Today is Israel’s Independence Day, and coincidentally, Consumers International published a report ranking countries according to how well their intellectual property laws serve the public. This year, Israel ranks #1.
I’m usually skeptical about these types of rankings because the law is a very complex social phenomenon, but today I’ll stick to Independence Day’s celebratory mood. Still, I’m quite familiar with Israel’s IP laws, and how they compare to those of other countries such as Canada and the US, and I’m not surprised at all by the this report’s result: the public-interest orientation of IP law in Israel is deeply rooted among the judiciary, Parliament, and the legislative process is much less captured by the big-content lobbies. I’ve written a lot lately on fair dealing/fair use and education, so here’s what the Israeli Supreme Court said last summer on fair use and education:
[I]t should be emphasized that it is of utmost important to provide adequate protection for educational institutions, so that they would be able to perform the important mission bestowed on them to enrich and disseminate public knowledge, and educating the next generations of creators. It has been said, specifically with respect to post-secondary institutions, that “the needs of research and teaching necessitate special attitude in order to foster a rich intellectual environment based on academic freedom … . This need has become even more pressing in recent years, in light of technological innovations and subsequent changes in copyright law, which increased substantially the burden on post-secondary institutions … . Without firmly deciding the issue at the moment, the defense of fair dealing might allow educational institutions, under certain circumstances, to use parts of works for the purposes of teaching or research, thus allowing them to perform their important social mandate. This defense had been applied in the case law prior to the enactment of the new Act [the 2007 Copyright Act] … , and specifically enshrined in the s. 19 [of the new Act] … . S. 19 of the new Act specifically provides that on of the allowable purposes is “teaching and examination by an educational institution”
(the case is Hebrew University v. Schoken, here’s a link to the Hebrew judgment).
Israel may also be a live evidence that public-interest oriented IP laws do not deter innovation, but actually promote it. As I wrote in earlier post titled What Can Canada Learn from Israel about Copyright Reform?, Israel is an innovation leader in many areas. This point was made by many others as well, including a recent study by Richard Florida and other UofT colleagues at the Martin Prosperity Institute. Their study finds that Israel ranks first in the percentage of its total economic output devoted to R&D. Florida and his coauthors developed a Global Creativity Index (GCI), comprised of various measures categorized under three Ts: Technology, Talent, and Tolerance. This index provides some interesting comparative insights about Canada and Israel. On the Technology factor, Israel ranks 4 and Canada 11. On Talent, Canada ranks 17 and Israel 20, and on the Tolerance factor, Canada ranks 1 and Israel 66, which puts Canada ahead on the total GCI index at #7, compared to Israel at #24. But still, Israel’s GDP is higher than what its GCI would predict, while Canada’s is lower.
So maybe we can get the winning formula for innovation: combine Israel IP laws with Canada’s tolerance. And this conclusion could also be my perfect birthday wishes for Israel, my country: You’re innovation laws and policies may be admirable and you a lot to be proud of; hopefully you’ll be just as great on tolerance.
Happy Independence Day.