ragen - Daniel Bar-On - December 12 2011
Author Naomi Ragen. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
Text size

A Jerusalem court yesterday ordered best-selling author Naomi Ragen to pay NIS 233,000 to writer Sarah Shapiro for plagiarizing parts of her work. This is the highest amount ever awarded by an Israeli court to an author for intellectual property infringement.

Yesterday's decision comes in the wake of the Jerusalem District Court's ruling in December that in her novel "Sotah," Ragen had knowingly copied from Shapiro. Ragen's attorney said she would appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court and yesterday Judge Joseph Shapira ruled on compensation.

The plaintiff, who lives in Jerusalem, requested NIS 1 million in damages, but the court granted only 40,000 NIS in compensation, plus court costs and lawyers fees. In addition, the court ordered Ragen to remove the plagiarized passages from any future printings of the book.

Shapiro, who writes in English, submitted her claim against Ragen in 2007. Both writers come from America's Orthodox Jewish community.  In 1990, Shapiro sought Ragen's opinion about her debut novel. The two met; subsequently, Shapiro says she was surprised to find selections from her book "Growing with My Children" in Ragen's "Sotah."

In a 92-page opinion published last December, Judge Joseph Shapira fully upheld Shapiro's claim against Ragen. The court opined that the plagiarism was "tantamount to a premeditated act," saying that Ragen acted knowingly and copied work created by the plaintiff.

The court relied on testimony furnished by Ragen herself. Ragen, the court noted, "testified that work written by the plaintiff served as 'raw materials' for her, and that her method of writing is based on drawing from a 'well' and 'imagination' in ways that include the works of others, including those rendered by the plaintiff."

Shapiro said yesterday that the ruling was wonderful and called it a "moral victory. I understand people who fight for the truth," she added. But Shapiro received less than a quarter of what she had sued for, and her request to remove the plagiarized books from stores was rejected. Also, her claim that large sections of the book were copied was also rejected and the judge ruled that only a limited number of sentences were plagiarized. Shapiro was represented by attorneys Gilad Corinaldi and Talya Grinstein.

Ragen's attorney, Tamir Gluck, of the law firm Lieblich and Moser, said her client would appeal the decision. "A suit of over a million shekels ended after four years of proceedings with compensation for the plaintiff of only 40,000 NIS." She called this just the first-half results and said her client would appeal to the Supreme Court.

Ragen said the Supreme Court would have its say and that while she would get the money back, nothing could make up for the injustice done to her. She called the decision scandalous. "Anyone who has an idea in their head and wants to get publicity or money from a famous author can come with all sorts of claims and the judge will not even read the books and say [you] stole or didn't steal. This shows that as far as literature is concerned I live in a banana republic," said Ragen.

Read this article in Hebrew.