The Dead Sea Scrolls Case - Who is an Author?

23(3) E.I.P.R., 128-133 (2001)

15 Pages Posted: 30 May 2006 Last revised: 16 Apr 2017

See all articles by Michael Birnhack

Michael Birnhack

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law


Who is the author of ancient texts that have been carefuly deciphered by living scholars? The Dead Sea Scrolls case exemplifies this question. The Israeli Supreme Court awarded copyright to the scholar, Professor Elisha Qimron. The decision (August 2000) portrays Qimron as the quintessential romantic author and does not shy away from admiring Qimron's work. In fact, it treats him in an almost religious way. By so doing, the decision tilts the understanding of Israeli copyright law from its Anglo-American normative-utilitarian basis towards a labor-based notion. The legal vehicle of this shift is the reinterpretation of the requirement of originality in copyright law. This paper argues that the Court erred in its interpretation of the requirement of originality, an error that has a regrettable cost in terms of freedom of speech, cultural diversity and control over the meaning of knowledge.

Keywords: copyright law, originality, dead sea scrolls, ancient text, romantic author

JEL Classification: K10, K11, K33

Suggested Citation

Birnhack, Michael D., The Dead Sea Scrolls Case - Who is an Author?. 23(3) E.I.P.R., 128-133 (2001), Available at SSRN:

Michael D. Birnhack (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Buchmann Faculty of Law ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv, 69978
+972-3-640-6623 (Phone)

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