The concerned article regarding photography law written by experienced Lawyers in Dubai captures the liability of an individual for photographing another person within the territory under the Cybercrime law.
Simply, clicking pictures of someone else in public without specific consent can put you to immediate police custody. However, there are certain cases, wherein the criminal court prior to issuing the verdict will determine such as the criminal intent or element of mens rea. It is evident from the recent case in Abu Dhabi; wherein, a feud happened between two drivers over the right to way at the entrance of the road. He claimed that he had the primary right to enter the particular road, whereas denied by the other. Whilst waiting for the police officer to arrive, the first person claiming his right of way clicked the picture of another person and position of his car on the road for the police to understand. However, the other person filed a criminal complaint alleging the invasion of privacy by clicking pictures without prior consent.
The Cybercrime Law
The Criminal Court of First Instance referred to Article 21(2) of the Cybercrime Law which reads as follows:
“Shall be punished by imprisonment of a period of at least six months and a fine not less than one hundred and fifty thousand dirhams and not in excess of five hundred thousand dirhams or either of these two penalties whoever uses a computer network or an electronic information system or any information technology means for the invasion of privacy of another person in other than the cases allowed by the law and by any of the following ways: • Eavesdropping, interception, recording, transferring, transmitting or disclosure of conversations or communications, or audio or visual materials. • Photographing others or creating, transferring, disclosing, copying or saving electronic photos. • Publishing news, electronic photos or photographs, scenes, comments, statements or information even if true and correct.
Shall also be punished by imprisonment for a period of at least one year and a fine not less than two hundred and fifty thousand dirhams and not in excess of five hundred thousand dirhams or either of these two penalties whoever uses an electronic information system or any information technology means for amending or processing a record, photo or scene for the purpose of defamation of or offending another person or for attacking or invading his privacy.”
In accordance with the above article, the Court ruled against the Defendant and ordered him to pay AED 250,000 as fine along with confiscation of mobile phone and deportation. However, Defendant filed an appeal wherein, the fine amount was reduced to AED 50,000 and confiscation, and deportation orders were cancelled.
The matter was again referred to the Court of Cassation by both the parties. The public prosecutor requested the court to uphold the decision of Court of First Instance. However, the court was of the opinion that the elements of Article 21 (2) are not met. The Supreme Court further explained that the liability under Article 21(2) would only arise if the Defendant intentionally clicks the picture with the intent of invading someone’s privacy. Whereas, in the present scenario, the Defendant was recording the view of Complainer’s car. Thus, the court released the Defendant from any charges and withheld the judgment of Appeal Court.
Furthermore, Article 378 of the UAE Penal Code, Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 out rightly mentions that clicking someone’s picture without his/her comment is an illegal activity in the country and will be termed an invasion of privacy. The act will lead to hefty fines along with confiscation of the device. On a similar note Federal Law Number 7 of 2002 concerning UAE Copyrights Law prohibits the act of taking someone else’s picture without prior consent and publishing such picture on any social media website for public display.
It is strictly prohibited or forbidden all the individuals including the tourist to click pictures of some other individual without prior consent. However, as we witnessed from the aforementioned case, it all boils down to the intent of the accused as to whether he intended to violate or invade other person’s privacy, subject to court’s discretion. Yet, precaution is advised in all cases.