An intense legal drama came to an end after four years Sunday, when the Jerusalem District Court ruled unequivocally that writer Naomi Ragen
used copied parts from Sarah Shapiro's book in her own novel "Sotah".
Shapiro, an ultra-Orthodox author who writes in English to haredi women, published the book "Growing with My Children: A Jewish Mother's Diary" in 1990. The book is a diary Shapiro wrote as a young, tired and inexperienced haredi mother.
According to the statement of claim, she was amazed to discover segments allegedly copied from her work in the English-language version of Ragen's "Sotah".
Both books, the claim stated, describe a woman's fear that she may be pregnant again shortly after giving birth and her hopes that the exhaustion and nausea are the result of stomach virus. Both books then include a dialogue on anger and the ability to change this trait in one's personality.
According to the statement of claim, there is a similarity in the sequence of issues and motifs in parts of the work, alongside similar uses of language and terminology and identical dialogues, sometimes even word for word.
Judge Joseph Shapira fully accepted Shapiro's claim. In a 92-page verdict, the judge explained why he decided to convict Ragen of copyright infringement, theft, negligence and unjust enrichment.
According to the verdict, Ragen "copied fundamental parts from the plaintiff's work."
The court compared the books and found "textual resemblance and identicalness in the characters and segments… A significant part of the similarity is expressed in literal identicalness between the texts in both works."
During the trial, Ragen claimed that it was all a mistake and that some of Shapiro's text "got stuck in my head". But the judge rejected her explanation, calling it "unreasonable and unreliable".
Ragen admitted to the court that she did read "Growing with My Children" around the time she wrote her own book. She even sent Shapiro a letter at the time, in which she said she enjoyed reading the book and complimenting Shapiro on her "huge talent".
When the legal hearing began, Ragen promised to remove segments suspected of being copied from the English version of her book, but only removed them from new publications of the Hebrew version.
After four years of litigation, Shapiro won the trial and is expected to receive significant pecuniary compensation from Ragen. Although she demanded NIS 100 million (about $27 million) in damages, the judge gave the parties a month to reach an agreement on the suitable compensation.
Shapiro was represented by Attorneys Gilad Corinaldi and Talya Grinstein, who specialize in copyright law.
Corinaldi said in response Sunday, "This is a cultural and literary disgrace and a day of disaster for book lovers. The court ruled that Ragen knowingly sinned, stole and copied."
Noami Ragen was unavailable for comment.
Telem Yahav contributed to this report