Qimron Owns Dead Sea Scroll Copyright, Israeli Court Holds
Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that the copyright of a Dead Sea Scroll known as MMT belongs to Elisha Qimron, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Beer-Sheva. Qimron and John Strugnell of Harvard University reconstructed the text from six fragmentary copies. This is the first case in which a court has decided that a scholar owns a copyright when he or she has filled in the gaps of a reconstructed ancient text.
BAR editor Hershel Shanks, the principal defendant in the case, had included a copy of Qimron and Strugnell’s MMT reconstruction in his foreword to A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a 1991 two-volume set of nearly 1,800 photographs of then unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls. The volumes, published by the Biblical Archaeology Society, publisher of BAR, effectively broke the monopoly on the scrolls, which was held by the small group of scholars on the official scroll publication team.
In comments to the Associated Press, Qimron acknowledged that the Facsimile Edition had ended the scroll monopoly, but he added that he has regrets about the access others now have to the scrolls. He said it robbed scholars such as himself of the leisurely pace they once enjoyed. “Now there are a lot of people, and they work in haste to beat each other to publication,” he said. “That’s not proper.”
Qimron sued not only Shanks, but also the Biblical Archaeology Society and two prominent scholars who had worked on the volumes, Professor Robert Eisenman of California State University at Long Beach and Professor James Robinson of Claremont Graduate School. Eisenman and Robinson had strenuously objected to the polemical tone of Shanks’s foreword, but the court said this was not enough to absolve them from liability.
Triumphant in victory, Qimron called the defendants a “gang of international thieves,” according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.
The copy of MMT reproduced in Shanks’s foreword had been widely circulated among scholars (courses were even being taught on the text) and was first published in a Polish journal without Qimron’s authorization. The Polish journal withdrew it from circulation, however, after Qimron objected. Shanks photocopied it from the Polish journal.
The Israel Supreme Court ruling came more than six years after the Jerusalem District Court awarded Qimron a copyright in the reconstruction. That it took such an unusually long time for the Supreme Court to decide the appeal is an indication, according to court observers, of the difficulty and significance of the case.
Although affirming the decision of the lower court, the Supreme Court’s opinion was more careful than the lower court’s in safeguarding academic freedom, according to Dov Frimer, a professor at the Hebrew University Law School, who represented the Biblical Archaeology Society and Shanks in the case. Qimron’s claim of ownership has had a chilling effect on MMT research. In the 1995 edition of the most widely used English translation of the scrolls, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Oxford don Geza Vermes decided not to include a translation of MMT because of Qimron’s lawsuit. In addition, Qimron threatened legal action against two American scholars, Ben-Zion Wacholder, of Hebrew Union College, and Martin Abegg, then of Grace Theological Seminary, who had been working on MMT. Under these circumstances, scholars were sometimes fearful of using Qimron’s reconstruction in their own work.
“In its opinion, the Israel Supreme Court sought to alleviate these concerns,” said Frimer. “Although the court found that Qimron owned the copyright, the opinion implies that a scholarly use of his reconstruction would be ‘fair use.’” The doctrine of fair use did not apply to Shanks’s publication of MMT, the court ruled, because that appeared “without comment, commentary, criticism, or any other reference to its contents … Shanks indicates … that the primary purpose of publishing the reconstructed text was as a protest against the research ‘monopoly’ granted to the international research team.” Because Shanks wished only to put the document before the general public, fair use did not apply.
The court acknowledged the concern that the owner of the copyright of the reconstructed text “will silence scholars who would come to criticize his work, with the claim that they are violating his copyright and thereby mete out a serious blow to the freedom of academic research. One cannot take these claims lightly,” said the court. “We are discussing a conflict of interests which at times stand one against the other—the right of the individual for the protection of his creation against the right of society to continue and achieve on the fertile ground of the past.”
The court indicated that the doctrine of fair use and perhaps other legal doctrines “are sufficient to guarantee the freedom of 017academic research despite Qimron’s copyright in the reconstructed text.”
