Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) is in the advanced stages of preparing a government bill that would compel Internet providers to reveal which users are downloading pirated content, The Marker reported Wednesday. The content providers would then be able to sue home users for copyright infringement.
11 major Israeli content providers who formed the organization Zira (Hebrew acronym for Internet copyrights) have been complaining that existing laws are limiting their ability to stop distribution of pirated content, because today they can only effectively bring to justice providers who operate inside Israel, while enormous distribution resources are available online but off-shore.
Current Israeli law does recognize certain private downloads as copyright infringements, but to date Internet providers are not obligated to reveal information about their customers. According to The Marker, content providers in the US and in several other countries have been allowed by new legislation to force Internet providers to turn in clients who download illegally, and have sued them successfully.
In 2011 the Knesset passed in a first reading a law that combined compelling Internet providers to expose clients who download illegally as well as clients who are accused of spreading libel online. But the bill did not survive the committee deliberations and was put on hold.
Shaked would like the new version to focus on illegal downloads alone, which would mean that even if a user is downloading pirated content from abroad, they can be sued over it in Israel.
Attorney Jonathan Klinger is a fierce opponent of the proposed legislation. “This is a significant and severe violation of the privacy of citizens, as Internet providers would be demanded to expose private information about users,” he told The Marker. He cited similar litigated cases in the US, where, he said, content providers have had to spend as much as $1,000 on litigation to collect $1. “They’ve invested in expensive technologies to prevent infringement but to no avail. In Germany there’s a little more enforcement, but there, too, you don’t really see lawsuits, it’s more like sanctions by the Internet providers.”
Klinger believes the solution is in new models of distribution. The problem is that content providers have yet to change their archaic business model, which is why they require laws to protect them. He noted that wherevr content providers have used creative business models that came from an understanding of the product and the end users, there is no piracy.
“Unauthorized downloads happen when the content copyright holders won’t allow people to enjoy it. They should look for new, creative models.”