Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

It’s More Than Just 13 Saudi Journalists | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An internet website published false information about 13 Saudi female journalists, and now all hell has broken loose – which is a good thing – since defamation is unacceptable and has nothing at all to do with freedom of expression.

The most pressing requirement [now] is to enact laws that apply to online publications in the same manner that newspapers are subject to certain laws which govern [what can and cannot be published] while internet websites are not. So will this problem be solved?

I doubt it! Internet websites are like a flood, they usually find a watercourse. The most important solution [now] is to introduce laws that vigorously protect intellectual property rights whether in Saudi Arabia or the Arab world. There is a political proverb that says that one should “follow the money” in order to discover the source; online publications do not require the same amount of expenses [to run] as media institutes. Online publications also plagiarize news content from newspapers, and this is the problem. Whilst media institutes spend millions in order to create news content, creating jobs that help in the formation of a middle class, the bulk of Arab websites are used for personal glory or to serve a hidden agenda at a low financial cost.

Putting intellectual properly law into effect will also apply to blogs, which believe that their primary purpose is to publish and stimulate individual creativity, rather then simply transferring content from newspapers or books, or making defamatory accusations. In the West blogs are subject to intellectual property laws.

No matter what was said, it is well known that the internet has yet to make any financial profit [for the media sector] in the Arab world, therefore the plagiarizing of newspaper content, whether by online publication or Arab satellite channels, is a threat not only to the press, but to the economy of any country as a whole.

Even the book industry has been affected by its content being freely published online – in the same manner that newspaper content is plagiarized – especially since books are already published cheaply by some university presses. This internet transgression is oppressing and killing creativity and the book industry. Authors require researchers and assistants; these are jobs, so who will pay these salaries once things go back to square one?

Would it have been possible for the UK publishing industry to witness revenues of 3.4 billion pounds in 2008, according to the UK Publishers Association, without the presence of intellectual property rights?

The same applies to music and the cinema. For example a new film costs million to produce and distribute but can be bought for less than two dollars on the street. The same goes for music, as soon as a music album is released one can download it from the internet for free, this ends with the artist and the producers begging for their rights [to be respected], while at the same time a single Western song can generate millions of dollars [in profit].

The same thing applies to computer software, what is strange here is that the majority of these internet publication use software that are not subject to copyright laws, and are opposed to intellectual property laws.

If the situation continues as it is the Chanel fashion brand, for example, will no longer exist. This is not due to a lack of intelligence, but simply because creativity “does not put food on the table.” According to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the American fashion industry is worth around 350 billion dollars. Would it have reached this point without the existence of intellectual property rights?

Therefore the case of defamation can be dealt with through a specialized court, but what is more important is to safeguard intellectual property rights to create employment opportunities, protect creativity, making it a stimulating and rewarding field to work in.