“In this respect, the court’s opinion met our most serious concerns—the right of other scholars to build on Qimron’s work,” said Frimer.
Qimron interpreted the opinion differently. According to the New York Times, “Qimron said the case had nothing to do with academic freedom and everything to do with the theft of his work. ‘This ruling showed that intellectual property also comes under the commandment: “Thou shalt not steal,”’ he said.”
The Biblical Archaeology Society issued the following statement:
“Although we respectfully disagree with the decision of the Israel Supreme Court, we accept its judgment and will of course abide by it. We never meant to harm Professor Qimron and we don’t believe we have. Nevertheless we congratulate him on his victory and wish him well in all his scholarly endeavors.
“The case took the Israel Supreme Court six years to decide, so it was obviously not an easy one. Our publication of MMT was done in the context of our effort to free the scrolls from a generation of secrecy, an effort that was ultimately successful. Today Dead Sea Scroll research is burgeoning and flourishing. We are proud to have made some contribution to that result.”
Fighting the Good Fight
We want to express our gratitude to the attorneys who worked so tirelessly on our behalf over nearly a decade to defend us in the lawsuit brought against us by Professor Elisha Qimron: lead attorney Dr. Dov I. Frimer, partner in the Israeli firm of Frimer Gellman and Company and adjunct professor at Hebrew University Law School, his partner Joseph B. Gellman, and their associate Yonina Hoffman, as well as our pro bono American attorneys, Daniel Rezneck and Cary Sherman. Our deepest thanks to them all for their valiant efforts on our behalf.
Another Church Located at Underwater Site
Was Aperlae a Pit Stop for Pilgrims?
Archaeologists are trying to figure out why a small ancient settlement on an isolated stretch of coast in southern Turkey once had no fewer than five churches. Between 1996 and 1998, archaeologists isolated the remains of four churches at Aperlae, a town with a 2,400-year-old history that now lies largely submerged under 6 feet of water. A fifth church—measuring about 66 by 33 feet, roughly the same size as the others—was discovered this past summer, when teams returned for a fourth season of exploration.
Aperlae was never a large settlement. Even at its peak, in the fourth to sixth centuries A.D., the town probably had no more than a thousand residents—hardly a population requiring five churches. So what was the reason for this proliferation of religious buildings? Robert Hohlfelder of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Lindley Vann of the University of Maryland, who have been leading teams at the site since 1996, think they have an answer. The key, they speculate, lies in Aperlae’s location.
Poised on the Mediterranean in the extreme south of Turkey, Aperlae was part of the ancient region of Lycia. As ships made their way from Italy to Palestine, they typically sailed through the waters of this region; in fact, Lycia was the last landfall before the ships headed south into the open sea. Therefore, suggests Hohlfelder, the town of Aperlae “may have been a way station for pilgrims traveling to and from the Holy Land.”
Pilgrimages were common in the fourth to seventh centuries A.D., thanks partly to the example set by Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine (306–337 A.D.). Toward the end of her life, Helena visited Palestine and financed the construction of churches at sites associated with the life of Jesus. In the centuries that followed, thousands of Europeans set out for Palestine, where they could walk in the footsteps of Jesus. As they sailed to the Holy Land, these pious travelers would have found at Aperlae not only plenty of fresh supplies for their journey, but also, if Hohlfelder is correct, plenty of places to worship, pray and give thanks.
Past explorations at Aperlae have revealed that the waters near the town were teeming with murex snails (see “Six Feet Under,” Strata, BAR 25:03). These snails, which produced a purple dye highly valued by the Romans and other Mediterranean peoples, were probably the linchpin of Aperlae’s economy. As Hohlfelder puts it, “It looks like the city was developed to take advantage of this natural resource.” Although the town probably thrived on the dye industry for several centuries, Aperlae appears to have been abandoned in the seventh century A.D., perhaps in the aftermath of a naval battle off the coast of nearby Finike, where the Arabs won a major victory over Byzantine forces in 655 A.D. Seismic activity in the region later left large parts of the harbor town underwater.
