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Dead Sea Scrolls Case: Online ID Theft on Trial

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New York’s highest appeals court will consider whether or not to overturn the conviction of Raphael Golb, a man convicted of impersonating a New York University professor in emails and blog posts, according to the AP.

Golb set up an email account on an NYU computer and sent emails as Judaic studies chairman Lawrence Schiffman. In Schiffman’s name, he made confessions of plagiarism and other things to dispell Schiffman’s criticism of Golb’s father’s work on a theory pertaining to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

However, he continues to insist that he didn’t intend for anyone to believe it was really Schiffman.

The 2,000-year-old documents, which were found in 1947 in Qumran, around what is now Israel, contain the earliest known versions of portions of the Hebrew Bible.

Golb and his father, a University of Chicago historian, among other scholars believe that the writings were the work of some Jewish groups and communities. They think that the scrolls were gathered from libraries in Jerusalem and hidden in caves near Qumran to protect them during a Roman invasion in about 70 A.D.

Schiffman and his fellow scholars say the texts were assembled by a sect known as the Essenes, and not the work of Jewish groups at all.

What Golb did, some would (and do) call identity theft, criminal impersonation, aggravated harassment, forgery and unauthorized use of a computer. Some however, including Golb, would say that since there is no physical harm done and no property damage it is harmless “satire, irony, parody”.

The question being posed is this: Is internet impersonation, speaking as someone you’re not, identity theft and relentless harassment? Or is it simply all in good fun, as in the modern form of the obviously forged satirical letter?

I can say for certain that most people wouldn’t appreciate that kind of intrusion, but as far as what the law defines, that remains to be seen.

Image Via Wikimedia Commons

Dead Sea Scrolls Case: Online ID Theft on Trial
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