Rivlin apologizes for unauthorized use of photo agency’s picture
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Rivlin apologizes for unauthorized use of photo agency’s picture

President admits to impropriety, welcomes ‘important struggle,’ after Flash 90 says at least 20 lawmakers infringed copyright by using screenshots of images of themselves

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Selfie time! Knesset member Itzik Shmuli holds the camera as he takes a selfie with Reuven Rivlin, center, and Meir Sheetrit during Tuesday's presidential voting (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Selfie time! Knesset member Itzik Shmuli holds the camera as he takes a selfie with Reuven Rivlin, center, and Meir Sheetrit during Tuesday's presidential voting (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

President Reuven Rivlin apologized Monday for inadvertently infringing upon copyright laws by using an image from a photo agency without receiving the required permission.

Admitting to using an unauthorized photo via his social media accounts, Rivlin used the opportunity to lend his support to the “important struggle” for recognition and fair treatment of photojournalists.

“Today, in the era of the internet, copyright claims are hard to enforce — it’s incredibly easy to download images from the internet and use them, as it never was before. However, every image has an owner, the photographer, and it is their craft and livelihood,” Rivlin wrote on Facebook.

“I want to thank the talented photographer Gili Yaari who made me aware of the fact that also on my own Facebook page we have erred on one occasion in this regard,” the president admitted. “I want to put my support behind him and his colleagues in this important struggle.

In November, Flash 90, an Israeli photojournalism agency used widely by media in Israel (including The Times of Israel) and abroad, contacted the Knesset House Committee claiming that numerous lawmakers had infringed upon its copyrighted materials.

Flash 90 complained that at least 20 lawmakers, from across parties, had used dozens or even hundreds of its images illegally on social media and elsewhere, Globes news reported.

Israeli law awards rights for images to the photographer, or the agency they work for. According to the report, MKs had taken screenshots of photos in which they had appeared and shared them widely.

The maximum fine for copyright infringement on photos is NIS 100,000 ($28,500) for each image used. Flash 90, like many other photo agencies, makes use of computer software to search for unauthorized use of its images.

Likud MK Yoav Kisch, who heads the House Committee, reportedly turned to various legislators to find a loophole to retroactively justify the use of the photographs. However, failing to do so, he said he was looking to change the law to allow the photographs to be used.

He said Sunday that he wants to modify the existing law to allow screenshots of photographs to be included under fair use, provided they are not used for commercial purposes.

It is unclear how such a law change, which has not yet been presented to the relevant committee, would mitigate the existing claims from Flash 90.

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