Lebanon/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.8 Data protection laws

Copyright Law 75 of 1999 is considered a key accomplishment in the field of IT crimes in Lebanon since it is the first time that some IT crimes are punishable under law in Lebanon by virtue of an explicit legal text.

Article 1 of this law defines software as a set of instructions expressed in words or symbols that cause the computer to do work. It also defines the transmission of information to the public that may be punishable if it involves copyrighted works or if conducted by wired or wireless means, like the internet for example.

Article 2 of this law stipulates that software, regardless of language, shall be protected by law, including preparatory works. However, in article 23 and after the law states some exceptions permitting any natural person to copy or record only one copy of any copyrighted material for his or her personal use without authorization from the copyright owner and without paying any compensation.

However, the use of the said copy within a company or any other job is not considered a personal use. Thus software may not be recorded or copied unless authorized by the copyright owner for the purpose of making one copy only in case the original copy is lost or damaged.

Article 25 permits the copying of unlimited number of software copies by non-profit educational institutions, universities and public libraries without permission from copyright owner provided that they have at least one original copy of the relevant software (Decision 16 was issued in 1/7/2002 by the ministers of Culture and Higher Education to regulate this mechanism).

A special chapter (article 81 and after) is dedicated in this law for precautionary measures, damages and penalties, which if implemented constitute an effective deterrent for violators.

Article 81 imposes a 1- month to 3-year prison term, a 5-50 million LL fine, confiscation of violating material and compensation paid to the party that recieved damages.

The new law abrogated articles 722 to 729 of the Penal Law, which criminalize copyright violations.

It is notable that the new law fills a huge vacuum in this field and is effective if implemented properly, despite the existence of some gaps that may allow some violations to be committed, particularly as regards the exceptions that may, if abused, undermine all the accomplishments achieved.

On the other hand, the Parliamentary IT Committee and the Ministry of Economy and Trade jointly put forward an integrated draft law which provides for all matters related to all forms of electronic operations. This draft law however is pending endorsement.

Until the proper IT crimes legislations are issued, the Lebanese Penal Law (in force since the 1940s when IT was a science fiction), despite the frequent amendments, does not contain any provision related to IT crimes.

However, and according to the intervention of Judge Fawzi Khamis, chairman of the Legal IT Development Association in Lebanon, practically speaking many of the existing legal provisions may apply on current IT crimes, particularly traditional electronic crimes, by virtue of the interpretative judgments of Lebanese judges in this field.

Hence article 281 of Penal Law imposes a prison term on any person who enters a restricted area for the purpose of obtaining state-classified material, documents or information.

Articles 282 and 283 also impose prison terms on any person who steals or possess documents or information as specified in article 281 for the purpose of disclosure.

In this context, the mentioned information or documents may be recorded on electronic tapes or CDs that may be used in the computer and thus may be deemed criminal material.

In addition, many IT crimes committed by posting materials or pictures on the internet or by emailing, which may (for example):

  • Undermine national feelings or incite racial or confessional sentiments in time of war (may be punishable by the provisions of the Penal Law (article 295 and after).
  • Contain slander, vilification or insult of a figure of public authority (materials 383 to 389).
  • Contain slander, vilification or insult of an individual (articles 582 to 589).
  • Threatening with a crime or an offence (articles 574 to 578).
  • Disclosure of secrets (articles 579 and after).
  • Hurting religious sentiment (articles 473 and 474).
  • Violation of public manners (articles 531 to 533).

And having in mind that the internet has become accessible by the public (thus may be considered one of the electronic means specified in article 209), article 535 and after, which criminalize all forms of stealing, may apply on stealing computer hardware but do not include software or information, which are intangible.

Article 650 may also apply on any person who threatens another person to expose, disclose or inform about information that may defame or slander that person to force him or her be blackmailed in case of the use of information obtained via IT (since the text doesn’t demonstrate the source of the information used in intimidation or blackmail).

Forging and using credit cards may also be punishable by articles 471 and 454 and article 655 may punish fraud if committed by electronic means.

Article 733 (which imposes penalties on vandalism) may also apply on any person who destructs a computer or computer accessories.

Chapter published: 07-04-2016