In 1998, Microsoft petitioned a rabbinic court in Bnei Brak for a ruling that commercial piracy of software violates Jewish law. The court’s curt one-paragraph ruling proclaims that rabbis have ruled on similar questions since the dawn of print.
Professor Neil Netanel, the Pete Kameron Endowed Chair in Law at the UCLA School of Law, explores this and more in his new book, “From Maimonides to Microsoft: The Jewish Law of Copyright Since the Birth of Print” (Oxford University Press). Netanel places Jewish copyright law in the context of the Jewish book trade and describes the precariousness of Jewish communal autonomy and the influence of modern copyright law and of secular and papal book privileges on key rabbinic rulings.
Peter Menell, Koret Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, described the book as “a fascinating archeological journey revealing how 'the People of the Book' came to balance protection for printers and authors with competition. Netanel has unearthed, made accessible and illuminated a trove of rabbinic materials tracing moral, human, religious and economic foundations of a Jewish law of copyright.”
Netanel, who joined the UCLA Law faculty in fall 2004, teaches and writes in the areas of copyright, free speech, international intellectual property and telecommunications law and policy. Previously, he served for a decade on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, where he was the Arnold, White and Durkee Centennial Professor of Law. From 1980 to 1981, he was Assistant to the General Counsel of the State of Israel's Environmental Protection Service. He also practiced law in Los Angeles and Tel-Aviv. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1976, his J.D. from UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law in 1980) and his J.S.D. from Stanford University in 1998.
Netanel's other recent books and book projects include “Copyright’s Paradox” (Oxford University Press, 2008); “The Development Agenda: Global Intellectual Property and Developing Countries” (Oxford University Press, 2008). In addition, “The Battles Over Copyright: What Everyone Needs to Know” is scheduled for publication later this year by Oxford University Press.