Naomi Regan Sued for Plagiarism – Again

Sarah Shapiro, an American born, Ultra-Orthodox authoress that lives in Israel, has sued Naomi Regan in a Rabbinical Court for plagiarism.  According to an article in Israel’s leading daily newspaper, Yediot Achronot.  Shapiro is suing for a million dollars, claiming that motifs and lines of dialogue in Regan’s “Sotah” were taken from her book “Growing with my Children”. Shapiro denies that a figure for the damages has been set.

Last month, Michal Tal brought similar plagiarism charges against Regan, see Best Selling Author Sued for Plagarism claiming damages of the same amount.  Although sometimes several plaintiffs making similar claims tend to reinforce one another, in this instance, I suspect copycat charges.

I have read (and enjoyed Sotah) but have not read Shapiro’s work which is currently unavailable. I have approached the author directly requesting that she send me a copy. From Levinson’s article in Yediot and from passages selected by Shapiro and published on an ultra orthodox blog called Cross-Currents,  it appears that unlike Michal Tal who was claiming that Regan basically ripped off plot, characters and essentially the whole fabric of her book, Shapiro appears to claim that the odd sentence of Regan shows similarity to sentences in her book. I would argue that even were Shapiro to prove that Regan was inspired by her motifs and sentences, well so what? The elements in question are subsidiary to the main plot.

From my familiarity with Israel’s copyright case-law, I can’t see the charges sticking. This may be why the charges are being brought in the Rabbinical Courts and not in the district courts. (Ms Shapiro claims to be bringing the charges in the Rabbinic Courts because she is a Haredi). Regan does not need to accept the jurisdiction of the Rabbinical Courts in this issue and need not agree to arbitration. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Israel civil courts will uphold a rabbinical ruling on copyright infringement.

I suspect that, inspired by the Dan Brown case heard in the UK recently, Tal and Shapiro believe that they can make easy money on this. Dan Brown was vindicated, see Author of the ‘Da Vinci Code’ Vindicated Again, and I think Regan will be, at least in the Shapiro case. 

9 Responses to Naomi Regan Sued for Plagiarism – Again

  1. Dick K says:

    You might take a look at the article on Cross-Currents
    http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2007/04/24/naomi-ragen-and-the-plagiarism-case/

    and re-address your comments about “copycat” and “easy money”.

  2. sarah shapiro says:

    Dear Mr. Factor:

    There are some inaccuracies in your report:

    I am not suing for a million dollars. The amount has not been decided yet.

    The reason I am suing in the rabbinical courts first is that I am haredi, and believe that that is the right course to take.

    I would like to ask you to please read the article carefully, and examine the material on the pdf file before accusing me of bad motives.

    My work was plagiarized. I believe it is self-evident.

    Sincerely,
    Sarah Shapiro

  3. The figure of $1,000,000 was mentioned in the Yediot Aharonot article which was referenced in my article. If it is wrong, then I am sorry. I did mention the source.

    I can think of several other possible explanations than plagiarism and thus do not accept Ms Shapiro’s claims of self evidency. My main point is that reworking the odd sentence does not make a novel. I am not convinced that a judge (Dayan or secular) will be convinced to the contrary.

    One of the best classic Jewish novels that has been ignored by academia for political reasons is a novel by Jabotinsky called Samson. It is clearly based on the Biblical story, but is rather longer than the 15 lines of the original. Many of the details that embroider the novel are plagiarized from other bits of the Bible.

    I have indeed read the report that Ms Shapiro posted in Cross-Currents and that Dick-K referenced above. Personally, I think it is innapropriate for someone suing in court (secular or religious) to post his/her position on the controversy in a blog. This is regardless of any Rabbinical dispensations to do so.

    To win in a religious or in a secular court the plaintiff has to convince the judge, since the onus of proof is on the plantiff (Hamotzi mechavero alav haraya).

    Sotah is a big book Ms shapiro. You have quoted two passages that show some similarity. They are not copies. Possibly, they are intentionally reworked by Ms Regan. I do not know. I could create alternative hypotheses. Maybe Naomi Regan read your book and forgot about it, unconsciously borrowing from your creation when writing her book?

    This is not as far fetched as it sounds. I note that the theme of Naomi Shemer’s Yerushalayim Shel Zahav bears a similarity to an earlier song. Lu yehi is somewhat reminsicent of a Beatles hit called Let it Be.

    If you want a Haredi example, let us assume that no Haredi singer would intentionally rip-off a Eurovision song contest winning tune about Gengis Kahn! Clearly the melody was overheard on a segregated bus or something, and it stuck in the sub conscious of Avram Fried or Mordechai Ben David, whoever it was…

    Back to literature:

    For arguments sake only, let us consider a 19th century Haredi author that writes a horror thriller about a monster made of spare parts. Called Finkelstein or some such, the monster in question no-doubt has a number of impressive middos. Anyway, the hypothetical monster raises the hackles of some goyshkeh authoress, called Mrs Shelley, who believed that the Haredi has plagiarized her creation Frankenstein and promptly sues. Now the Haredi author had genuinely never heard of Shelley or Byron. He wasn’t terribly well read you see. He was simply elaborating on the story of the Golem of Prague!

    I’ll give you another example. In the Talmud the legends of Choni haMagil are recorded. In one of them, our intrepid hero sleeps for 70 years and when he wakes up, noone knows him. Now, there is a well-known American short story about a dutch settler called Rip Van Winkle that also went to sleep for 70 years. That story was written by Washington Irving and published in 1819. Was Irving plagiarizing the Talmud?

    In The Midrash Eicha Rabba there is a story about a fox and grapes. The same story is attributed by the goyim to someone called Aesop.

    Now these stories could be examples of plagiarism. It is also possible that one subconsciously inspired the other. It is further possible that two narratives are both based on an earlier source. It is not impossible that two people come up with similar stories totally independently.

    Going back to the Regan-Shapiro controversy. the comments posted by Ms Shapiro in cross-currents could be construed as libel and slander. If she cannot prove all her allegations, Ms Regan could sue for defamation, Rabbinical permission to post the blog notwithstanding.

    Now, it is well known that cartoonists went to the Vaudeville theatres for inspiration. I truly believe (and am putting this original thought into the record here and now) that Bugs Bunny was inspired by Groucho Marx. The carrot is a take on the cigar. If you accept this hypothesis, maybe my second contribution to cartoon yichus (genealogy) will also strike a vein. I seriously believe that the Road Runner was inspired by Harpo.

    Anyway, your further comments are much appreciated and if you send me a copy of the book, I will happily read same!

  4. sarah shapiro says:

    Dear Dr. Factor:

    I would appreciate your correcting the factual inaccuracies in your posted article, as per my comment, above.

    It bears repeating that before arriving at a conclusion, it would be wise, prudent and fair to compare the texts.

    With best wishes,
    Sarah Shapiro
    Jerusalem

  5. There is no factual innacuracy in my article. I mention that Ms. Shapiro is suing for one million dollars. “Lifnei Meshurat HaDin” I will amend the article to state that Ms. Shapiro denies the figure. I cannot take your side as being factually accurate, Ms. Shapiro. Nor for that matter, can I take Ms. Ragen’s. Both of you are subjectively involved. Why not send me copies of the papers submitted to the Bet Din?

    I have not arrived at any conclusions regarding the charges, only that comparing the passages you’ve published in a blog as indicating the alleged plagiarism do not seem conclusive to me. So far I have not been able to locate a copy of your book. You have been invited to send me one. If and when you do, I will read it and draw conclusions regarding the similarities between your work and that of Ms. Ragen. I repeat, the passages you’ve chosen to illustrate your claim do not convince me that you have a case. Of course, in this matter, my view does not count. I hope that the learned judge will be competent in English literature. Indeed, to make sure that justice is done, I suggest that you and Ms. Ragen consider arbitration (Din Torah) before Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, who as well as being a respected Talmid Hacham also has a Ph.D. in English Literature. There may be other competent Rabbis of course. I can think of several rabbis who are also novelists, for example.

  6. sarah shapiro says:

    Dear Dr. Factor:

    I take note that you’ve revised your remarks about this case since I last saw this site, a few months ago.

    To find clarifications of all the points you raise, please see the article which appeared in yesterday’s Friday edition of Yediot Aharanot(in its Lilaot magazine section) by journalist Ronit Tzach.

    With best wishes,
    Sarah Shapiro

  7. Nick says:

    I had a movie review plagiarised. About 30% of the material. How does one determine the value that should be sued?

  8. Russell says:

    Any family tree produces some lemons, some nuts and a few bad apples

  9. mamamaven says:

    Shapiro won this case in the secular courts recently. So much for not sticking.

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