What Law Applies to Relationship Between Copyright Joint Owners

On 19th of September 2011, the Central Distircit Court issued its decision in Kabali v. Reches Publishing Educational Projects Ltd. The court discussed what was the law to be applied on a relationship between joint owners in a copyrightable work – Kabali, the Plaintiff, the author of grammer books, and Reches, the defendant, a publishing house to which half the copyright in Kabali’s works. Kabali argued Reches infringed on her copyrights and Reches argued there was no copyright infringement rather a contractual dispute between the parties.The court found that the parties were indeed joint owners of the copyright in Kabali’s works.

Kabali's grammer book published by Reches

The defendants argued that joint owners in copyright cannot, by definition, infringe the copyright in the work. The plaintiff thought they could. The court…

citing Kastner v. Yiprah (Haifa District Court, 1 April, 2011, Not Yet Published) stated that between joint owners to copyrighted works generated within a partnership, the provisions of the Chattels Act, 1971, should be applied. If the joint owners do not have a written agreement, then the provisions of the Land Law, 1969 will apply. The Kastner court stated that the reasonableness of the use of the work must be looked at in view of the objection to such use, in view of the various protected interestes of the partners and the general duty which is applied to them to act in good faith.

While the Kastner court discussed works which were authored by both parties, in the instant case, Kabali assigned half her rights to Reches. Kabali argued that since the agreement between the parties limited Reches’ rights the ownership was not joint. The court disagreed. The court said that when the parties have an agreement (as opposed to the Kastner case) the court must first turn to these agreements and determine if those were breached. Thus, the question was one of contract law and not of copyright law and the plaintiff was not entitled to claim statutory damages for copyright infringement.