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Dead Sea Scrolls: Internet Impersonation A Crime?

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A dead sea scrolls controversy will be on trial in New York’s highest court on Tuesday in the case of Raphael Golb, a lawyer and writer who has been convicted of identity theft and other charges for disguising his identity in email messages and blog posts from 2006 to 2009, according to AP.

Golb used a computer at New York University to create an email account in NYU Judaic studies chairman Lawrence Schiffman’s name, among others, to send alleged confessions of plagiarizing Professor Norman Golb’s, Raphael Golb’s father, work years earlier.

The beginning of the conflict was that Normal Golb was one of a group of scholars that believes that the dead sea scrolls were the writings of a range of Jewish groups and communities, gathered from libraries in Jerusalem and hidden in caves near Qumran to protect them during a Roman invasion in about 70 A.D.

Others, including Schiffman, believe the texts were assembled by a sect known as the Essenes.

The conflict rose to a level where Schiffman and other scholars were detracting from Norman Golb’s works on the theory. This prompted Raphael to fight for his father’s good name in a way that eventually led to what Golb referred to as “satire, irony, parody”. He claims that he never intended for the recipients of the emails to believe that it was Schiffman who composed them.

Manhattan prosecutors cited Golb’s “relentless impersonation and harassment,” and referred to his practice of sending emails under aliases to museum administrators, academics and reporters, and his act of impersonating his father’s critics online in their brief to the Court of Appeals.

Assistant District Attorney Vincent Rivellese wrote, “The court was careful to ensure that the jury would not convict the defendant for parody, satire, or academic debate, but rather for engaging in fraudulent misrepresentations regarding his identity.”

Golb’s Attorney Ronald Kuby said, “It’s like the world’s oldest controversy playing out in the world’s newest medium. The underlying issue is: Can you criminalize these Internet impersonations as fraud when there’s no financial benefit or tangible property associated with it?”

I guess that will be answered as the appeal plays out.

Image Via Wikimedia Commons

Dead Sea Scrolls: Internet Impersonation A Crime?
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