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Israel: Contracts Concluded for Book Publication Before Digital Era Do Not Extend to E-Books

(July 15, 2015) On May 19, 2015, the Tel Aviv District Court issued a declaratory judgement recognizing an heir’s rights to publication of a work created by her spouse’s father in an e-book format. Exclusive rights of publication of the work in a single book form had previously been transferred to the respondent, based on a 1967 agreement with the original author and a subsequent 1986 agreement with the author’s wife. (File 40561-03-12 DC (TA) Damiel v. Aluf (May 19, 2015), NEVO LEGAL DATABASE (in Hebrew, by subscription).)

According to Judge Gideon Ginat, when the parties signed the agreements they could not have envisioned the possibility of the development of digital technology and the options it could offer (Id. ¶ 6.) Ginat determined that there is a substantial difference between a printed book and an e-book. The parties to the agreements expressly limited their application to print media. The parties also agreed to a one-time compensation that did not depend on the number of copies that would be published or distributed. Such compensation, Ginat held, “surely could not take into consideration digital means of publication of a book that will come to light only with the passage of light-years.” (Id. ¶ 15.)

In reaching his decision that the exclusive publication rights of the work in book form did not extend to e-book format, Ginat further commented that considering the experience of the respondent in the publication of books, he “could have resorted to legal advice … on the possibility of the future creation of new means of publication that might be relevant to the agreement between him and the creator [of the work].” (Id.)