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A federal judge with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has dismissed a copyright infringement claim brought by software developers against the author of a book who allegedly relied on the software to generate ideas expressed in a best-selling book, “The Bible Code.” Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that matrices produced using the computer software could not be protected under copyright law, even though the software itself could be copyrighted. In Torah Soft Ltd. v. Drosnin, 00 Civ. 5650 (SAS), plaintiffs brought a 12-count complaint against author Michael Drosnin, his publishers, and bookstores that sold “The Bible Code,” which appeared on best-seller lists in the United States and abroad. The book is an account of the author’s experience with a code that some scholars claim is woven into the text of the Torah. Hebrew letters are placed in the text of the holy books at certain intervals, the scholars say, and when the characters are pulled from the text, they create a new set of words that allegedly predict future events. One prediction the author cited was the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Drosnin was introduced to the code in 1992 by an Israeli mathematician, Eliyahu Rips. In decoding the text, Drosnin allegedly used software developed by an Israeli rabbi and physicist, Yochanan Spielberg, which made the Torah searchable. Spielberg’s software was owned by a company called Torah Soft Ltd., the plaintiff in the lawsuit before Judge Scheindlin. The plaintiffs claimed that Drosnin engaged in copyright infringement when he reproduced printouts based on the results of Torah Soft searches of the text. But Scheindlin ruled that the printouts reflecting Drosnin’s searches throughout the text are not property that may be copyrighted by Torah Soft. The software’s innovation — the ability to display the Torah in a matrix so that the code may be extracted — is not protected under copyright law, Judge Scheindlin reasoned, partly because Spielberg was not the originator of the idea of organizing the text. However, the judge said, “[e]ven if Spielberg had originated the idea of displaying Bible code finds in a matrix format, such ‘expression’ is not protected.” There are other computer programs that manipulate the texts in similar ways, the court said, making the matrix format a “stock feature” of such software. To allow the plaintiffs to copyright their version of “Bible Code software” would be to grant them a monopoly over the idea of an imbedded Bible Code, Scheindlin said, and that would hinder the free exchange of ideas that the copyright system is intended to protect. Also, Spielberg’s changes to the Torah Soft version of the Torah text — including substituting a character so that the name of the deity is not written down, and other changes designed to conform to Jewish sheimot rules — did not turn the text, which is in the public domain, into an original document, authored by Torah Soft, the court said. Howard I. Rhine and Andrea Fischer of Coleman, Rhine & Goodwin were the attorneys for Torah Soft. Marcia B. Paul, Marni Beck Pedorella and William H. Crosby Jr., of Kay Collyer & Boose, and Kenneth David Burrows were listed as defense counsel in the case. Scheindlin’s is one of two federal courtrooms through which the dispute between the software company and the author is being fought. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV is hearing breach of contract claims in a complaint that was removed from state court to federal court.

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