Israeli Author Naomi Ragen Files Appeal Against Plagiarism Ruling

Author was found guilty in 2011 of copying sections of her book 'Sotah'; verdict destroyed her life, lawyer says.

Maya Sela
Maya Sela
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Maya Sela
Maya Sela

Author Naomi Ragen has appealed to the Supreme Court against a judgment finding her guilty of plagiarism.

In December, the Jerusalem District Court found that Ragen had knowingly copied sections of her book "Sotah" from a book by Sarah Shapiro. In her appeal, Ragen's attorney wrote that this verdict destroyed her life. "The ruling branded her as a thief and shattered her honor, both as a person and as a well-known and respected author both in Israel and worldwide," it said.

The appeal also accused the court of "sensationalist" rhetoric that magnified Ragen's offense. Even if the court's findings were correct, it said, an ordinary person reading the verdict's heated language would never guess that her offense consisted of, at most, "transformative use of 29 sentences, which constitute less than 0.18 percent of the work."

Aside from the personal harm to Ragen, the appeal argued, the verdict's stringent approach to intellectual property rights "deals a death blow to artistic freedom and to authors' ability to create and enrich literary culture," while also violating Israeli court precedents and, in some cases, even the language of the law. "These legal mistakes are devastating not only to the appellant, but to authors, creators and artists in general," it charged.

Moreover, it said, the verdict contradicted a plethora of rulings from other Western countries where courts have opted for a far less sweeping interpretation of copyright protection in order to encourage creative work. Among other examples, it cited cases in the United States and England in which similar copyright infringement suits against well-known authors were rejected - one against Dan Brown, author of "The Da Vinci Code," in Britain, and one against J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, in New York.

Attorney Gilad Corinaldi, who represented Shapiro in her suit, responded that the 92-page ruling by Judge Joseph Shapira (now the new state comptroller ) was a comprehensive examination of the case written after four years of hearings that included testimony from many literary experts. And the court unambiguously rejected Ragen's claim that the plagiarism was "unintentional" or "by mistake," deeming this claim unreasonable and lacking all credence, he said.

Corinaldi added that his office is currently working on another copyright infringement suit against Ragen by a different author, Sudy Rosengarten, over Ragen's book "The Sacrifice of Tamar." Hearings in that case, he said, are due to begin in September.

Author Naomi Ragen in 2009. Credit: Daniel Bar--On



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