The author shall have the right to carry out all or any of the following actions, according to the nature of the classified work in respect:

A. Ascribing the classified work to himself and defending his rights in it from any infringement; objecting to any alteration, corruption, amendment or change of his classified work or any other infringement to the subject matter of the classified work which could be harmful to his honour or reputation.

B. Publishing, recording, displaying, transferring or translating his classified work as well as deciding the terms and conditions connected therewith.

C. At his discretion, making any change or deletion to his classified work.

D. Withdrawing his classified work from circulation.

E. Exploiting his classified work financially in any lawful manner.


With the exception of the provisions of article 7, the following uses of the classified work in its original language or translated text shall be considered lawful without obtaining prior permission of the author:

1. Copying, translating or quoting the classified work or transforming it into any other form for the sole purpose of personal use.

2. Quoting paragraphs of the classified work in another work, provided that such quotation conforms to conventional practice and is within the limits justified by its intended objective; and that the source and the name of the author are cited.

The above shall also apply to paragraphs taken from journalistic articles and periodicals abstracting newspapers items.

3. Using the classified work as an illustrative tool for educational purposes, by means of publication, broadcast, or audio-visual recording, or broadcasting the work for scholastic, university, or vocational education, provided that such use conforms to conventional practice, and that the names of the author and the classified work used in such publication, broadcast or recording are cited.

4. Copying or publishing news items on political, economic or religious topics which are published in newspapers and periodicals as well as broadcasting classified works on similar subjects, provided that reference is clearly made to the source and author, if known.

5. Copying any classified work that may be seen or heard, while presenting current events by means of photography or motion pictures, provided that such copying remains within the intended information objective and cites the name of the author.

6. Copying of literary, artistic or scientific classified works by means of photocopying or any similar way, which have previously entered the public domain in a lawful way , if such copying is carried out by a public library, non-commercial documentation center, scientific establishment or an educational institution, provided that such copying and the number of copies made are limited to the requirements of the activities of the institutions; that it causes no harm to the financial exploitation of the classified work, and that no needless injury is caused to the lawful interests of the author.

7. Copying of speeches, lectures, legal proceedings or any other similar classified works which are made in public if such copying is made by the press or other media, provided that the name of the author is clearly mentioned and that the author maintains the right to publish such classified works in the manner he wishes.

8. Dramatizing, performing or acting classified works after they have been published in a society, a club or a school, as long as such dramatic presentation, performance or acting does not result in financial returns, directly or indirectly.

9. Playing or performing the classified work after it has been published by musical groups affiliated with the armed forces or groups affiliated with the state or independent public agencies, as long as such musical playing or performance does not result in financial returns, directly or indirectly.

10. Taking new photographic pictures of anything previously photographed and published, even if the new picture has been taken from the same location and under the same circumstances as the original picture.


1. When several individuals contribute to the composition of a classified work in such a way that their contributions in the classified work cannot be separated, they shall be considered equal partners in the ownership of the classified work, and no one of them may individually exercise the author rights prescribed under this law, unless otherwise agreed to in writing.

2. When several individuals contribute to the composition of a classified work in such a way that their contributions to the joint work can be separated, each party shall have the right to individually exploit the particular part belonging to him, provided that no damage is caused to the exploitation of the joint work, unless otherwise agreed.

3. A joint classified work is a work where a group of people have contributed to its composition at the instructions of a person, individual or corporate, who undertakes its publication under his name and administration, and where the work of the partners is incorporated in the general objective set by that person, individual or corporate, so that no work of any partners can be separated or singled out. The person, individual or corporate, who directed and organized the creation of such a classified work shall be considered the author, and he alone shall have the right to exercise the author's rights.


When evidence is established that the author or his agent have refused publishing or copying the classified work without rendering any acceptable excuse, the Ministry shall have the right to issue permission for publishing and copying of such classified work for educational, cultural or scientific purpose after three years from the date of first publication, without violating the author's rights prescribed under this law. The terms for such publishing or copying shall be determined by the Ministry. The author or his agent shall have the right to appeal to the Board Grievance within thirty days from the date of notification of the Ministry's decision.


