זכויות יוצרים, קניין רוחני, דיני מדיה ואינטרנט - עו"ד טוני גרינמן

Copyright, internet law: A journalist may prohibit the publication of his articles on the internet

Tony Greenman, attorney at law
November 2007

The Copyright Law of 1911, states that the copyright in a work by a salaried employee belongs to his employer. Nevertheless, the law permits a journalist the right to prohibit the publication of articles or other works he may have written “not as part of the newspaper”. The District Court in Tel Aviv ruled that in accordance with that law, the works of a journalist may not be published on an internet website without his approval. The court further elaborated that if this right was infringed, the journalist is entitled to legal remedies, including compensation.

The District Court’s decision was given in an appeal by journalist Ron Kofman over a previous ruling of the Magistrate’s Court.

Kofman worked as an employee writing articles for Haaretz newspaper. Haaretz permitted the internet portal “Walla!” to publish some of Kofman’s articles, without requesting Kofman’s consent. He therefore discovered the publication of his articles on “Walla!” only after the fact. After having discovered the publication, Kofman filed a lawsuit demanding compensation for the infringement of his copyright. The Magistrate’s court denied Kofman’s suit, claiming that the "right of opposition" is not a “positive” right permitting the injured party to bring a suit over its violation. This ruling indicated that the only option standing before the injured party is to oppose publication in advance and maybe to get a restraining order against it. If he failed to do so, he has no remedy in the law.

The District court accepted Kofman’s appeal and returned the case to the Magistrate’s court. Relying on the book “Copyright Law” by Tony Greenman, the court ruled that the conversion of print media to digital format is a change of media that cannot be considered a part of the newspaper publication. The court mentioned that the digital format incorporates different traits such as searching, copying and manipulation of the work. The American judgment in the case of Random House v. Rosetta Books ruled that the right to publish a literary work in book format did not include the right to publish the same work in digital format. The court also mentioned the ruling of the American Supreme Court in the case of Tasini v. New York Times, which ruled that an Internet section of all previous New York Times editions did not constitute a “new version” of the newspaper, but rather a new product altogether.

As it was ruled we are dealing with different media, the journalist has the right to not have his articles utilized in this new media. It is clear that this is not a declaratory right alone and that the legislator did not intend to issue forth empty words. Therefore, whereupon this right has been infringed the journalist is entitled to corresponding legal remedy.

It must be said that the journalist’s right dealt with in this case does not permit him to publish his article himself, but as stated it permits him to receive a legal remedy when his right is violated.

Post Script: Under the new copyright law, passed on 20th November, 2007, as of the affective date of the Law, being May 2008, the "opposition right" of journalists discussed hereunder has been abolished. However, under the transitory provisions of the law, the right shall continue to apply to articles written by journalists before the above date.
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