בסיעתא דשמיא

באנו חשך לגרש | Banu Ḥoshekh l’Garesh, by Sara Levi-Tanai (1960)

Hebrew (source) English (translation)

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!‏
Tzil-tzil-tzil in the bells,
who are we? – spinning dreidels.
We have one leg,
if we fall – we still won’t fear.
 
Flee, darkness and night!
Flee, before the light!

אָנוּ שׁוֹבָבִים גְּדוֹלִים,
עַלִּיזִים וְהוֹלְלִים –
אַךְ נֵדַע יָפֶה מְאוֹד
לְסַפֵּר, לָשִׁיר, לִרְקֹד.
 
סוּרָה חֹשֶׁךְ, הָלְאָה שְׁחוֹר!‏
סוּרָה מִפְּנֵי הָאוֹר!‏
We’re big mischievous kids,
merry and praise-giving –
but we’ll know very nicely
to retell, to sing, to dance.
 
Flee, darkness and night!
Flee, before the light!

In 1960, Sara Levi-Tanaiׁ (1910-2005) published the now popular Ḥanukkah song and melody Banu Ḥosekh l’Garesh in a songbook, Zemer 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 national state agency (the Center for Culture and Education), the work is arguably in the Public Domain because it was initially published as an official government document of the Israeli Center for Culture and Education, a state agency.

Alternately, insofar as Israeli copyright goes, a work published by an individual 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). A work published in 1960 would remain under Israeli copyright until 2055, (50 years after Sara Levi-Tanai’s death in 2005) after which it would 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.[1]From “Israel: Licensing and intellectual property“, August 21st 2007. Accessed December 8th, 2010

If we allow that Banu Ḥoshekh L’Garesh was not first published as a public government document, then under U.S. copyright law, Banu Ḥoshekh L’Garesh would enters the Public Domain in the U.S. in 2055 (at the earliest) or 2075 (at the latest) but for a different reason. Works published after 1923 would be protected under treaty agreement with fellow signatories of the Berne Convention.[2]see “Copyright Terms and the Public Domain in the U.S..” 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 with the understanding that Banu Ḥoshekh l’Garesh is in the Public Domain owing to it being published as an official government document. 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.

Notes   [ + ]

1. From “Israel: Licensing and intellectual property“, August 21st 2007. Accessed December 8th, 2010
2. see “Copyright Terms and the Public Domain in the U.S..”

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