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חנוכה | Is Sara Levi-Tanai’s Banu Ḥoshekh l’Garesh in the Public Domain?

In 1960, Sara Levi-Tanaiׁ (1910-2005) published the now popular Ḥanukah song and melody Banu Ḥosekh l’Garesh in a songbook, Zman Ḥeyn (p.49) by the Publishing House of the Composers’ League in cooperation with the Center for Culture and Education, a state-sponsored program (הופיע בספר/חוברת “זמר חן”, בית הוצאה של איגוד הקומפוזיטורים בשיתוף עם המרכז לתרבות ולחינוך). Published under the auspices of a state program, the work might legally be in the Public Domain.

Whether or not this is indeed the case remains unclear to us. A work published under a non-public entity would have immediately been protected under Israel’s extant copyright laws: the 1953 Copyright Order (Berne Convention) and the 1911 Imperial Copyright Act (signed by the British King George V). Such a work would remain under Israeli copyright until 2055, (50 years after the death of the creator of an artistic work) after which it will enter the Public Domain. Revisions to Israeli copyright made in 2008 do not apply to this song. To quote an article in the Economist on Israeli copyright circa 2007:

Copyright protection is provided (without application) under the Israel Copyright Law and Copyright Ordinance for any original literary or dramatic work for the life of the creator plus 70 years (50 years for musical and artistic works). Separate legislation protects moral rights.

Copyright is the sole right to produce or reproduce the protected work in any material form; to perform, or for a lecture, to deliver the work in public; and for an unpublished work, to publish. Copyright includes translation rights, conversion into, or from, a dramatic work and the making of audio recordings and films. Computer programs in all stages are considered literary works. Exemptions from copyright protection include any fair dealings with works for the purposes of private study, research, criticism, review or newspaper summary. Civil remedies for infringement include injunction and damages, and penal sanctions can be applied in certain circumstances.

Under U.S. copyright law, Banu Ḥoshekh L’Garesh would enter the Public Domain in the U.S. on the same date but for a different reason, since works first published between 1923 and 1978 outside the U.S. by foreign nationals are protected for 95 years after their publication date. If the song was published in the U.S. within thirty days of it being published in Israel, it would be subject to the requirement for a copyright renewal, and lacking that would be considered in the Public Domain in the U.S.

Some might seem surprised that this work isn’t in the Public Domain simply by virtue of the song’s popularity. Translations of Banu Ḥoshekh L’garesh are not uncommon despite the apparent lack of translation rights provided to translators. This all underlines how copyright is regularly ignored in the living practice of creative cultures. And yet, copyright law and the protections it affords are ignored at the peril of a copyrighted work’s remixers, publishers, translators, and other creatives. Both the song and an anonymous English translation are here being provided as an example for this article on copyright under Fair Use.

Each individual contribution to our collective intellectual commons may be small, but together, our contributions will make a tremendous resource for a renewed vibrant living and creative culture. (If you know more about the copyright status of this work or can help us reach out to the surviving descendants of Sara Levi-Tanai to ask there explicit permission to share this work under a Creative Commons By Attribution/ShareAlike license, please contact us).



בָּאנוּ חֹשֶׁךְ לְגָרֵשׁ,‏
בְּיָדֵינוּ אוֹר וַאֵשׁ.‏
כֹּל אֶחָד הוּא אוֹר קָטָן,‏
וְכֻלָּנוּ אוֹר אֵיתָן.‏

סוּרָה חֹשֶׁךְ, הָלְאָה שְׁחוֹר!‏
סוּרָה מִפְּנֵי הָאוֹר!‏

We come to chase the dark away.
In our hands are light and fire.
Each individual light is small,
But together the light is mighty.

Flee, darkness and night!
Flee, before the light!


צִיל-צִיל-צִיל בַּפַּעֲמוֹנִים,
מִי אֲנַחְנוּ? – סְבִיבוֹנִים.
לָנוּ רֶגֶל אַחַת,
אִם נִפֹּל – גַּם לֹא נִפְחַד.

סוּרָה חֹשֶׁךְ, הָלְאָה שְׁחוֹר!‏
סוּרָה מִפְּנֵי הָאוֹר!‏


אָנוּ שׁוֹבָבִים גְּדוֹלִים,
עַלִּיזִים וְהוֹלְלִים –
אַךְ נֵדַע יָפֶה מְאוֹד
לְסַפֵּר, לָשִׁיר, לִרְקֹד.

סוּרָה חֹשֶׁךְ, הָלְאָה שְׁחוֹר!‏
סוּרָה מִפְּנֵי הָאוֹר!‏


From “Israel: Licensing and intellectual property“, August 21st 2007. Accessed December 8th, 2010

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