Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part,
With a pirate head and a pirate heart.
Away to the cheating world go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do;
But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King.
Pirates of Penzance Gilbert & Sullivan
From 2006 to 2014, we have noted that Israel has been on the United States Special 301 priority watch list of countries having allegedly inadequate IP protection. The main criticism was the pharmaceutical extension regime in Israel which was believed to be too liberal to generic manufacturers. The amendment of the amendment was reamended and Israel’s status was upgraded.
A second criticism was that Israel’s copyright regime did not provide tools to hold Internet Service Providers (ISPs) responsible for preventing free access to copyright materials such as songs, movies and television series over the Internet. There are good arguments for and against making service providers responsible. They are not policemen and should not be. There is a perceived problem that without monetary compensation for their creative output, producers and artists will not create.
There is a new copyright bill pending legislation in Israel that addressed this issue, and a copy of which may be found here. The purpose of the bill is to try to reduce copyright piracy on the Internet, particularly of audio-visual works.
The following is an analysis of the proposed amendment. The bill contains four elements:
- An expansion of the concept of indirect infringement, to include websites that offer viewers access to unauthorized content such as movies and TV series. The indirect inclusion includes links to an offshore location in cases of actual or constructive knowledge of the act and intent to profit.
This element will have utility to the extent that the Israeli courts can thereby obtain jurisdiction over the operators of the web site that aggregates the links. However, where this entity is not identified, then this part of the amendment won’t have much real world effect.
- Blocking Orders. While some courts have issued these in the past, other courts claim that without specific authorizing legislation they do not have authority to grant blocking orders. Hence the legislation.
This element is likely to become the best tool for disrupting internet piracy. The proposal also clarifies that the cost of the blocking order will be borne by the applicant and not the Internet Service Provider (ISP). Apparently, there are actual costs in carrying out such blocking order.
- Discovery of the identities of up-loaders of infringing content.
- Enhanced criminal penalties.
The Tel Aviv Law School (Amnon Goldenberg Institute run by Professor Michael Birnhack) has published their comments on the bill, as have others, and it is scheduled to be debated by the Economics Committee of the Knesset on 21 May 2018.
The goal of the Ministry of Justice in formulating the bill was to find language that would be wide enough to catch pirates, but narrow enough to not cause any unwanted collateral damage. This goal was difficult to achieve in the proposed 48A.
Content developers and rights holders would prefer that the legislator err, if at all, on the side of over-protection, whereas the advocates of fair use and free speech prefer that the legislator err, if at all, on the side of under protection.
What is not included in the Bill, despite calls for such, is:
- A codified “notice and takedown” type regime; and
- WIPO style “technological protection measures” legislation.
The “notice and takedown” case-law seems to work, so why fix it? Although we have heard comments from legitimate web sites that a “safe harbour” might help them should 48A prove to broad in practice.
Currently, Israel does not have technical performance measures (TPM), something mandated by the 1996 WIPO treaties and intended for a different era, but which may have some unintended relevance in a world where content is no longer delivered on DVD, but rather through on-line subscription services. The Israel Justice Ministry does not have any a priori objection to either of these matters. However they are both incredibly complex to draft and if drafted improperly can have grave unintended consequences. For example, an overly broad TPM provision might have unintended consequences for tech companies and their developments.
The Justice Ministry considers that both of these issues are worthy of further study, but to move forward with them considers they should get the full legislative process by issuance of a proposal, requesting public comment, the drafting of a bill, and Knesset discussion, rather than a last-minute add-on to a pending bill.
The current bill is cautious and conservative, with the drafters having the perception that it is easier to add measures than to cope with overly broad powers and runaway judges.
The proposed legislation seems balanced and well-considered.
Certainly consumers of content should compensate the developers of the content for their efforts, and have little patience for those that download films and series, arguing that the developers don’t lose anything as they wouldn’t pay for it anyway. Traditionally, Jewish Law did not generally recognize non-tangible property rights, although entertainment, such as a dance, could have value and be used instead of a ring, for marriage purposes. The modern economy and civilization has moved on and IP rights are an essential development. Israel should be a light to the world in judicial matters. However, where there are widely accepted minimum standards of behaviour, it is important that Israeli legislation and private behaviour do not fall behind. That said, I don’t think that there is any basis for assuming that people write songs or create films for revenue in 70 years’ time or for 50 years after death. The actuarial depreciation of such revenue streams to the time of writing results in such future profits as being negligible. I would prefer that:
- laws on copyright infringement be coupled with the need to register copyright (as once required in the US, and required for trademarks, patents and designs
- that the period of protection be significantly shortened to perhaps 10 or 15 years
- that after initial launch in cinemas or as albums, movies and songs become available for reasonable cost over the Internet by legitimate streaming services, and that viewers can choose between premium advertisement-free access and sponsored access
- there should be broad fair use exceptions
- I am very put out that academic papers are developed by public universities and that access often requires payment. I want to see access for all with the universities sponsoring the publication rights, and more journals being exclusively on-line. Knowledge should be in the public domain, but authors should be recognized. There seems no place for commercial publishers of academic journals in the modern world.