Registration of Copyright Works in Oman in 2016

Unlike patents and trade marks, copyright works do not need to be registered to acquire protection in Oman. However, the government still provides a mechanism for registration to those who wish to do so. This does not grant those who register with any special legal rights, but, in theory at least, it can provide additional evidence in case the ownership or the existence of a work is contested. Once or twice a year, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) publishes in the Official Gazette the details of the works that have been deposited for copyright registration. In 2016, MOCI published only one list in Official Gazette issue no 1158. I took a look at this list to see how many works were registered this year, by who, and for what kind of works.

The total number of copyright works that were deposited with MOCI in 2016 is 106 works. This is significantly lower than the number of trade marks that are registered (usually in the hundreds), but also significantly higher than the number of patents granted in Oman (usually a handful – more on this in an upcoming post). The breakdown of the kind of author for which the work is registered can be seen in the chart below.

The majority of registered copyright works in Oman are created by an individual author (78 works). These authors are most likely not affiliated with any institution. A small minority of works are created by a group of authors (6 works), the smallest of these groups is made up of two authors, while the largest of these groups is made up of nine authors. The remaining registered works (22 works) have been registered in the name of legal entities such companies and civil society associations (in one case it was SQU).

The registration details published by MOCI do not provide nationality details, but it is easy to guess the nationality of the author by looking at his or her name. All the works that were registered by institutions and by groups of authors were registered by Omani institutions or by groups of Omani authors, however, for individual authors, 28% of them (i.e. 22 out of the 78) were registered by non-Omanis. The names of these authors appear to be Arab and some registered works relate to Arab countries with strong cultural/academic presence in Oman such as Egypt and Morocco.

In an upcoming post, I will show how those who apply for patent protection are interestingly mostly not Omani, while those who apply for copyright protection are mostly Omani.

Again, the registration information published by the MOCI does not include the details on whether the author is male or female, but it is very easy to figure this out from the name of the author. In relation to individual authors, 76% (i.e. 59 out of the 78 authors) are male, while 24% are female. This includes both Omani and non-Omani authors. If you count only Omani authors, the percentage of female authors goes up to 30%, and if you count the actual authors and not the works of these authors (in other words remove authors with multiple registrations), the percentage of female authors goes up to 35%. So the majority of authors are male, but female Omani authors are a significant percentage.

It is difficult to determine with confidence what kind of works were actually registered because the list includes only the name of the work and the medium in which it was deposited, but by looking at the list it appears to include a variety of things such as academic books, short stories, films, musical works, and mobile phone applications.

The list also shows items that were deposited for copyright protection even though copyright protection does not provide the kind of protection the creators of these works desire. For example, a company registered a Halwa pot with a unique shape for copyright protection when it should have registered it as an industrial design instead. Similarly, several people registered ‘feasibility studies’ for certain projects. This suggests that these people assume that they can protect the ideas in these studies through copyright protection when copyright cannot be used to stop others from using the ideas in a protected work. In fact, there is no form of intellectual property that protects ideas per se, except confidentiality information if you consider that as a form of intellectual property.

Another interesting aspect of the list of registered copyright works is that it includes no recognised works, persons, or companies. The list of registered trade marks in Oman always includes recognised brands, even from companies that do not have any presence in Oman and have no short term plans to enter the Omani market. This is probably because major companies have lawyers and they are fully aware that copyright protection is not actually required to acquire protection (unlike trade marks and patents).

MOCI gives each registered work a unique sequential serial number, they are currently at 2800, which means that they have registered 2800 works since they started registering copyright works (certainly after 1996 when the first copyright law was issued). This is a clear evidence that Omani men and women care about their intellectual property rights and many individuals, not only companies, think that they should be entitled to stop others from copying their works. I do not know if there is any evidence though that these registrations are used for anything or if the works registered are actually commercialised at the end.

I will share in an upcoming post details about patent registration in Oman to show how completely different it is from registration of copyright works in Oman.