Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that the copyright of a Dead Sea Scroll known as MMT belongs to Elisha Qimron, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Beer-Sheva. Qimron and John Strugnell of Harvard University reconstructed the text from six fragmentary copies. This is the first case in which a court has decided that a scholar owns a copyright when he or she has filled in the gaps of a reconstructed ancient text.
BAR editor Hershel Shanks, the principal defendant in the case, had included a copy of Qimron and Strugnell’s MMT reconstruction in his foreword to A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a 1991 two-volume set of nearly 1,800 photographs of then unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls. The volumes, published by the Biblical Archaeology Society, publisher of BAR, effectively broke the monopoly on the scrolls, which was held by the small group of scholars on the official scroll publication team.
In comments to the Associated Press, Qimron acknowledged that the Facsimile Edition had ended the scroll monopoly, but he added that he has regrets about the access others now have to the scrolls. He said it robbed scholars such as himself of the leisurely pace they once enjoyed. “Now there are a lot of people, and they work in haste to beat each other to publication,” he said. “That’s not proper.”