Employer’s Ownership Rights to an Employee’s Creation
In Tel Aviv Museum vs. Gadi Sproket et al. the Tel Aviv district court heard a lawsuit relating to a film made by the Defendants while Defendant no. 1 (“Sproket’) violated his terms of employment as a security guard of the Museum.
According to the undisputed facts, Sproket served as a security guard in the Museum stationed in the control room. During one of his night shifts Sproket let Defendant no. 2 (“Faber”) into the Museum after hours. Faber, a friend of Sproket is an artist who was in the process of creating a film critical of museum halls. The Defendants proceeded to film Faber, using the Museum’s security cameras, interacting with the artifacts in the exhibition halls.
The Museum filed a lawsuit requesting a permanent injunction against screening the film.
In dismissing the lawsuit Honorable Judge Ronen presiding over the case first denied the Museum’s allegations that the screening of the film would defame it. It held that any weakness to the museum’s security and/or damage to the museum’s reputation already occurred when this incident was made public, which the Museum did not try to prevent.
The court also held that the mere fact the film was made while breaking the law was not in and of itself enough to prevent the screening of the movie. While the Museum may prevail in criminal or monetary claims, there are no sufficient grounds for limiting the screening of the artistic expression which falls under the protection of the freedom of expression.
Lastly, the court addressed the Museum’s argument that it owns the movie and all the rights to it under the Copyright Act. The Copyright Act provides that if a work was created during the course of employment, then that copyrights in the work will belong to the employer.
The court held that the term “during the course of his employment” does not only refer to the time frame (at the time of employment) made but also to the purpose of the creation. To this extent, a work will only be considered made during the course of employment if it was made for the employer’s purposes. If created during the term of employment but not for the employer’s purposes, then the rights to the creation would not belong to the employer but rather the employee who created it. Here, not only was the film made without the Museum’s request but it was made without the Museum’s knowledge. Even without accounting for Faber’s role in the work (as a non-employee) it is clear that the film was made in direct conflict with the employee’s duties towards the employer, and therefore the Museum cannot prevail in claiming that it was done “in the course of employment”. The court added that that the fact that the Defendants made use of the Museum’s security equipment is not sufficient to consider the film as made during the course of employment.
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