From Maimonides to Microsoft

The Jewish Law of Copyright Since the Birth of Print

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Neil Weinstock Netanel
  • Oxford, England: 
    Oxford University Press
    , January
     2018.
     336 pages.
     $29.95.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780190868772.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Description

Jewish copyright law is a rich body of jurisprudence that developed in parallel with modern copyright laws and the book privileges that preceded them. Jewish copyright law owes its origins to a reprinting ban that the Rome rabbinic court issued for three books of Hebrew grammar in 1518. It continues to be applied today, notably in a rabbinic ruling outlawing pirated software, issued at Microsoft's request.

In From Maimonides to Microsoft, Professor Netanel traces the historical development of Jewish copyright law by comparing rabbinic reprinting bans with secular and papal book privileges and by relaying the stories of dramatic disputes among publishers of books of Jewish learning and liturgy. He describes each dispute in its historical context and examines the rabbinic rulings that sought to resolve it. Remarkably, the rabbinic reprinting bans and copyright rulings address some of the same issues that animate copyright jurisprudence today: Is copyright a property right or just a right to receive fair compensation? How long should copyrights last? What purposes does copyright serve? While Jewish copyright law has borrowed from its secular law counterpart at key junctures, it fashions strikingly different answers to those key questions.

The story of Jewish copyright law also intertwines with the history of the Jewish book trade and with steadfast efforts of rabbinic leaders to maintain their authority to regulate that trade in the face of the dramatic erosion of Jewish communal autonomy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This book will thus be of considerable interest to students of Jewish law and history, as well as copyright scholars and practitioners.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Neil Weinstock Netanel is the Pete Kameron Professor of Law at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law where he writes and teaches in the areas of copyright, international intellectual property, and media and telecommunications. Prior to joining UCLA, Netanel served for a decade on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, where he was the Arnold, White & Durkee Centennial Professor of Law. He has also taught at the law schools of Harvard University, Haifa University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv University, the University of Toronto, and New York University. He authored Copyright's Paradox (Oxford, 2008; Paperback, 2010); and he edited The Development Agenda: Global Intellectual Property and Developing Countries(Oxford, 2008).

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