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Did You Know?

Israel engineers are behind the development of the largest communications router in the world, launched by Cisco.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Report: Israel leads in consumer information freedom

Annual survey by international consumer rights group praises Israel’s legislative and practical approach to information

Israel is the world’s foremost nation in terms of the availability of information to consumers, both de facto and de jure, according to the annual report released by Consumers International (CI), a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting consumer rights internationally.

This year, CI surveyed 48 Western national and several developing countries. Israel was ranked No. 1, followed by Indonesia, India, New Zealand, and the US.

“The organization sees information availability as the most important tool in the advancement of consumer rights,” explained attorney Uriah Yarkoni, who conducted the Israeli survey for the report.

“Intellectual property laws, and to a certain extent privacy rulings, control how information is transferred,” Yarkoni said.

“The basic principle in Western legal systems determines that the public’s right to information begins where intellectual property ends. For example, artists can’t prevent their work from being used in research. This means that the public has the right to use any work in the world for research purposes.”

Israel has intellectual property legislation enacted by the Knesset and is interpreted by the courts, becoming binding – or non-binding – precedents, Yarkoni noted.

“These make up the intellectual property rules in the country. They are well constructed, because until a few years ago there was very little money in Israel and therefore very few lobbyists in the field. Unfortunately, that’s changing,” the attorney observed.

In 2011, Israel did not participate in the survey, but in 2010 the nation was ranked No. 3, despite the lobbyists and the studios. What has changed since then? According to Yarkoni, Israel’s courts have made some “very good” rulings, alongside some “very bad rulings” by foreign courts.

In 2007, Israel passed a new copyright act, which replaced a law that had been based on British legislation from 1911, which was outdated and behind the times on technology.

The CI report addresses this, but not specifically, Yarkoni said.

However, Yarkoni added, there are still a number of gray areas, such as fair use or copying work for backup.

In dealing with these questions, he explained, each country needs to decide whose side it is on – the public and its right to information and free expression, or the copyright holders and their right to property. Israel, he said, has been identified as a country that prefers its citizens over intellectual property holders, which is why it led the list.