'Seinfeld' no longer a threat to US-Israel relations

Government backs down on Internet broadcasting after US expresses concern about intellectual property.

December 12, 2016 13:46
1 minute read.

The cast of the NBC TV series Seinfeld pose together in 1993. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A standoff between the government and senior American officials over the rights to syndicated TV shows like Seinfeld, Friends and Law and Order came to an end in the Knesset Economics Committee Monday.

At the request of the government, the committee voted to remove an article from the Economics Arrangement Bill that would require free television channels, such as Channels 1, 2 and 10, to broadcast their programming online.

The language was taken out of the bill, which is passed in tandem with the budget, after top US lawmakers and Ambassador Dan Shapiro protested to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and others against the proposal on grounds that it would violate intellectual property laws.

“If the retransmission bill becomes law, we fear it could create unnecessary friction in the important trade relationship between our countries,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Ranking Member Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland) warned. US House Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-California) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-New York) also wrote a letter opposing the measure.

The members of Congress, as well as representatives of American production companies in Israel, argued that the measure would violate existing agreements between the companies and the Israeli channels, which were paying only for the right to show American content on television, not online. As such, the production companies said they would require all the Israeli companies to renegotiate their contracts.

In addition, concern was expressed that the legislation did not require the channels to institute any kind of measures to ensure that people outside of Israel were not gaining free access to the programming.

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