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Israeli new copyright law

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The Israeli parliament approved a new comprehensive copyright law on November 19, 2007. This law will be effective from May 25, 2008, and will replace the 1911 British Copyright Act, adopted by the government of the British Mandate of Palestine in 1923, and inherited by the State of Israel in 1948.

The local Wikipedian community and Wikimedia Israel followed the legislation process closely, particularly the new aggravation regarding the copyright period over photographs. According to the old law, photographs have been an exception to the general rule of releasing copyrighted work to the public domain 70 years after the author's death. The old law stated that a photograph would be in the public domain 50 years after its creation; however, the new law regards photographs the same as any other work in this respect.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Justice, this new complication results from the adoption of the WIPO treaty in lieu of the old Berne Convention.

Nevertheless, Wikimedia-Israel managed to prevent the intention to implement the new law retroactively, on any unpublished photograph. Members of Wikimedia Israel attended the parliamentary committee's session dealing with this issue and voiced their discontent. With the help of the Israel Internet Association (ISOC-IL), Wikimedia-Israel managed to contact officials in the Ministry of Justice who were responsible on drafting the law.

While the success is incomplete it is significant - all photographs taken until May 25, 2008 will be subject to the old law. Also, the previous status-quo will continue to apply to state-owned photographs (the equivalent of Crown copyright), i.e. any photograph whose copyrights are owned by the state will be subject to the 50 year period arrangement also under the new law.

The issue was raised by Israeli Wikimedians during the lightning sessions in Wikimania 2007. The discussions that evolved there helped significantly, as they cleared up the international aspect of the issue, particularly the affect of the WIPO treaty over local legislation.

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