In a Landmark ruling, the Tel-Aviv District Court has recognized the authorial status and resulting copyright of Film and TV Directors. In an action brought by Tali The Collecting Society of Film and TV Directors in Israel against ACUM, the Association of Composers, authors and Music Publishers, the Court (Justice Yehudit Shitzer) ruled that: "There is no reasonable cause to deny the director, whose personality and fingerprint are discernable in every scene, the ownership of copyright in the film."
Tali had bought the Action against Acum, asking the court for a declaratory judgment, declaring that Film and TV directors are entitled to share in the Blank-Tape Remuneration, paid by the government to Copyright holders as compensation for the income lost to home recording. Acum, which, as the largest collecting society in Israel, is responsible for distributing the levy, had refused to include Directors in the distribution, claiming that Israeli law does not recognize them as copyright owners.
Israels copyright law, which is in fact the 1911 Copyright Act of England, with limited subsequent amendments, is silent on the subject of ownership of copyright in Audio-visual works. Therefore, it would seem that the question is to be determined by application of the general rule, granting copyright in a work to the author. TALI held, that although the question had never before been addressed by the Israeli Courts, any examination of the authorship of films must lead to the conclusion that the Director is an author, either solely or jointly with other authors. The Court agreed, and held that: "It is impossible to make a film without a director and there are almost no films, created without someone having directed them. Therefore, the Director is entitled to recognition of his rights."
The court held that the fact that the law does not specifically mention Directors is not to be interpreted as a negative arrangement, rather it is a lacuna which must be addressed in light of the legislative intent to encourage creators to create cultural works. No purpose would be served by denying Directors their authorial rights. Therefore, the legislator cannot be assumed to have had this intent (TALI had also pointed out that the law does not specifically mention any authors, such as writers, composers and artists. The authorial status of these authors is also a matter of interpretation and intuition).
The court agreed with TALI that the comparative law supports this conclusion. In this respect, the court cited provisions of the laws of numerous European countries, specifically recognizing directors rights, as well as the EU Directive on harmonization of the Term of Copyright, which holds that the Principal Director of a film or audio-visual work will be considered its author. The court also noted that in the US, the congress and courts have recognized that the direction of a broadcast of a sporting event is akin to authorship. If such is the case in respect of the filming of an event over which the director has no control, then for sure the Director of a cinematic or TV film is an author.
"The inescapable conclusion, the Court summarized, is that the desirable interpretation of the law is that television and film directors are the holders of copyright in
cinematic and television films."
Although this action was ostensibly about the blank-tape levy, the ruling will have far reaching consequences for Film and Television Directors in Israel, who for the first time will be able to demand royalties for the use of their works (as opposed to a salary only), as is the case with other creators, involved in cinematic and TV films and programs, such as writers, composers and performers.
Case No 1148/01 Tali The Collecting Society of Film and TV Creators in Israel, Ltd. v. Acum, The Association of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers, Ltd.
For Tali: Tony Greenman, Adv.
For Acum: Silgsohn, Gavriely and Co.