Supreme Court to Rule in Dispute Over News Photo Copyright

Photographer Amir Weinberg will ask the Supreme Court today for permission to appeal a copyright verdict that he says severely undermines the rights of press photographers.

The case involves a medallion designed by sculptor and designer Eliezer Weishoff that bears an image of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The image is based on a photograph taken by Weinberg, who therefore claims that Weishoff violated his copyright. The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court agreed, but in July, the Tel Aviv District Court overturned this verdict.

The photo, taken in 1991 at a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers, was later adopted by the Rabin Center as its logo. In 1998, Norway's official mint asked Weishoff to design a medallion with Rabin's image as part of a series featuring Nobel Peace Prize winners.

The mint told him to design the medal in accordance with the wishes of Rabin's widow, Leah, and she told him to base his design on Weinberg's photo.

In 1999, when Weinberg saw the medal pictured in an advertisement by Norway's mint, he recognized that it was based on his photo and complained to Weishoff, who rejected his complaint. In 2005, he filed suit in the magistrate's court, which agreed that Weishoff used the photo without permission and ordered him to pay Weinberg NIS 65,000 in compensation. But Weishoff appealed to the district court, which overturned the ruling.

The district court said a distinction must be made between a posed photograph and one taken at a public event, which in theory anyone could have shot. In the latter case, it said, use of the photo to create a work of art in another medium cannot be considered a violation of the photographer's copyright. It also said that photos of public figures deserve less copyright protection than those of private individuals.

Weinberg will argue that this ruling violates the Supreme Court's own precedents. Moreover, he said, it unreasonably guts the value of a photographer's copyright - and especially those of press photographers, who specialize in public figures and public events.