Julia Boutros - Reuters
Julia Boutros in 2006. Photo by Reuters
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Several Palestinian and Israeli Arab artists and businesspeople are preparing to start a copyright protection association, with one of the businessmen behind the venture saying that the equivalent Israeli organization, ACUM, doesn't put enough money into encouraging Arab creative enterprise.

"There's no doubt that the success of this project will constitute an important step toward the independence of Arab culture and creativity within Israel," the businessman said.

Some Arab business owners object to giving ACUM, the Israeli association of songwriters, composers and publishers, the royalties for certain Arab songs played at weddings or parties, arguing that some of the artists are anti-Israel. ACUM hands over the fees to organizations abroad representing the artists.

A recent case heard at the Haifa District Court appears to be the motivation for the new copyright protection agency.

In the case, ACUM sued a Haifa events hall owned by two Israeli Arabs for the royalties it says are due songwriters and composers from Lebanon and other Arab countries whose music was played at a New Year's Eve party at the hall.

The hall owners agreed last month to pay the royalties, in effect acknowledging the copyright violation, said ACUM lawyer Namir Qassem.

ACUM says it is acting on behalf of the French group SACEM, the Society of Music Authors, Composers and Publishers, which represents artists including Julia Boutros, an anti-Israel Lebanese composer who promotes Hezbollah.

The plaintiffs argue that the situation is absurd, since it requires the Israeli public to fund anti-Israeli artists and entails those artists going through an Israeli court to get their royalties. But ACUM says such factors are irrelevant.

"Even if ACUM doesn't agree in principle with the content of the creative work, it is fulfilling its legal obligation and the commitments to which it has agreed," the organization said in a statement.