Visiting Professor Miriam Bitton Speaks at the International Law Lecture


Professor Miriam Bitton presented her lecture "Copyright 'Originality' from a Theoretical and Comparative Perspective: From Feist to Qimron" at Miami Law on Tuesday as part of the International Law Lecture Series, sponsored by the International Graduate Law Programs.

Dr. Bitton is a law professor at Bar-Ilan University School of Law in Ramat-Gan, Israel and currently a visiting professor at Miami Law. She writes and teaches in the fields of intellectual property law, law and technology, and property.

During her lecture she discussed copyright in general and analyzed the decision and importance of the 1991 United States Supreme Court case Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co. which established that information alone without original creativity cannot have copyright protection, and the controversial 2000 Israeli Supreme Court case Qimron v. Shanks which applied copyright protection to Elisha Qimron's translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Bitton explained that any expressive work such as visual art, performing art, and written expression are copyrightable, while ideas, facts, and information are not. In the Feist case, the publication company copied nearly 4,000 entries from the Rural Telephone Service Company's directory after Rural refused to license the information. Rural alleged copyright infringement and sued Feist.

Bitton found the Feist case particularly interesting because "until 1991, it was not clear in the United States if factual compilations were protected," she said.

The 4,000 entries were facts arranged in alphabetical order, therefore, the Supreme Court ruled that it did not meet the standard for creativity and was not original, consequently making it not copyrightable.

In Qimron v. Shanks, Bitton explained that the Qimron did not discover or write the Dead Sea Scrolls himself but he did spend 11 years deciphering and piecing together many small pieces of the scrolls and completing an estimated 130 lines of missing text. Hershel Shanks and other editors of the Biblical Archaeology Review published an edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls including Qimron's deciphered text without attribution.

Bitton openly questioned whether the Scrolls should have received copyright protection because they were written thousands of years ago; Qimron did not create them; and they were technically the property of Israel. Ultimately she decided that this case was not about money but about recognition explaining that Qimron was upset that he wasn't given credit in Shanks' publication.

"People care about attribution. [The work] is my baby, my creation, my finding. I should be credited with attribution," Bitton said.

Director of the International Graduate Law Programs, Jessica Carvalho Morris, said "today's talk was very interesting as Professor Bitton engaged the audience in a comparative analysis of decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Israel on issues of copyright. These are very current issues and our students greatly benefit from the discussion."

The next International Law Lecture will take place on October 25. For a past listing of lectures from the International Law Lecture Series, click here.