Friends, here is a report from Friday’s English language edition of Haaretz, Israel’s most respected newspaper, explaining what the Supreme Court ruling in my favor really means.
Writer Ragen vindicated in plagiarism court deal
by Maya Sela
A compromise agreement that represented an almost total victory for best-selling author Naomi Ragen was reached in the Supreme Court copyright violation suit against her. Then Jerusalem District Court Judge Joseph Shapira [now State Comptroller] had found in favor of author Sarah Shapiro, ruling that Ragen had violated Shapiro’s copyright. Ragen then appealed to the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, however, both women accepted a compromise suggested by the Supreme Court. Under the deal, the District Court’s verdict will be annulled and Shapiro will have to return the NIS 97,000 in compensation that the lower court ordered Ragen to pay her. Ragen, for her part, promised to donate this money to charity, and also promised that any future edition of her book Sotah will exclude 29 sentences that were the focus of the dispute.
In her appeal, Ragen’s attorneys Tamir Gluck and Yaron Hanin pointed to a long list of flaws in the District Court’s verdict. They argued that “the District Court’s pedantic, rigid application of copyright law deals a death blow to creative freedom and the possibilities for authors to create and enrich literary culture.”
“Even William Shakespeare made use of existing elements in his work King Lear,” noted the appeal.
Moreover, it said, the lower court’s verdict “deviated from well-established legal rulings adopted in the enlightened Western world.” For instance, they noted, courts in both Britain and the United State had rejected similar suits against famous authors, concluding that the defendants had made fair use of fragments taken from other works, citing a British suit against Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, and a New York case involving J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame.
“This is a nightmare that has ended,” Ragen told Haaretz yesterday. “I’m very happy that the truth has come to light. What was always important to me was my reputation. I’ve fought so hard for women and against all the distortions in the religious world, so when people accuse me of an ugly act like this and vilify me, it’s a tragic irony.
“Every time my grandson saw in the newspaper that his grandmother was a thief … it’s impossible to describe a feeling like this, when you see how it affects your family,” she continued.
“I knew I was innocent, that I hadn’t done anything against the law, and that every author does exactly what I did. I finally feel as I can continue to use my strength for important things, and to continue my war against all the things the haredi world does to women.”
Just to recap, this is the second time the Supreme Court has overturned a decision by the same judge against me. Both suits were brought by the same lawyer. Details of the first time are here and here and here.
As for the claims made against me by Ms. Shapiro – a haredi woman who wrote a self-help book in which she describes in great detail her abusive behavior toward her children and her repeated attempts to control her violent temper – I can only repeat what I’ve said earlier.
Ms. Shapiro claimed she’d invented such scintillating phrases as “I’m sorry” or “perfectly behaved little angels.” I claimed these were commonplace clichés, and I had a perfect right to use them. But in the spirit of compromise, and in order to put an end to more than twenty years of harassment by her, including leaving messages on my answering machine before Yom Kippur that I would burn in Hell, I agreed. I guess I could write: “Gee, I regret that”, or “amazingly disciplined darlings” instead. As one of the Supreme Court Justices said: “It doesn’t seem like any of those phrases are very important to Mrs. Ragen’s book.”
- These lawsuits were all filed (by the same lawyer) shortly after I began a vocal campaign against the gender-segregated buses (קווי מהדרין) in which women are forced to sit in the back of the bus and I became one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Egged bus company and the Ministry of Transportation demanding that this demeaning practice be stopped.
- The judge who ruled against me twice and whose decisions were both overturned by the Supreme Court was soon afterwards elected State Comptroller (מבקר המדינה) with the full support of all the haredi political parties. A smart career move?