Israeli Photographer Wins Copyright Damages from AlJazeera

AljazeeraAl JazeeraDalal

Shmuel Rachmani photographed a bus destroyed on the coastal road in a terrorist attack in April 1978, including photographs of the terrorist, Dalal Mugrabia, and one of a victim. At the time, the photographs were printed in Maariv, then Israel’s evening newspaper, now a weekly.

On 15 March 2010, Israel’s Channel 10 broadcast an item about Dalal Mugrabi during which, the two images were aired together with the Al Jazeera icon, thereby alerting the photographer that Aljazeera had infringed his rights. In the Maariv paper from where the photographs were taken, the name of the photographer was displayed, so Shmuel Rachmani alleged that in addition to copyright infringement, his moral rights were trampled on.

Rachmani sued for a total of 80,000 Shekels, consisting of two counts of willful copyright infringement and two counts of willful moral rights infringement. Under the 2011 Copyright Ordinance, the maximum damages is 10,000 Shekels, but for willful infringement, this may be doubled.

Rachmani also requested an injunction against Aljazeera, but dropped this demand. In separate proceedings Rachmani sued Channel 10 and came to an out of court settlement.

Attempts to mediate a settlement were in vain. During preliminary stages of the trial, 7,000 Shekels in legal fees were awarded to the plaintiff.

THE RULING

Judge Raphael Jacoby of the Jerusalem District Court rejected arguments regarding Jurisdiction under International Law, standing and the like, and considered them damaging to the defendant. He noted that Aljazeera is broadcast on local cable television under license, so the company has local presence.

Jacoby went on to rule that the pictures were creative works that were protected by copyright and dismissed the hot news defense, noting that the images related to a historic event from 36 years ago. He did not consider the usage incidental. He acknowledged that the photographer could not produce the negatives and prove ownership or produce proof that the copyright was not transferred to Maariv, but accepted evidence of the archivist of Maariv that this was the standard work terms between the parties, and the acknowledgment of the photographer in the original newspaper as proof that Rachmani was the copyright owner.

Noting that under the new law, Rachmani could sue for 100,000 Shekels a time, Judge Raphael Jacoby ruled that the damages sought were proportional and ordered that Aljazeera should compensate Rachmani a total of 50,000 NIS for the infringements and should pay a further 15000 Shekels in legal fees.

T.A, 45542-12-11 Rachmani vs. Aljazeera International LTD, Jerusalem District Court, by Raphael Jacoby, 19 February 2014.

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