In March 2018, the UAE National Media Council (NMC) issued the long-awaited Electronic Media Regulation (“Regulation”) governing the Influencer License. To date, any influencer, whether working onshore or in a free zone, must:
a. Obtain an individual license, or
b. Obtain a partnership license, or
c. Sign up with a certified Influencer Agency.
The regulation does not define an influencer per se. However, it can be inferred that any individual performing commercial activities on social media networks will be required to obtain an Influencer License. Such commercial activities generally include advertisements, partnerships and any other marketing activity for which the influencer receives compensation. The NMC restricts the number of eligible influencers by issuing a license only to persons who are:
a. Of full legal capacity (unless otherwise permitted by the NMC),
b. Maintaining a good reputation,
c. Not sentenced to a crime of dishonesty,
d. Not in possession of a license that has already been suspended or cancelled,
e. Not members of the NMC,
f. Not in debt with the NMC, and
g. Possessing appropriate academic qualifications.
The NMC may choose to set forth additional requirements as deemed fit.
The cost of issuing an individual or a partnership license is AED15,000. The same amount shall also be paid annually to renew the license. The licensee may apply for renewal within a minimum of 30 days before the date of expiration and a maximum of 30 days post the date of expiration. The applicant must also present an Emirates ID, a registered tenancy contract or title deed and a trade license (for instance, a freelancer visa, which is the natural person equivalent to a legal entity’s trade license). Registration can be completed online. An influencer who does not register with the NMC will be penalized with a fine of a minimum of AED 5,000 for each commercial activity carried out without the license.
The above fees and potential penalties are not insubstantial. Thus, individual influencers may choose to register with an agency certified by the NMC instead of applying for an individual or a partnership license. This would exempt them from needing a trade license or paying influencer licensing fees. The costs of registering with a certified influencer agency will likely be lower than applying for an individual or partnership license. However, such influencers will work only with the clients of the agency with which they have registered. Thus, preventing them from carrying out any independent commercial activity on their social media pages.