In a recent court ruling, the Israeli Accountant General was found guilty of copyright infringement. The plaintiffs in the case run a service which explains tax rights and other information to retirees. The plaintiffs alleged that presentations found on the Accountant General’s website were copies of the ones they had created, and therefore fell under copyright protection of the law.
After a brief investigation it was discovered that the Accountant General did not copy the presentations from the plaintiffs, but rather from a different accountant who had copied the presentations to his website. In addition to hosting the presentation on the Accountant General’s website, they were also delivered to hundreds of people in a lecture given by the defendant’s office.
Protection of Presentations
The main question in the case is whether the presentations themselves warranted copyright protection. The Accountant General claimed that the presentation did not add any pertinent information beyond outlining copyright law, and therefore did not warrant copyright protection. The court, however, sided with the plaintiffs ruling that the presentations did add original and additional information to the outlining of the law, and do therefore warrant the protection of the law.
In addition to breaching the plaintiffs’ economic rights by copying a copyrighted work, the court ruled that the Accountant General has also infringed upon the plaintiffs’ moral rights by not giving them credit for their works.
Defenses Claimed by Defendant
The defendant attempted to argue a number of defenses. First, the defendant argued that the plaintiff had been negligent by leaving the presentations on his website in a manner that allowed them to be copied by the defendant. Second, the defendant argued that it had made fair use of the presentation as defined by copyright law. Third, the defendant argued that it thought that the presentations were the property of the first accountant who had copied them and therefore was not responsible for the infringement of the plaintiff’s moral rights. Lastly, the defendant argued that as soon as the plaintiff alerted them that they had infringing content on their website, they removed it immediately.
The court was not convinced by any of these arguments. It makes no difference whether the defendants thought that the infringing material belonged to the plaintiffs or to someone else. The infringement claim is regarding the infringement itself and does not take into account who the infringer believed was the rightful owner of the material. In addition, the court will always be stricter with a public office, who has the means and the responsibility to check and double check that the content it is using does not infringe copyrights.
In summary the court ruled 60,000NIS in damages to the plaintiffs along with legal expenses and other minor expenses.