(Originally posted in Hebrew, sorry for giving outgoing links only to Hebrew sites, but this might be interesting also for non-Hebrew speaking readers)
0. My enemy’s enemy is not my friend
Israel’s Electricity Corporation is a monopolistic organisation. It acts against its consumers’ interests when its goal is to maximise profit at any cost. This cannot be disputed. Therefore, when the IEC raises tariffs in an outrageous manner, and hurts its consumers, we are willing to assume that the said action will act for the benefit of its shareholders, or at least for its employees. However, when IEC breaches workers rights and the rights of contracted employees, we do not need to go out to the street and protest for their defence. The company’s interests are not in our favour, however, better working conditions do not lead to a better and efficient electricity market. As customers, we need cheap, reliable electricity and not to pay IEC’s pension.
1. IEC as an example
Now, take the last paragraph and replace “IEC” with “Record companies” or “AKUM” (Israel’s copyright company) and IECs employees with “Creators”. The news Israeli Copyright Act Draft is not a good statute. It is a bad proposal which limits a generous portion of our rights and prevents reforms that may work for consumers. It limits fair use and it’s certainly not the best statute we can hope for. The statute deprives Wikipedia’s ability to establish an independent encyclopaedia and limits various tools which were made to help consumers. However, other restrictions also apply.
Some of Israel’s finest creators gathered to protest against the draft. Surprisingly, they weren’t protesting against the limitation of “Fair use” or against consumer limitation. They are trying to lobby for their own interests, and unfortunately are succeeding in their attempt to persuade everyone that “free” creativity will be tempered with the new law. Like IEC’s employees, Creators and Artists have different interests than consumers. In this case the artists object to legislation that might not deprive innovation on the major scale, but will not help it at all.
The artists protest against clause 35 of the new copyright act, which states that the Contracting party will be the owner of copyright, and not the contractor unless stated otherwise. With the new legislation, artists will not be regarded as owners of their work, but their recording companies, TV stations or cellular operators. De facto, the contracting parties will pressure the Artists to waive all their copyright, or else, they won’t produce their works. The clause was meant, in a good manner, to allow the Artists to trade their copyright as any other property and may do great service to artists and consumers. If until today when you ordered a picture from a photographer, he would have licensed the photos to you with an agreement that limits your use; Today, the legal transaction costs reduce. From this day onwards, Wedding Photographers do not own the photos, just the moral rights.
And to explain the severity of the problem, at 2005 a tattoo artist sued a basketball player for publicly performing his tattoo in a Nike commercial.. (BoingBoing story); Here, the law assists the consumers. From now on, major record label artists will be credited for what they are: Ringtone Generators.
4. Israeli Idol’s Morality
Moreover, Artists complain about the possibility to waive moral rights. Meaning that moral rights do not annul from now on, but an artist may waive it. According to the draft, an artist has the right (but not the duty) to trade, in writing and against a tradeoff, his moral right (clause 48). The problem will start, of course, when producing companies, cellular operators and other ‘pro-artist’ organisations will start trading moral rights.
I don’t fear this day. This tradeoff will encourage alternative legal regimes where moral rights are not deprived, such as Creative Commons and will incentivize free creation, the creation which is not subject to economic considerations.This legislation is a major progress in one way – the artists who have market power will be able to bargain for their rights and monetise it as a price for the creation. And what about artists without the ability to bargain? well, the market will take its course.
5. “No Horses Speak Hebrew” –
In this sentence, so easily, I breached Hanna Goldberg‘s copyright. According to Goldberg, the mere expression of that sentence in Hebrew, a portion of a popular song she wrote, was breached multiple times. This sentence is a fact, not only an artistic creation, and became an idiom in Hebrew with the same popularity as “Can’t see the forest from the trees“. The fact has some literal value, but should it be copyrighted? Should an expression be protected if it had the most minor creativity in one song? I think differently than Goldberg.
If Goldberg had its way, expressions such as “The people broke their leg” (a popular Hebrew slang) would be one big copyright infringement. Saying, just like that, while walking in the street “The Bird Has A Nest”, a popular Bialik song, would have infringed his copyright, mythological bars such as the Jerusalem Stardust and the Tel Aviv Breakfast Club would have been shut due to copyright infringement. Innovation is based on mockery, copying and recycling.
6. Here I am, copying you
Nimrod Barnea asked, and usually I don’t do ordered posts, but the problem is that he nagged so much that it would have taken me more time just to wave him off. The problem nowadays is that so many people who are close to artists fail to see that this struggle goes against them. They, as popular culture consumers, have nothing to do with copyright.