Tony Greenman Adv.
At the end of April 2018, the Regional Labor Court in Tel Aviv-Jaffa handed down a ruling in a dispute between an employee of Israel Channel 10 and his employer dealing with the rights in a Facebook page. The affair began when television presenter Guy Lerer left Channel 10 and the long-running "The Tzinor" program he hosted on the channel. After he left, the question arose as to who owns the Facebook page that bears the name of the program - whether Lerer, who claims that the Facebook page was created on his own initiative and in his spare time, and that the Facebook page was never "of the program", or Channel 10, which claims that the Facebook page is no different from any other asset or right that an employee creates during his employment period and which he must return to his owner - the employer, at the end of his employment.
Article 34 of the Copyright Law establishes a default by which the copyright in the work of an employee made for the purposes and in the course of his employment belongs to the employer. The court distinguished between such work and a work created during the employee's leisure time. The Court noted that the distinction between leisure and working hours in the modern era has become more difficult, because many employees work outside the workplace these days and are available for most of the day. Therefore, the court determined eight characteristics that would help determine who owns the Facebook page, among them: who initiated the opening of the Facebook account, the hours of managing the account, who was responsible for the expenses of managing the account, etc. The court noted that all these factors should be considered together to create a picture which will determine who owns the account.
The court examined the specific case in light of each of the factors and determined that most of them lean in favor of a finding that Lerer is the owner of the Facebook page. This is mainly because of the fact that the initiative to open the Facebook page was Lerer's, and Channel 10 did not take any action to indicate its involvement on the Facebook page. Also, it wasn't common to have a Facebook page alongside a TV show when the Facebook page of the "The Tzinor" program was set up some years ago, which strengthens the statement that the Facebook page belonged to Lerner in the first place.
The court also referred to the rights issue in the name of the Facebook page, and in light of Lerer's agreement, it decided only that if Channel 10 wished to change the name it would have to inform Lerner. If Channel 10 decides to do so, Lerer will have to change the name of the Facebook page and will not have the right to use the name "The Tzinor". Even if Channel 10 decides not to require Lerer to change the name of the Facebook page, Lerer must make it clear in a post at the Facebook page that there is no connection between the Facebook page and the Channel 10 program "The Tzinor, which still runs, with a new presentor.
It is interesting to see how the Labor Court deals creatively with new challenges that did not exist in the past, such as the integration of employer-employee relations with social media in particular and the Internet in general. An appeal may be filed against this ruling, but it still seems that this a significant attempt to modernize labor laws for the modern age and a legal attempt to overcome the time gap in legislation.
סע"ש (ת"א) 46976-09-17 ערוץ 10 החדש בע״מ נ' גיא לרר