Israel: Copyright In Architectural Works

Intellectual property of architects vs owners' property rights
Last Updated: 14 January 2019
Article by Iyar Stav

A conclusion reached from the 2007 Copyright Act is that architecture is perceived, at least by the legislator, as a kind of an art. "Architectural work" counts, alongside "sculpture", "painting" and "photography," as various examples of the term "artistic work". However, a deeper reading indicates that the law discriminates between architectural works and their authors, and other artistic works and, in fact, any other kind of works mentioned in the Copyright Act.

For instance, in contrast to the prohibition against copying without explicit permission, which applies to any other kind of works, anyone may copy an architectural work that is located in a public space, by means of photography, sculpture, and so forth. Likewise, the law allows the use of architectural work or its design to rehabilitate or reconstruct a building – the object of architectural work. Moreover, while copyright infringement in relation to other kinds of works allows the claimant (in many cases) the right to obtain an order to demolish illegal copies, copyright infringement of architectural work does not grant the claimant the right to obtain an order to demolish the building which infringes the claimant's copyright.

It isn't hard to understand why the law limits the scope of copyright with regard to buildings, let's say in relation to sculpture or painting. After all, before the building constitutes an architectural creation, it is a useful product, a property with high economic value, and an object of interest to many factors – interests frequently perceived as stronger than those of the copyright owner. This perception has even filtered down into the courts in Israel (and the world), who tend to reject infringement claims regarding architectural work, as opposed to cases in which copying of other types of works are claimed.

Thus, as if the limited scope of copyright awarded by law to the architects as authors of the architectural works weren't enough, in the existing framework of contracts with public bodies, architects undertake to transfer their copyright to the client and are left without protection. Thus the architect loses the advantage granted to all freelancers by current copyright legislation, which determines that the first ownership of the copyright of a commissioned work is that of the author and not the client, unless otherwise agreed.

As consolation for the architect, it should be noted that the sale of a copyright does not constitute the loss of moral right in a work. After all, this right is personal and cannot be transferred, requiring that credit be granted to the author "to the extent that is appropriate for the circumstances of the case" and may, in certain circumstances, give them the right to protect the work from significant change that could damage the author's dignity or reputation.

Similarly to copyright, the validity of the moral right is limited to 70 years from the death of an author, and, being the architect's last line of defense, it constitutes a bone of contention in most legal disputes regarding architectural works.
However, as in the case of Attia versus the Tel Aviv Municipality, in a precedent ruling dealing with the moral right of the architect who designed the original plans for the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv, even this line of defense could be fragile, since though the moral right cannot be transferred, apparently it can be waived.

If so, at least in relation to those architects who did not waive their moral right, the question that arises in the courts again and again relates to the scope of this right; under what circumstances and to what extent can an architect prevent (or at least receive compensation for) changes in his architectural work by someone who was hired to complement, improve, or change the original plan? Or – under which circumstances and conditions may such changes be carried out?

When such a question was legally tested, the courts did recognize the moral right of the architect but in many cases ruled that despite the changes carried out in the architectural work, the moral right of the architect was not harmed.

This concept is probably embedded in the preference of the property owner who has the right to the expectation of "doing with it as he pleases, adapting it to his needs and changing taste over time. He does not have to turn to the same architect and is not bound by the concept that birthed the original work." So, for instance, it was determined that the addition of a floor to a building does not constitute a moral right infringement, because, inter alia, it's a "reasonable action under the circumstances" as determined by law. But not in every case: in the matter of Tau versus the Technion, it was determined that an addition to the building that would cover the creative characteristics of the original façade, would constitute an infringement of the moral right of the architect as the original designer of the building.

In contrast, the recent ruling on Cecilia Keidar versus the Hebrew University relates to an architectural work still in the planning stages, but presents a narrow approach to the architect's rights that might have wide implications related to the court's perception of copyright in architectural works. The University hired the architect to design a museum inside an existing building. In the course of early planning stages, the University fired the architect, although she'd already prepared 44 preliminary sketches, hiring another architect to complete her work.

The sketches, including computer simulations, suggested various solutions for division of space, among these the location of the control center, openings and details of finishing materials and colors and, the formulation of a creative interpretation of historical and cultural sources of the museum's content.

The court, who related to the sketches, determined that they did not meet the minimum level of creativity required for copyright protection. They argued that "the design of a building (or interior design) is insufficient to be regarded as a creative work, and that an artistic-original feature is needed, the brainchild of the work's author."

That is, as far as functional planning of division of space is concerned, as opposed to detailed and complete plans expressive of an architect's creative mind, the plans do not get copyright protection because the law protects actual expression of ideas, but not the ideas themselves.

As customary, the contract between the architect and the university stated that the university owns creative rights to the plans, but the existence or non-existence of copyright have a direct bearing on the existence of moral right, as the law determines that if there is no copyright, it follows that there is no moral right.

As mentioned, in contrast to copyright ownership, ownership of moral right cannot be transferred, thus if an architect transfers his copyright, he is still entitled to get credit for his work and to protect the integrity of his work, but in Keidar's case, since there was no copyright protection in plans she'd done, it follows that she had no moral right to them.

Despite not having moral right in the plans, the court related to Keidar's claim concerning compromising the integrity of the plans, determining that the structural changes made to them "do not constitute harm to the nature of the creative work or its quality, and do not harm Keidar's dignity or good name in a way that gives her right to compensation for moral right infringement."

Fortunately for Keidar, she had the sense to include a clause in her contract that requires the university to give her credit for her contribution to the project. This clause in fact provided "through the back door" a contractual right equivalent to the moral right, and once this right was violated, she was awarded compensation and an order that required the university to add her name as a participant in the project.

This verdict did bring about a desired result with regard to the architect, but its statement in relation to architects' copyrights is likely to resonate in similar cases in the future. It is doubtful if a ruling like this would have been accepted with regard to other kinds of artistic works, since – as determined in the case Interlego A/S versus Exin-Line Bros S.A – for a work to meet the requirement of originality, all that is required from its author is that it meet the minimal level of labor and minimal level creativity.

It would appear that this ruling also stems from pragmatic considerations connected to multiple interests in the property, the object of architectural work and the desire to avoid affinity between an architect and a particular property at early planning stages, and to give the property owner the flexibility that would enable him to replace the architect in the course of the planning process. Thus, these considerations to a certain extent justify a restriction on the moral right of the architect involved in the first stages of planning a project, but clearly, in this case, the result is far-reaching.

It should be noted, that in comparison with other countries in the world, Israel is situated in the middle of the scale in terms of the intensity of protection over the architect's moral right. Interestingly, the United States Copyright Law does not grant moral right to the author of an architectural right at all, and in fact, only a short list of "visual works of art" are provided with a moral right similar to the one exists in Israel. The US Law further provides that an owner of a property can make any change they desire in a structure including its demolition, without requiring the consent of the architect that planned it. On the other hand, the copyright protection regime in Europe properly protects the architect's moral right, similarly to other author's moral rights, and even gives priority to the right of the architect over the rights of the owner of the property.
It is reasonable to assume that in Israel as well as in the rest of the world, the conflict of interests between those two parties shall keep occupying the courts.

Therefore, in light of this ruling and its possible negative implications for protecting the copyrights of architects in similar situations in the future, it would appear that instead of non-guaranteed copyright protection, the way to protect architects' copyrights is by means of a contract with the client, similarly to the case described in the ruling.

Published in issue no. 110 of "Architecture of Israel Quarterly"
Translation: Noel Canin

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions