Public policy, technology, and copyright in Halakha: a sourcesheet

Last Sukkot 5771 (2011), Efraim Feinstein shared the sourcesheet for his late night shiur (lesson) on copyright in Rabbinic Halakhah (Jewish law). Efraim’s research adds a great deal of important perspective to our work here on the Open Siddur Project. It provides relevant historical context for our work advocating the adoption of free culture principles and free-culture licenses to facilitate sharing (tachlis) within the Jewish world. . . .

באנו חשך לגרש | Banu Ḥoshekh l’Garesh (We come to chase the dark away), by Sara Levi-Tanai (1960)

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. . . .

Openness, remixability, and free culture (Efraim Feinstein, 2010)

Advocacy for creative works’ freedom represents a paradigm shift in thought among content creators: In a free culture, a premium is not placed on the material as-such or even the particular rights associated with the material. Instead, it is on the users’ freedom, and it is that freedom that is the prerequisite to large-scale creative engagement with educational material. . . .

Preserving Public Domain resources from End User License Agreements in Proprietary Torah Databases

Often we are asked here at the Open Siddur Project why we cannot simply use the digitized texts of the siddur that are available from Davka Corporation. Our instinct was that Davka only granted permission for individuals to use their digitized Hebrew texts under fair use doctrine. To be certain, we sought to find the the text of Davka Corporation’s End User License Agreement (EULA) and failing to locate this information online, friends of the project provided us with the EULA included with the packaging and software installer for a Davka software product: DavkaWriter Dimensions II. From the language of these license agreements, it is clear that the text Davka is providing is not free for end-users to distribute or to create derivative works. Section 4(a) of the EULA reads: “You may not use the texts in the software to publish materials for sale without express written permission from Davka Corporation. Preparation of these texts has entailed considerable effort and expense. They are not shareware, and should be used by no one other than the purchaser.” . . .

Pirate Siddurim vs. Open Siddurim (PresenTense 2009)

Culture hacking either respects copyright or ignores it. One of the pillars of the Open Siddur is its respect of copyright and its attempt to make available a digitized repository of Siddur content that is available for editing, mashups, and remixing, i.e., “derivative works” that may be redistributed without restriction. For example, we want you to have the freedom to take the nusaḥ Ashkenaz, borrow kavanot from the nusaḥ sfard, and piyyutim (liturgical poetry) from the nusaḥ Romaniote; add and edit existing translations of familiar psalms and contribute and share your own translation of obscure piyyutim; share the pdf you build at Open Siddur and give it to an artist to apply an even more beautiful layout than the one we provide; and even redistribute the siddur commercially. . . .


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