It appears that copyright may exist on an effort such as this reconstruction of the text underlying the Wolfenbüttel Manuscript. If so, then I hereby renounce all such rights to the Wolfenbüttel Manuscript.
The following is from the Jerusalem Post, August 31, 2000:
Scholar to share copyright with 2,000-year-old author
By Abraham Rabinovich
JERUSALEM (August 31) - The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that authorship of a Dead Sea Scroll, written 2,000 years ago by the formidable Teacher of Righteousness, is to be shared, in its modern rendering, by a mild-mannered scholar from Ben-Gurion University.
The court upheld a 1992 ruling by then-Jerusalem District Court Judge Dalia Dorner that Prof. Elisha Qimron, in reconstructing the text of a scroll known as MMT, had acquired copyright to the document because of the extensive scholarship he applied to filling in gaps amounting to 40 percent of the fragmented text.
Qimron had sued American publisher Hershel Shanks for infringement of copyright after the latter printed Qimron's reconstruction of MMT in a book without permission and without crediting Qimron.
Shanks, who publishes the popular Biblical Archaeology Review in Washington, argued in district court that copyright belonged to the writer of the ancient text, not to the scholar who deciphered it. Judge Dorner found for Qimron and awarded him the unusually large sum of NIS 100,000 for damages and mental anguish. She also ordered Shanks to pay NIS 50,000 towards court costs and legal fees.
In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Shanks argued that Qimron's reconstruction of the ancient author's words was "discovery" of facts, not a creative act, and was thus not copyrightable under the law.
Supreme Court Justice Ya'acov Turkel, who wrote the decision, did not address the broad question raised by the appellant.
"A decision on the issue before us is based on the specific circumstances of the case, rather than general principles," he wrote. Qimron's reconstruction was not merely "mechanical," said Turkel, but demanded expertise and imagination and was thus indeed an act of creation.
Turkel quoted a 16th Century Jewish scholar, Rabbi Isaiah Halevi Horowitz, who wrote that the theft of ideas was more serious than the theft of money. The other two justices on the panel, Court President Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinish, concurred in the ruling.
Qimron's work involved piecing together tiny fragments and filling in missing sections of the document on the basis of his knowledge of ancient writing style and Jewish law. It took Qimron 11 years to complete his work.
He sent out draft copies of his reconstruction to select scholars before publication for their comments, and a copy reached Shanks, who was waging a campaign against the slow publication of the scrolls. He proceeded to publish MMT without asking Qimron's permission or crediting him for the reconstruction.
In his appeal, Shanks argued that Dorner's ruling posed a threat to academic freedom in that it granted monopoly rights to an individual scholar regarding cultural material that is the heritage of the Jewish people. Justice Turkel acknowledged that this argument could not be summarily dismissed. It was necessary to find a balance, he said, between the entitlement of an individual scholar to the fruits of his research and the rights of society to access this research.
The scroll consists of a letter from the leader of the Dead Sea Sect to an unnamed personage in Jerusalem, apparently at the pinnacle of mainstream Judaism, outlining the differences in Jewish law that divided them. It is thus one of the most important of the scrolls unearthed at Qumran.
Shanks's attorney, Prof. Dov Frimer, said after the ruling that it was "a deliberately narrow decision that avoided creating broad legal principles."
He said there was tremendous interest in the case among academic circles abroad. Judge Dorner's decision in district court had created a precedent, that can be cited as such in courts abroad, by saying that copyright can apply to a reconstructed text.
Attorney Yitzhak Molcho, representing Qimron, said that while yesterday's ruling did not go beyond Dorner's on the issue of academic copyright it did have implications for copyright in the technical sector.
"There's a signal here, low-key," said Molcho. "Courts in Israel are very close to innovations in technology. Today in the US you have cases like Napster and others which appear to weaken the doctrine of copyright. Now, you have the Israeli Supreme Court, basing itself on a dispute about a 2,000-year-old document, saying 'copyright must prevail'."
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