A Public Domain Rashi

As it turns out, the Rashi on sefaria.org is public domain.  According to their blog post “Rashi in English“,

Sefaria is very fortunate to receive pro bono counsel from Simpson Thacher and our amazing intellectual property attorneys were able to help us in our effort to determine the status of the Silbermann Rashi’s copyright. Since the translations were published in the UK in the 1920s and 1930s, their copyright status is controlled by the UK Copyright Act of 1911, which established the length of copyright as the life of the author plus 50 years. Based on the lifetimes of the authors, the work would have fallen out of copyright in 1989, and therefore not have seen their copyright extended by the UK’s 1995 copyright extension. They also would not have been in copyright anywhere in 1996, and therefore did not get restored to a copyrighted status in the USA by the URAA either. In other words, we have every reason to believe that this edition is, indeed, public domain.

In addition to the Silbermann Edition being in the public domain, Sefaria made many edits to the text to bring it into acceptable modern English, including hiring rabbis to completely retranslate certain problematic passages (as you can read in the link above). Then they released it as “The Sefaria Edition” under a CC0 license. What is a CC0 license? No copyright — specifically as stated,

The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.

You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

This is absolutely wonderful news, because it will enable a Phase 3 which begins with copying Rashi into the commentary section and using it as the primary theological consistency pass.

“Rashi brings down the p’shat (actual meaning) of the Hebrew.”

This is so great, because not only do we have a truly authoritative source to work with, it is in the public domain to start with so there are no licensing issues! Of course, we will only include some of it, and, modified, but it’s still Rashi and that is just really great!

Now if only we had a Public Domain Rambam!

Well, as it turns out the Mishneh Torah does exist in English, in various translations, some of which are copyrighted. A particular version, Translated by Eliyahu Touger appears readable on Chabad’s website here:

The Rambam’s Mishneh Torah

The copyright notice on the website states “Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.” and indeed it is available in print form sold by Moznaim.com. However, no copyright notice or licensing information seems to be available online.

There also exists a version at Sefaria.org:

Sefaria.org Mishneh Torah

According to sefaria.org, their Hebrew version of the Mishneh Torah is the Vilna edition, which is public domain, and the English version is a translation by Rabbi Francis Nataf in 2017, which has been released under the CC0 license (see above).

That’s great, but I wonder if I could somehow get permission to quote from the Moznaim edition? In any case there are both available and it is certainly fair to use the intent of the Rambam even if we may only quote one or the other in print.

Now that we have access to public domain versions of Rashi and Rambam, the door to using the NSV as a conversion tool as well as a defense against the dark arts has been blown wide open! I think this is gonna sell.

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