Without prejudice to the rights of authors, radio or television, in preparation of their programs, using their special methods, may make one or more recordings of any classified work for which it has been licensed to broadcast or display. All copies must be destroyed within a period not to exceed one year from the date of preparation, or a longer period after obtaining the author's approval. However, one copy of such recording may be filed as an official record, if it is a unique documentary recording.


Persons who take pictures of other people shall not publish, display or distribute the originals or copies of such pictures without permission of the individuals whose pictures have been taken. Such provision shall not apply if the pictures were published in the context of public events, if they are pictures of public officials or celebrities, or if such publication is approved by the authorities to serve the public interest. the person represented in the picture may not object to its publication, regardless of whether the approval of the person who made the picture has been obtained, unless otherwise agreed. Such provisions shall be applicable without regard to the way the picture has been made.


Only the author shall have the right to publish his letters. However, he may not pursue this right without the permission of the recipient, if publication would serve to the latter's detriment.


The right of the author is deemed to be void in all his future intellectual production. (Translator note: The purpose of this article seems unclear.)


1. The national folklore shall be considered the public property of the state, the relevant copyrights for which are exercised by the Ministry.

2. The import or distribution of copies of classified works of folklore or copies of translations or reproductions of folklore produced outside the Kingdom is restricted without the Ministry's permission.



Copyrights provided for under this law are transferable, in whole or in part, whether through inheritance or legal disposition. The legal disposition shall be established in writing and shall specify the scope of the transferred rights.


1. Copyrights provided for under this law shall be transferred to the heirs of the author.

2. If the author stated in his will that the publication of his classified works would be barred or if he specified a date for such publication, his instructions shall be carried out as prescribed.

3. In case of death of an author of a joint classified work without heirs, his share shall be passed to those entitled to it according to the provisions of the Islamic Sharia law.


If the heirs do not take advantage of the rights which have been transferred to them pursuant to the provisions of article 17 of this law, and when the Minister deems that the public interest requires publication of the classified work, he may send a registered letter to the heirs requesting their approval for the publication of the classified work. If no permission is received within one year from the date of the request, the Minister shall have the right to order publication of the classified work after hearing the heirs' opinions in the Board of Grievances, together with paying an equitable compensation to the heirs.


Publishing houses producing printed materials must conclude written contracts with copyright holders, as specified in the applicable implementing.


Producers of classified artistic works must conclude written contracts with copyright holders whose classified works will be used in the production, as specified in the applicable implementing regulations.


The author shall refrain from any act which could nullify the use of authorized rights. However, the author may withdraw his classified work from circulation or make any change, deletion or addition after agreement with those authorized to exercise the right. In case no agreement is reached, the author shall be obliged to pay an equitable compensation to the authorized party within a period determined by the Ministry.


In accordance with the provisions of this law, any disposition of a copyright by any person who is not authorized by the holder of the copyright shall be deemed null and void. The holder of the copyright shall not be subject to any legal act due to such disposition.



The following classified works shall be subject to this law:

1. Classified works of Saudi and foreign authors which are published, performed, or displayed for the first time in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

2. Classified works of Saudi authors which are published, performed, or displayed for the first time in a foreign country.


1. The period of copyright protection for the author of the classified work shall continue during his lifetime and for a period of fifty years after his death.

2. The period of copyright protection shall be for twenty-five years from the date of publication for classified sound and audio-visual works, photographic pictures and works of applied arts (vocational or industrial) and for classified works which are published without citing the name of the author. Computation of the period of protection shall begin from the date of the first publication of the classified work without regard to republishing.

3. The period of copyright protection for joint classified works shall be computed from the date of the death of the last surviving author.

