Saturday, July 27, 2013

No pictures!

Tarmac Tantrum
It's been well documented, first in the UAE media and then internationally, that the way to deal with a minor hit-and-run traffic collision is not to hunt down and assault the other driver.

In this recent case, it seems that the Indian van driver nudged an Emirati's Toyota Land Cruiser and failed to stop and await the police. The Emirati chased the Indian and stopped him; I would have done the same, as would many drivers, I suspect. But then the Emirati set about assaulting the Indian. Common assault in a public place in front of eye-witnesses. (Believe me, I was tempted to rearrange someone's face with a tyre iron following his attempt to kill me with a blunt instrument (a GMC truck), but I value my liberty too much and instead awaited the arrival of the Law.)

Anyway, back to the recent case. One of these witnesses had a video camera, and he caught the assault on video and then chose to post it on YouTube, from where it proliferated. Despite the YouTube video being taken down, the images are now on the internet until the end of time. This in itself is worth remembering: if you upload something on to the internet it'll be there for ever.

It seems that in the UAE, it is against the law to photograph someone without their permission. It is also possible to defame someone by telling the truth, as Alexander observed over on Fake Plastic Souks.

My dictionary defines 'defame' as "attack the good name or reputation of, as by uttering or publishing maliciously or falsely anything injurious..." I suppose "publishing maliciously anything injurious" is what this amateur videographer seems to have done; I had always thought that "publishing falsely" was the critical bit. Merriam-Webster says that defamation is the same as slander, and that is definitely "...utterance of false charges." I think I'll leave the courts to sort out this one.

EDITED 30 JULY: According to The National, all charges against the Emirati and the Indian videographer have been dropped. The Emirati was fired from his job over the incident.

And then something occurred to me. If it's illegal to photograph me without my permission, even if I'm committing a criminal act, and post the pictures on the internet, then in principle all traffic cameras are illegal. If you go to the Dubai Police website and type in your (or anyone else's) car registration number, up will pop all outstanding traffic offences complete with a link to a nice picture of the offending vehicle's licence plate.

If I gave implicit permission to be photographed if I exceeded the speed limit or ran a red light when I took to the road, then surely all of us give our permission to be photographed when we enter a public place.

I'm not the only one this has occurred to. The Arabian Business website ran an article on 20th July that suggests that the law may be changed to decriminalise taking pictures of illegal activity. But if you catch an illegal act on camera, you have to submit the images to Dubai Police. Uploading to YouTube remains mamnua'a.


1 comment:

Martín said...

google "street photography Germany" and, if your German is up to it, add "Recht auf eigenes Bild". You're up for a treat in nonsense, arrogance and collective paranoia.


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