Magazine article Information Today

Israeli Court Rules on Help Wanted Case

Magazine article Information Today

Israeli Court Rules on Help Wanted Case

Article excerpt

Imagine that a company has just spent a substantial amount of time and money compiling a database of information on every Israeli company backed by a venture capital investment (a very long list) or every ski slope in Israel (admittedly one of the world's shortest lists). Then imagine that someone comes along and copies that database, word for word. Can you prevent this?

Probably not, especially after the recent Tel Aviv District Court decision in Ma'ariv-Modiin Publishers, Ltd. v. All You Need, Ltd., the first Israeli case to deal at length with the protection of databases of noncopyrightable information. The court held that the Ma'ariv newspaper, including its Web site (http://www.NRG.co.il), did not have copyright of its help wanted advertisements and could not prevent a competitor from copying all of these listings.

Factual Background

Ma'ariv is one of the three largest daily newspapers in Israel. It publishes want ads in its Tuesday and Friday print editions and also on its Web site. All Jobs (http://www.alljobs.co.il), a start-up competitor owned by All You Need, Ltd., also publishes help wanted ads. Its ads, however, are copied from the listings in Ma'ariv, its Web site, and other sources. Ma'ariv-Modiin Publishers, Ltd. (MMPL) sued All You Need, Ltd. to prevent the use of these ads. MMPL's arguments included:

* Passing Off: The AllJobs site states that its help wanted ads are derived from "all the sources" in Israel. Because MMPL is a significant publisher of such ads, it claimed that a user might believe that there was a business relationship between it and All You Need, Ltd. The court rejected this argument, stating that there is little likelihood that a user would be confused between the Ma'ariv newspaper and the AllJobs site because they are different media. As for the Ma'ariv Web site, AllJobs uses a distinctly different URL, a different design, and does not imply any relationship with Ma'ariv. Also, All Jobs contains only help wanted ads, while the Ma'ariv site contains listings on many different topics. The court concluded that there is no reasonable likelihood of confusion.

* Copyright Infringement: MMPL claimed that its ads fell under the newspaper's copyright because it invested significant effort and money in collecting and publishing them. The court was easily able to dismiss this argument, stating that the information in the ads are facts (data), which are not protected under Section 7B(4) of the Copyright Ordinance.

Israeli law is similar to U.S. law. The 1994 Israeli Supreme Court case of Interlego A/S v. Lines-Exin Bros S.A., for example, explained that there were two approaches to copyright protection in common law countries. In one approach, copyright is granted due to the "sweat of the brow" theory (i.e., if you work hard to put a work together, you benefit from copyright protection). The other approach awards copyright only if the work reaches a minimum level of originality and creativity.

In the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court case of Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service Co., the U.S. clearly came down on the same side of "originality," holding that a company could copy the contents of a competitor's telephone directory because telephone listings organized alphabetically show no creativity. Similarly in this case, the Israeli court held that the help wanted ads showed no creativity and were not protected by copyright.

The Israeli court, however, analyzed this case in a different way than some comparable cases in the U.S. Throughout the case, it focused on the rights of those placing the ads and looked at it from their perspective. In the copyright argument, for example, the court stated that if anyone would benefit from copyright protection, it would be the party that placed the ad--not MMPL. Many U.S. courts would probably not have made that distinction (although the recent case of Nautical Solutions, Inc. v. Boats. …

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