The UAE is getting tough on illegal copying of films and music in a fightback against the digital piracy rampant across the Middle East.
Globally, the holders of rights to films and music lose billions of dollars to piracy each year. This has prompted US legislators to draft the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), which would impose tough penalties on illegal sharing of copyrighted material.
The UAE has copyright legislation of its own and in recent months has stepped up enforcement.
Last week, it emerged that police in Abu Dhabi helped to shut down a UAE-based website that facilitated illegal downloads of films and television shows.
Police questioned the man behind the website and he agreed to pay an unspecified settlement to avoid a jail term.
Others were not so lucky. In November, Dubai authorities jailed a man for three months for selling pirated Xbox 360 games.
Scott Butler, the chief executive of the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance, said the cases showed the UAE was following a "zero-tolerance" policy on piracy.
"With nearly all copyright cases in the UAE, the pattern is that the pirate is sentenced to prison, even first-time offenders," said Mr Butler.
But many other countries in the region are not as tough on the pirates, with prison sentences rare or unheard of for such crimes. That means the illegal sharing of copyrighted material is "rampant" across the region, said Mr Butler.
"In neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia, we have yet to see the same vigilance against internet piracy," he said. "The authorities there are not nearly as aggressive on new forms of copyright infringements."
In contrast to the lax enforcement of copyright laws elsewhere in the region, the UAE is toughening its own anti-piracy legislation.
As The National reported this month, the Ministry of Economy plans to restructure the intellectual property system and introduce new copyright laws. The plans are said to provide for tougher policing and special piracy courts.
UAE legislators face a tough challenge. In the US, the Sopa bill has encountered a backlash from technology giants such as Google and Facebook.
Sopa sets out punishments for streaming pirated content. These include up to five years in prison for the first offence of streaming 10 pieces of music or video in a six-month period.
Many say the proposed legislation goes too far, with the likes of Google and Facebook claiming that Sopa would give the US government too much power to shut down legitimate websites.
David Butorac, the chief executive of the TV network OSN, based in Dubai, said Sopa "looks like a fairly significant clampdown" on piracy.
But he added that any such legislation should include safeguards for civil liberties.
"There needs to be a recognition of freedom of expression, coupled with the protection of intellectual property," said Mr Butorac.
Others say Sopa is inappropriate for the US - not to mention other markets such as the UAE.
"Sopa is a well-intended bill with far-reaching and devastating consequences," said Mo Elzubeir, the founder of the Dubai media intelligence company Mediastow. "The prospects of Sopa becoming law in the US is a very scary thing and one that affects the whole world. It is unfortunate, because it only moves more power into the hands of corporations in an already imbalanced system."
It remains to be seen whether the UAE will follow such a hard line on piracy as is being pursued in the US with the Sopa bill.
But as Mr Elzubeir points out, the right implementation of laws - and providing viable alternatives for consumers to pay for films and music - is as important as passing the legislation.
"Combating piracy does not come from draconian legislation. It comes with providing effective incentives for people to pay for what they want," he said. "It needs to be easy and quick. It is an impulse purchase and should be treated as such."