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.
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:
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?"
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.
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
Don't forget to stop by Menachem Kuchar's photographic exhibition site to look at my latest (and classic) photographs.
Previous essays and articles by Menachem Kuchar: