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A Most Humbling, Though Frustrating Experience

I hate getting ripped off. I'm certain everyone does.

If you think about it, it is a humbling experience. It's a wake up call; it's a reminder that you are not really in control; that there is a hand controlling the world, a hand that you do not direct.

This philosphical approach is not an excuse for nonchalance. You have to guard your rights.

Flautist, 17th June, 2005

I have been ripped off more than once, and in more than one way. Here is a story.

Not long before the expulsion of the Gush Katif Jews from Gaza, one Friday night in the synagogue, I picked up the weekly copy of the then four page newsletter called Me'at Min haOr, a "Little Bit of the Light". Each publication features a small, about two inch square, picture or photograph in the top corner. And on this particular week, the very powerful photograph of a Flautist which they featured, was mine! The by-line was "you cannot stop the music" referring to the richness of Jewish life in Gaza.

Not only was the print quality poor, not adequately displaying my artistic talent, but the graphic artist had printed text over a part of the image and had cropped the image.

I spoke to my legal advisors and we faxed the following text to the editors of the newsletter:

10th Tammuz, 5765        

Michal Rozilio, Editorial Coordinator
Hanan Porat, Editor
Meat Min haOr

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you to alert you to a serious legal matter involving a breach of my rights, and monetary damage to my business.

A photograph from my collection of Fine Art Photography, "Actualities in Black & Orange", was printed in your publication last Shabbat. As you surely know, this photograph was published without my permission. In fact, no attempt was made to ask me for permission or to let me know that the photograph would be published.

All of my photographs are protected by copyright under the laws of Israel.

I earn my living by selling photographs. I am damaged whenever one of my photographs is unlawfully copied and published. Unless my written approval is obtained in advance, my photographs may only be published if a publication royalty has been agreed with me beforehand. Numerous publications in Israel and overseas have paid such royalities, in accordance with the law.

In addition to infringing my rights, the reproduction by your magazine is of exceptionally poor quality and therefore further damages my business and my reputation. Please visit my website at to see this photograph as I created it.

I appreciate that my photograph was probably published by mistake. But the matter is a serious one, and I have been advised by my lawyers that unless I protect my rights, I am in danger of losing them. This is a result which I am not willing to accept.

I therefore request your written apology and an assurance that such a breach of my rights will not be allowed to happen again.

Bivracha [With blessings] and looking forward to working with you in the future,

Menachem Kuchar

I received no response.

I guess because we were all involved in the struggle to save the Jews of Gaza, I did not follow up this letter as I should have -- I should have.

Big mistake. If you don't stand up for your rights, then no-one else will, that's for sure.

So I should have not been surprised when I opened the May 2009/Iyar 5769 edition of IsraTimes, the Israel Magazine, published by Elie Rubin. My artist rights were once again violated!

On page 24, in a section called "Religion" [sic] is a segment called "Questions & Answers" by HaRav Shlomo Aviner. The question being answered is, "Is there an obligation to stand for the Prayer for the State of Israel especially after the Expulsion from Gush Katif?"

Tefilin and Prayer Book, 20th June, 2005

Accompanying the article, in what seems to be an irrelevant illustration, appears my, by now, famous, copyrighted, photograph of a tefilin (phylacteries) clad hand resting on a siddur, prayer book.

So I sent Mr Rubin a letter similar in content to the above. I followed it up with emails to him. To no avail. I was totally ignored.

I later noticed in the same edition that the publisher "decided to put a hold on the magazine to allow me time to reassess". Just the other day I saw an announcement that the magazine was about to come out again, this time under the sponsorship of the Association of Americans and Canadian in Israel, A.A.C.I.

As an aside, while I have shown the tefilin-siddur photograph on my websites, I did not publish it in my book, Actualities in Black & Orange. My rabbi, Rav Shabtai Rappaport, advised me not to include it in the printed edition because the very powerful photograph, featuring the prayer beginning "May the Redeemer come to Zion . . . ", shows the four letter name of God seven times. While I told Rabbi Rappaport that I was certain my artwork would be kept forever by anyone acquiring my book, he felt that the possibility of the photograph being destroyed and disrespected, should preclude its publication in printed form.

Tefilin, 30th May, 2005

As a result, probably the best known photograph from my Black and Orange collection is the earlier one, featuring a tefilinned hand surrounded by straps of the head tefillin.

29th June, 2009    

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