Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The State of Music Industry Lawsuits in Israel

Copyright Infringed Material is Readily Available

Despite being close to a first world country in technology and quality of life, Israel still acts like a third world country in certain less savory senses.

One of these is the huge government interference in business, high taxes, and so on. Another is widespread availability of illegally copied media. Israel has a systemic problem of copyright infringement.

Copied DVDs, CDs, and cassettes are available not only in the open air markets and back rooms of small stores, but in front store displays of numerous stores around the cities and in the major bus stations. It is simply inconceivable that the authorities don't know about this; it's not at all hidden.

I don't buy these goods, although I accidentally bought one or two before I realized that they were infringed material.

This is not because I think my buying the original goods is a better moral choice. I don't have any wish to support the music industry whom I think are the real thieves, bullies, racketeers, monopolists, thugs, and essentially one of the greatest dangers to creative expression and cultural heritage in the world today.

Nor do I think any artists would suffer by my buying these copies, because my alternative is to not buy anything at all - I believe in the interchangeability of all things, and couldn't care less what music is on my stereo or what shows I'm watching, so long as they have value. There are so many to choose from, that I can always find something just as worthwhile at a lower price.

No, I don't buy them because the infringed goods are generally poor quality, come without the benefits of the original goods, such as liner notes, lyrics, and pictures, support criminal activities (probably including terrorism, as much of the infringing material comes from nefarious sources, or so I've heard), and lower Israel's good standing in the world business community.

Online Copyright Infringement

I don't feel the same way about copying songs online, although I did once. I recognize that it is still illegal, but I don't support that law, and would like the law to be radically curtailed or erased. The copyright laws were written to protect the business model of the production and distribution of media containers, not the media itself. I believe that artists need incentives to produce, but modern technology has made this business model obsolete without resorting to turning back time on technology, destroying future access to our common cultural heritage, and having to be propped up with an ever growing industry of arcane and needless laws.

I am in favor of providing incentives; I don't think that they should be based on the idea of restricting copies. There are plenty of other business models that also work.

Nevertheless, it is still illegal as of today. I just don't think it's immoral; or rather, no more so putting your larger than average 13 year old in the front seat when the law says that only 14 year olds may sit in the front.

Any lawsuits from the music industry in Israel, yet?

The Israeli version of the RIAA is the IFPI, whose entire goal in life is to protect against copyright infringement. I found two Israeli lawyers on Recording Industry vs the People's latest directory of lawyers willing to defend against the music industry lawsuits: Jonathan Klinger and Yoram Lichtenstein. I wrote to them to find out.

Jonathan's answer:

As far as i know, Israeli file sharers have yet to be sued in Israeli courts. The only suits which were filed were against the Israeli file sharing sites and were dismissed after a settlement agreement was signed. However, several statements regarding the possibility of suing Israeli file sharers were stated already.

There are a few bodies which sue on behalf of Recording Artists, depending on the right that was breached.

Jonathan pointed me to two news articles (in Hebrew):

Article describing eventual intent to sue file sharers
Article describing the lawsuits against the file sharing sites

Jonathan has a Hebrew blog that deals with Israeli legal issues.

Yoram has a website. He represented at least one of the file sharing sites, trying to claim that Israeli copyright law was based more on the Canadian rather than the U.S. model.

He directed me to this article (English) by an Israeli artist who slammed the RIAA and their ilk for treating customers like criminals and burying their head in lawsuits rather than face up to the real problems of the music industry: high prices and poor selection.

If the RIAA keeps on suing file swappers, undoubtedly some people in Israel will eventually be hit. As usual, it will cause some people inconvenience and do nothing to stop copyright infringement, which is rampant in the streets, protect the artists, or even boost the music industry's sales.



Sitora Nekto said...

Wow! I feel privileged! I'm first who has comented a such great site! Nice stuff!

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thanks, Sitora.


Anonymous said...

just take a walk in China Town in New York and you'll find any movie, music DVD or CD or whatever ( name watches, designers' bags, jeans and what have you - all fake and illegal. What you stated about the awareness of the authoriries in Israel apply also to the American ones. I'm a regular visitor of NY and this has been going on for decades. So why wan't you concentrate on the mighty and big US instead of picking on a small country like Israel?

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Um, because I live in Israel? And no one else has written about it, while plenty of people write about the US?