Friday, June 29, 2007

Is Copyright Infringement Lo Tignov? Lo Tachmod? Or Something Else?

That is the post on William Patry's blog. Which is relevant in terms of hyperventilating people yelling borrowing tunes and remaking them as Jewish songs is a violation of "lo signov." Halacha is halacha, it is not subjective, and you don't get to just make it up to suit your subjective opinion. An excerpt from his post:
In Judaism, a different source is looked to address copyright issues, hasagut gevul ("infringement of boundary"), a form of trespass originally, and found in Sefer Devarim, Parsha Shoftim (19:14), which admonishes: “Do not move back the boundary of your neighbor.” See generally, The Principles of Jewish Law 344–345 (Menachem Elon ed., 1975, Encyclopedia Judaica, Jerusalem) and earlier post here for a quote from Elon). Elon also refers to a later recognition “of a full legal right in respect of one's own spiritual creation.” Id. at 346. See also Adin Steinsaltz, The Essential Talmud 78–79 (1992) (discussing copyrights granted by various European communities in the mid-18th century for the printing of the Talmud and disputes that arose).

My former colleague at Cardozo, Rabbi David Bleich, has written that in the very early rabbinic literature, the issue discussed was attribution of authorship rather than proprietary rights in the words spoken (it was an oral tradition at the time). See David Bleich, 2 Contemporary Halakhic Problems 121-131 (1983). Thus, in the Mishnah Pirkei Avot (6:6), in discussing the 48 qualities of character that permit one to understand Torah, one necessary quality is

"repeating a saying in the name of the one who said it. For you have learned this: Whoever repeats a thing in the name of the one who said it brings redemption to the world, as it is said: And Esther said to the king in the name of Mordechai (Esther 2:22)."
Check it out.


(A copy of the Mona Lisa by Mike Gorman, 1974. Mike ought to be ashamed of himself! The picture on top is of Ghengis Khan.)

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