COPYRIGHT IMPLICATIONS OF THE OMANI DESPACITO
The Omani version of Despacito has become an international viral hit accumulating over 2,000,000 views on YouTube within about a week of its release, yet the creation of this kind of artistic work is actually prohibited by the Omani copyright law.
There is no doubt that creating the Omani De
spacito involved a lot of original creative work, from the idea and the lyrics, to the actual performance and video production. However, this work would not have been popular, and would not have been created at all, if it was not for the original Despacito. The creators of the Omani version of Despacito obviously did not acquire the permission of the rights-holders of the original song nor did they pay any royalties for copying their music.
Under the Omani copyright law, it does not matter that the Omani version of Despacito did not harm the commercial interests of the original song, that the Omani song is not being sold for profit, or that its creators did not claim that they came up with the tune. The Omani Despacito is in violation of copyright as long as permission of the rights-holder of the original song has not been acquired.
The fact that the Omani copyright law makes the creation of parodies and other transformative uses illegal is not necessarily the right policy to have, because the objective of copyright law should be to encourage creativity to the benefit of society. Acquiring permission from the rightsholders who is a major company in the United States or Europe is practically impossible to a young Omani artiste with no financial resources, and even if it was possible for young Omani artistes to identify and contact the rights-holder, a big production company will not have the in-
centive to negotiate a very small deal with individual creators.
The creation a parody such as the Omani Despacito also does not harm the commercial success of the original song, and this parody can be seen as a medium for exercising the right to freedom of expression because it is written to address a social concern. Therefore, it is difficult to justify the restrictions that copyright law imposes on this creative activity.
These issues have been taken into consideration by many countries around the world and consequently many copyright laws now allow the creation of parodies without the need to acquire the permission of the author. For example, in the United Kingdom, the copyright law explicitly provides that parodies can be created without the need to seek the permission of the original author. Similarly, in the United States, the courts have held that parodies do not violate copyright because they can be considered fair use under the American copyright law.
The Omani copyright law does not provide an exception similar to the one found in the United Kingdom to allow parodies without permission and does not have a fair use principle similar to the one found in the United States, which means that the Omani Despacito violates the copyright law in Oman.
Even though the illegal status in Oman of the Omani Despacito is unlikely to have any impact on the availability of the song on the Internet, the Omani law is still relevant to Omani artistes that want to become professional creators and want to make a living out of their work locally. The Omani copyright law must be reconsidered to encourage creativity instead of criminalising it.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Muscat Daily or Apex Press & Publishing