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Rabbi Banet’s Charming Snake


One might not expect Moravia of the 1820s to be a hotbed of copyright litigation. But a major dispute unfolded there, pitting two distinguished rabbis against each other, expressing their disparate views of copyright protection under Jewish law. The two figures in question are Mordekhai Banet and Moses Sofer, each regarded as a Torah giant. Yet their views were absolutely opposed, although each purported to apply existing Jewish law precedent to the matter at hand. Historical investigation reveals a surprising "back-story" at work here. This article investigates the dispute, paying particular attention to the works at issue. It exposits some of the mysterious expression articulated by Rabbi Banet in his dispute with Hatam Sofer, and shows how it developed.

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