4. Computation of the period of protection for classified works where the author is a legal entity shall be from the date of the first publication of the classified work.

5. When the classified work is composed of several parts or volumes, publshed separately or over periods of time, each part shall be considered as an independent classified work for purposes of the computation of its period of protection.


The provisions of article 24 notwithstanding, the rules of this law at the time of its enactment shall be applicable to all classified works then in existence. With regard to the computation of the period of protection for existing classified works, the period between the date of publication and the date this law goes into effect shall be taken into account.



1. Authors, publishers and printers of classified works which are prepared for publication by making copies of such works in Saudi Arabia, are collectively required to file, at their own expense, five copies of the written classified works at the National Library in Riyadh within thirty days of the date of publication. Producers of classified artistic works who produce their works locally in the Kingdom are required to deposit three copies of such works in the Library of the Saudi Arabian Society for Arts, Culture and Heritage in Riyadh within thirty days of production. When the classified work is reproduced with other additions, the filing commitment is renewed.

Publishers, printers and producers of classified works in Saudi Arabia are required in all cases to state the date of publication, printing or production of their works on the classified work itself. In the case of classified works which are prepared for publication in more than one volume, each volume shall be considered an independent unit.

2. The filing requirement is applicable to classified works only where large numbers of copies are produced by means of printing, photocopying, drawing, recording, etc. The implementing regulations shall specify this number of copies.

3. Saudi Arabian authors who publish or produce their classified works outside the Kingdom are required to file five copies of each published classified work at the National Library in Riyadh and three copies of each classified artistic work so produced with the Saudi Arabian Society for Arts, Culture and Heritage in Riyadh.

4. Violation of these filing provisions shall result in payment of a fine of not less than SR 1000, but not more than SR 5000, without eliminating the filing requirement.


In accordance with the provisions of article 8 of this law, any person, without permission of the owner, practices any of the acts described in article 7 of this law, or issues, copies, sells, rents, distributes, imports or exports any classified work or injures the author's right in it shall be considered to have violated the copyright law.



1. Any person who violates the copyright law shall be penalized with a fine not exceeding SR 10,000 or with closing the establishment or printing press which participated in the violation for a period not exceeding 15 days, or both punishments together, in addition to paying compensation to the holder of the copyright for any damage resulting from the violation.

2. In case of recurrence of a violation, whether on the same or a different classified work, the violator shall be penalized with an increase in the fine specified in paragraph 1 of this article, provided the fine does not exceed double the amount; or the establishment or printing press may be suspended for a period not exceeding 90 days; or both punishments may be applied together, in addition to paying compensation to the holder of the copyright for any damage resulting from the violation.

3. The committee referred to in article 30, at the request of the copyright holder, may order the confiscation or destruction of all copies or pictures of the classified work which it believes have been made in violation of the copyright as well as the confiscation of the materials related to the criminal act, or it may dispose such materials in the manner it deems appropriate.

The Committee may also issue an interim order to stop publication or showing of the classified work, or copies, or pictures made from it; to impound revenues resulting from the publication or showing of the classified work, or any other such orders, pending a final resolution.


Apprehension of guilty parties, investigations and issue of sentences shall be in accordance with the measures specified by the implementing regulations.


1. At the Minister's decision, an Infringement Oversight Committee shall be formed with a minimum of three members, one of whom is a legal advisor.

Decisions of the Committee shall be made by majority vote, but shall not take effect with the issuance of the Minister's approval.


Any person against whom a decision of fine, punishment or compensation shall have been made shall have the right to appeal to the Board of Grievances within 60 days from the date of notification of the Committee decision.



The periods of time provided for under this law shall be computed according to the s calendar.


The implementing regulations of this law shall be issued by the Minister of Information after concurrence of the Ministry of Education and the General Presidency of Youth Welfare.


This law shall become effective from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property Bulletins

For further information you make also like to view the Intellectual Property Bulletins published monthly by The Abu-Ghazaleh Group.

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