Like other global soccer enthusiasts, thousands of Israelis are expected to gather on June 12 as the FIFA World Cup games kick off in Brazil.
They will watch at home, with friends as well as at restaurants and bars.
While the month-long soccer extravaganza might appear to be a great opportunity for small businesses to attract customers who would eat and drink as they cheer on their favorite team (or curse its rival), they could also be walking into a legal and financial landmine.
According to Israeli law, those who wish to display content such as sports or music publicly or commercially must pay royalties or acquire a license from the content owners.
While many restaurateurs may assume they have the right to screen anything from their cable or satellite package at their establishments, their customer agreements with the content providers says otherwise.
“According to the law, commercial use of broadcasts requires permission from the broadcast copyright owner,” said Shir Krispin, spokeswoman for cable provider HOT. “There is no commercial logic in the claim that acquiring a channel at the same price that it is sold to a private user also includes permissions for commercial and public use. It is feigned innocence or ignorance of the law.”
Satellite provider YES’s terms of service were similar.
“YES service does not include the right for public display of any broadcast, as is specifically stated in the YES customer agreement. A business interested in public performance must arrange with the rights owner, whether it screens a soccer game or plays music,” spokeswoman Mirit Cohen said.
Indeed, even playing music at commercial establishments requires a license from ACUM, Israel’s Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers of Music, which collects royalties for musicians.
ACUM charges for playing music at everything from business gatherings to airline flights, sports venues to night clubs.
The laws are designed to protect content creators, whether they be musicians, athletes, movie-makers or political commentators, and ensure they are compensated for their work.
If a company were to rent a movie and then sell tickets to screen it in a large theater, for example, it would clearly need to pay a fee to the people who own the rights.
Attorney Uri Tavor, however, argues that pubs and restaurants are usually small businesses, whose owners may not be aware of the demanding requirements.
There is no one-stop shop for acquiring the rights, and neither HOT nor YES provide commercial subscription packages, in part because the content owners see more profit in doing it directly. With dozens of sports, music and movie channels playing content from a slew of content providers, it’s no easy task to figure out which companies own the rights to what. It could take a sports bar with several television sets dozens of man-hours to figure out who owns the rights to the series of games playing on any given particular night and work out license deals. And what if a customer asks to change the channel? “It’s worth checking, but I think it is very hard to figure out who owns the rights, almost impossible,” Tavor said.