Shake, Rattle and Roll
Can Geologists Keep Masada Safe for Future Visitors?
The Herodian fortress of Masada has stood for two thousand years, offering visitors a breathtaking view of the Judean Desert as it stretches east to the Dead Sea. It also happens to be perched upon a huge fault line in the Jordan Rift Valley—part of a 3,000-mile-long geological depression that extends from Syria to Mozambique.
Two years ago, concerned about the possible effects of an earthquake upon this heavily visited site, Israel’s Nature Protection and National Parks Authority (NPNPA) commissioned a study to determine the stability of Masada’s eastward-facing Snake Path cliff. The timing of the study, which was carried out by a team from the Geological Engineering Group at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, coincided with an NPNPA plan to install a new cable car on the cliff.
As visitors to Masada can see for themselves, the mountain’s cliffs are fractured into hundreds of blocks. While each individual block is very strong, some of them are separated by large spaces, and it is possible that some blocks could be shaken loose from the rock mass by an earthquake. According to Yossi Hodara Hatzor, who led the Ben-Gurion team, the results of a three-dimensional computer analysis indicated that several blocks were at the point of sliding off the rock mass. One of those blocks—weighing 1,400 tons—is just above the old cable car station.
“Only the existing friction of the plane on which the block was resting prevented it from sliding,” said Hatzor. “It was very marginally safe.”
To supplement their computer analysis, members of the Geological Engineering Group rappelled down the mountain face to insert measuring devices along the cliff. As they later monitored the mountain’s response to a seismic event in the rift valley, they noticed movement of up to one millimeter among the blocks.
“When a block is stable, it is not supposed to move at all,” Hatzor pointed out. “One millimeter is a lot of displacement.”
Based on the data from this initial study, the NPNPA determined that, in addition to the boulder above the old cable car station, two blocks along the Snake Path posed a potential hazard to visitors. As a result, the NPNPA hired a contractor to insert huge steel rods into the face of these three rocks. Hatzor called the finished reinforcement job, which was completed last year at a cost of $500,000, “fabulous” and noted that the 60-foot-long steel cables inserted into the rocks are not visible to visitors.
Now that they’ve finished their analysis of the Snake Path cliff, geologists on the Ben-Gurion team have turned their attention to the northern part of Masada, where the remains of King Herod’s fortified palace stand. Hatzor compares the rock beneath the palace to a “pile of cubes.” The pile, he says, “is stable as long as the load is static, but if you start inducing ground motions … then the blocks begin to shake and move away from one another.”
The researchers will use a computer simulation to study the potential effects of an earthquake on the northern palace area based on a quake that occurred in the Sinai region in 1995. Hatzor’s group will then make recommendations for reinforcing Herod’s palace as well.
The research and reinforcement effort at Masada is an expensive one, but Hatzor has no doubt about its long-term value. “We are situated [on] an active fault line,” he says, “and there will inevitably be an earthquake here. It could be tomorrow or 100 years from now. But the monument has stood already for 2,000 years, and it is in our best interest to secure its stability for future generations.”
What Is It?
A. Wall bracket
B. Hat and coat rack
D. Incense scooper
What It Is, Is …
A. Wall bracket.
Perforated at the top (above the bull’s head) to allow for suspension, this 15.5-inch wall bracket probably hung as a religious object on the wall of a sanctuary in Idalion (modern Dali, central Cyprus). The bull in high relief at the top looks out over a black and red pattern along the elliptical body; the outline of a fish can be seen within the bracket’s bowl. Popular throughout the Aegean region during the late Cypriot period (17th to 11th century B.C.), terracotta brackets continued to be produced—through not as prolifically—as late as the 8th to 5th centuries B.C. This particular wall bracket dates to the first Cypro-Geometric period, 1050–950 B.C.
Qimron Owns Dead Sea Scroll Copyright, Israeli Court Holds