Israel Passes its First Copyright Law

Last week, Israel passed its first Copyright Law. Until, now, the law in effect in Israel has been the 1911 law signed by King George V that became Israeli Law with the termination of the British Mandate in 1948. Although some minor amendments and changes were made over the years, a total revision, was long overdue. In the UK, the 1911 act was replaced in 1956 and then again in 1988. There were also several amendments and specific legislation to cover new technologies and the like.

The new law is striking in its brevity. It may be found here:

http://www.tau.ac.il/law/members/birnhack/IsraeliCopyrightAct2007.pdf

Although there has not been much binding case-law on copyright, by and large, the courts have introduced new ideas in line with international developments. The 1911 act has been amended several times, and Israel is signed on the major International copyright treaties and conventions.

The basic protection period of last to die co-creator (where known) plus 70 years formula is maintained. – Personally, I think it is too long, but this period is more-or-less universal.

Amongst changes that the new act introduces:

  1. It is now legal to make backups of software programs, copies for interoperability, maintenance, backups and security checks.
  2. Schools will be able to put on plays and musicals written by contemporary playwrights, (such as Arthur Miller or Kishon, for example), without paying royalties to the author or his estate.
  3. Under the old bill, converting a legally purchased video to DVD for home use or making backups of legally purchased music was considered copyright infringement. Under the new Law, this is not the case.
  4. Where a couple orders a wedding video or photographs that are professionally made to order, the copyright belongs to the couple and not to the photographer.
  5. Moral rights of the author are also recognized. These were recognized in Court rulings, such as Kimron, where the court recognized rights of a scholar who reconstructed a Dead Sea scroll without creative input, or the Samba 5 where satirizing a children’s book was not considered acceptable.
  6. The outdated concept of Crown Copyright (again inherited from the British) where copies of laws, ordinances and the like had to be purchased, is no longer the case, which is a good thing for democracy.

All the changes are sensible, and the Israeli Copyright Bill is a distinct improvement on the former state of affairs.
The law is also characterized by simple principles that grant wide powers to the judges in determining the scope of the infringement instead of minimum awards that are often inappropriate.

In contrast, the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act have undermined the balance between creators rights and public interest by restricting fair use and expanding the length of copyright protection.

For a great article on all that’s wrong with the US approach, as codified in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, see: 

http://www.turnergreen.com/publications/Tehranian_Infringement_Nation.pdf 

For reasons that escape me, Canada is planning on instituting copyright laws similar to those of the US.

5 Responses to Israel Passes its First Copyright Law

  1. A couple of questions:

    Is there a link to the new law?

    What is the rule of works entering the public domain? Is it death of author + N years? Does it depend on first publication someplace?

  2. danarmak says:

    The file you linked appears to be in Arabic, or maybe my reader is broken. Here’s a better link: http://www.knesset.gov.il/Laws/Data/law/2119/2119.pdf

  3. Michael Kaye says:

    To Danarmak:

    The link that I gave provides a Microsoft Office Word rtf version of the new copyright law. It is most definitely in Hebrew.

  4. […] Michael Geist points to an article on Israel’s first Copyright Law. […]

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