How Jewish Law Came to Recognize Copyright

Aug. 23 2016

In From Maimonides to Microsoft: The Jewish Law of Copyright since the Birth of Print, Neil Netanel explains how the invention of the printing press led rabbinic scholars to devise a concept of intellectual property, and how this concept has developed in halakhic thinking since then. Roberta Rosenthal Kwall writes:

Netanel’s book . . . demonstrates how the halakhah of copyright has been influenced by historical and cultural factors operating both within and outside the Jewish community. As Netanel tells it, rabbis in Rome issued their first known ban on reprinting books in 1518. In some ways, the earliest bans mirrored the papal bans and secular book privileges then in vogue. (The book privileges allowed recipients a monopoly over the printing and publishing of a book for a designated period of time.) . . .

In fashioning their bans, however, the rabbis . . . drew heavily from traditional Jewish sources. . . . This influence is evident in the first ban’s emphasis on talmudic injunctions against encroaching on another’s livelihood. (The secular book privileges, by way of contrast, emphasized the sovereign’s discretion to reward deserving subjects.) . . .

[Nevertheless], the rabbinic ban represented, according to Netanel, a “bold halakhic innovation.”

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More about: Halakhah, Jewish history, Law, Religion & Holidays


The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media