Overview

The Kingdom of Bahrain offers a good level of protection for copyright owners and provides clear remedies allowing them to enforce their economic rights relating to copyright works.  As in the UK and the US (but not in many other countries in the Middle East), copyright in works created by employees will normally belong to their employer.

Relevant law

Copyright is recognised and protected in Bahrain pursuant to the Copyright Law No. 22 of 2006 as amended by Law No. 5 of 2014 (Copyright Law). In addition, Bahrain is a party to the Berne Convention which sets out basic principles including “national treatment” and the “automatic” protection of copyright works.

Existence and duration

The Copyright Law affords copyright protection to a wide range of works. Protection is available to authors of creative works that are of a literary, scientific, artistic or cultural nature.  The Copyright Law grants copyright protection to qualifying works upon their creation with no requirement for any formal registrations.

The Copyright Law does allow copyright works to be registered in Bahrain (with the Copyright Protection Office at the Ministry of Information).  However, similar to other jurisdictions where copyright arises automatically, copyright works are not commonly registered in Bahrain.

Copyright protection in a qualifying work generally lasts throughout the lifetime of its author plus seventy years (beginning on the first day of the calendar year following the year of the author's death).

Economic rights

The owner of a copyright work enjoys similar exclusive rights to those found in other jurisdictions.  The owner has the exclusive right to reproduce his work, and to translate, adapt, and distribute it, and to transfer ownership of copyright to third parties.

In the event that a third party uses a work without the owner's consent, the owner may owner seek a court order:

  • awarding damages for losses suffered as a result of the infringement;
  • demanding delivery up of the infringing works;
  • demanding that the infringing act is halted; and/or
  • requiring the infringer to divulge further information on and the identities of those involved in the infringing act.

Failure to comply with such an order could result in a fine and/or a custodial sentence.

Ownership and assignment of copyright

The first owner of copyright work is generally its creator. However (and in contrast to other GCC countries such as the Saudi Arabia and the UAE), where an employee is the author of the copyright work, the owner will be the author's employer. This is consistent with the ownership position of copyright works created by employees in the UK and US.

However, unlike the position in the US (which has the ‘works for hire’ concept), copyright in a commissioned work will be retained by the commissioned party. Accordingly, in the absence of an assignment in the commissioning agreement (which complies with the Copyright Law), the commissioned party will usually retain copyright in the deliverables.

Accordingly, in order to be able to enforce copyright in commissioned works in Bahrain, it is important to be able to show a chain of copyright assignments from the person who created the work to the owner.  Taking steps to put in place this chain of ownership will ensure that companies are able to use, exploit and enforce copyright in key works in Bahrain.

The owner (or joint owners) of a copyright work may transfer any or all of its (or their) economic rights to a third party.  In order for the assignment to be valid, the assignment must take the form of a written agreement.

Summary

The Copyright Law provides copyright owners with a level of protection in line with the Berne Convention.

In addition, employers will benefit from the fact that copyright in work created by their employees will belong to them by operation of law. However, those commissioning work from independent parties will need to ensure that the contract under which the work is commissioned includes an assignment so that copyright in the work vests in the commissioner.