Dubai is one of the most beautiful places on Earth to be pictured. However, it may often come as a surprise to you, that there are some strict laws that govern photography in Dubai. There are stories often published in the media about people getting arrested for violating photography rules, and invading someone's privacy. These laws are applicable to all, irrespective of whether you are a resident or tourist in the UAE.
Although, taking a quick picture of a building in your smartphone and viewing it is considered safe, and taking photos or shooting video in public places in Dubai and UAE is not prohibited, unless explicitly stated, there are some exceptions that need to be taken care of.
1. Ensure that you get the permissions first to film/photoshoot
Most hotels, resorts and public places in UAE, require permission from Management teams and other authorities to capture images and arrange a photoshoot. If you need to click some photos as part of your job, you should gain the right permissions that allow you to conduct a shoot in a public place.
For instance, when visiting attractions like Madinat Souk Jumeirah, or other huge malls in Dubai, it is required that you first gain permission for your visit to the venue for a photo shoot. Most hotels too, do not permit taking images with a professional camera in their grounds, if you do not acquire approval first.
However, if you are casually visiting a public place such as one of the malls or beaches in Dubai, or a top attraction, it is usually fine to capture images on your smartphone of the view, an event, or a family member or friend. But, if you are approached by the management or security, and requested to delete any image, or footage captured, you should do so.
2. It is an offence to click pictures of someone without their consent
Taking photos or videos that may violate the privacy of another individual can lead to serious consequences as per UAE law.
The Article 378 of UAE Penal Code (Federal Law 3 of 1987) and Article 21 of UAE Cyber Crime Law are the laws that helps protect the privacy of an individual in the UAE. Article 378 makes it clear that taking somebody's picture without their consent, or in legally permitted circumstances, shall be considered as an invasion of privacy or family life of that person.
In general, it is known that it is forbidden to take pictures of women and families in UAE in public public places. Taking pictures of people is a sensitive issue in the local culture in UAE.
On doing so, the camera or device would be confiscated and its recordings destroyed. The person taking photograph/video may also be liable to pay a fine or may have to face imprisonment.
Article 21 of the UAE Cyber Crime Law clearly stipulates "Using a visual device to invade the privacy of a third party by capturing their picture, or copying, or transferring those pictures is a crime punishable with six months of imprisonment and a fine of Dh.500,000."
3. Do not share the clicked footage without permission too!
It is not just clicking a third person's picture without permission that is illegal, but sharing that footage without permission is illegal too. Article 43 of UAE Copyright Law that governs sharing of photos or video footage of an individual without their permission says that if the photographer/videographer captures the picture of another, they will not have the right to keep, show, exhibit, communicate, distribute or publish these pictures without prior consent of the person of whom the picture had been taken. In case of such an offense, the punishment includes detention for not more than six months and fine.
However, some exceptions to this offence include, if the picture is captured at a public event, if the picture is that of official personalities, public figures, celebrities or if the publication of pictures is permitted by the authorities in public interest.
Another point to note here is that you should not post another individual's work-related photo or video online too, without consent, and do not tag someone online without their consent.
4. Capturing footage of government organizations, military sites is not permitted
Any major installations, strategic and military locations and government organizations or political buildings cannot be photographed for security reasons. The photography laws of the UAE say it is illegal to capture footage of restricted areas.
If you are planning to visit the desert for an off-roading or camping, you should take care not to photograph the dotted areas that the emirate mentions as restricted zones. Just an innocent picture of camel that you just saw, may actually have a military base that you may not realize, so do take care not to do so.
5. Approval is necessary to film / photograph on restricted areas in airport
Often, we see statements in airport that says all photography while airside in Dubai International Airport and Dubai World Central are not permitted without a license from Dubai Airports. The term 'airside' refers to areas that are accessible to aircraft, including taxiways, runways and ramps. However, check-in areas are not part of this.
A spokesman from Dubai Airport said that any request to film or photograph aircraft from within or around the airports will need approval from concerned authorities.
The Dubai International Airport and Al MAktoum International at DWC are secure environments with restricted access to ensure safety and security of passengers, employees and stakeholders.
Take care particularly not to photograph in restricted areas such as the immigration or security, embassies, airports or security facilities. Doing so can lead to imprisonment of one to three months and a fine less than Dh.5000.