Israeli Copyright Law

What is copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive rights granted to owners of original works to publicize, display, copy and perform several additional activities with respect to their works and to prevent others from doing so. Copyright pertains to certain kinds of works, such as literature, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Copyright is applicable in many areas such as songs and lyrics, movies, plays, architectural works, computer software, and more. Until May 2008 copyright laws in Israel were based on the Israeli Copyright Act 1911 and the Copyright Ordinance. In May 2008 the new Copyright Act 2007 came into force. The new Act replaces the old law and represents the entire law in most aspects of copyright matters. 

What is the scope of protection conferred by the copyright owner?

Copyright confers the exclusive right to perform several kinds of activities (such as copying, distributing, display, creating derivative works, and more) with respect to the protected work and to prevent others from doing so. The protection lasts from the date of creation until 70 years after the death of the creator. It is important to note that copyright confers protection over expression and not over ideas per se.

What should I do in order to enjoy copyright protection?

Nothing! Copyright protection automatically subsists with respect to works which comply with the terms set forth in the Copyright Act. The only country in the world which requires copyright registration for some purposes is the US (in which copyright registration is important only with respect to some aspects of enforcement of copyright rights in legal proceedings).

Am I allowed to use a copyrighted protected work?

In principle - no, unless you comply with one of certain exceptions permitting certain kinds of uses as defined in copyright laws. One such permitted use is home-made use for personal non-commercial purposes. The more popular exception is the "fair use" exception. This exception is rather problematic as its applicability varies according to the circumstances of each case, according to several criteria, such as the nature of use and whether the use is commercial or non-commercial, the nature of the copyrighted work, the scope of copying from the original work and the possible implication on the copyrighted work value. Thus, for instance, a student copying several pages from a book does not infringe copyright, but if the same student copies the entire book and sells it to others – this would be regarded as copyright infringement. The most famous case in Israel regarding fair use is the Supreme Court judgment, in which it was ruled that the parody use of an image of a duck by the late famous artist Dudu Geva constituted infringement of Disney's copyright in the famous Donald Duck. Fair use considerations arise very frequently in internet related matters (such as the use of "thumbnail" photos by search engines, linking, etc.)

Is it possible to protect an idea through copyright?

No. One of the most basic principles of copyright laws is the expression/idea dichotomy. Copyright protects only expression, and does not protect merely ideas. There are cases in which this dichotomy is hard to apply. Therefore, this issue (of where the "line" between the idea and the expression lies) is often in dispute in infringement proceedings. If someone wishes to protect an idea, other forms of intellectual property laws (such as patent laws or trade secret laws) might assist in doing that (mostly with respect to the industrial applicability of such an idea).

How is it possible to enforce copyright against infringers?

A copyright owner whose rights were infringed is entitled to file a civil claim against the infringer. Such claims usually involve both a claim for injunctive reliefs as well as for monetary reliefs. Since it is usually hard to prove exact damages, the Copyright Act provides that the plaintiff is entitled to claim statutory damages (without proof of actual damages) at the amount of up to NIS 100,000 for each infringement. 

Some aspects of copyright infringement also constitute criminal offence. Therefore, it is possible to approach law enforcement authorities (i.e. the intellectual property unit of the Israeli police) by filing a criminal complaint, so that the authorities will investigate the matter and will prosecute the matter under criminal laws. 

Who is the copyright owner?

As a basic principle, the creator of a work is the copyright owner. However, the Copyright Act provides some exceptions to that rule. For instance, in employment relationship, the default is that the employer shall be the owner of a copyrighted work if the work was made for the purpose of the employee's function of his job, and in the course of the employee's work. 

What is "moral right"?

The "moral right" (called "droit moral" in its French origin) refers to the rights of the creator that (1) to receive credit over the work in a reasonable manner. And (2) that no third party shall alter the work in a manner which shall damage the work or the creator's reputation. The moral right is independent from the economic right in the work (which is represented by the copyright rights). Therefore, even if the copyright ownership was transferred to a third party other than the creator (for instance - in employment relationships), the moral right remains with the creator. An infringement of a moral right is a civil tort which entitles the plaintiff to initiate civil legal proceedings