[sword-devel] The morality of Copyrighted Bibles and our response

Pergamum sword-devel@crosswire.org
Fri, 3 Dec 1999 16:01:07 -0600

----- Original Message -----
From: Michael Paul Johnson <mpj@ebible.org>
To: <sword-devel@crosswire.org>
Sent: Thursday, 02 December, 1999 23:48
Subject: [sword-devel] The morality of Copyrighted Bibles and our response

> Obviously, this is an issue that is important to me, and I have spent time
> in prayer and in doing things about it. I'd like to share some
> with you.
> 1. The greatest need for the Holy Bible is NOT in English. There are
> literally thousands of language groups in the world without even a book of
> the Holy Bible in their language. In smaller language groups, getting
> permission to publish the Bible from copyright holders is generally not a
> problem, because these works are frankly not of great commercial value.

There are severe differences in copyrighting a work to protect it from
perversion and copyrighting a work to protect your profit margins.  I guess
I should be more specific in what I find immoral and wrong in this
situation.  A company, even Zondervan, the "Christian" publishers that own
"Beavis and Butthead", should be able to prosecute and punish someone if
they alter the Scriptural text of NIVand try to republish it as NIV.  That
is wrong.  But for them to limit the amount of unaltered Scriptural text
(Gen1-Rev 22) one may qoute in his commentaries, or simply publish on the
Web as a way for people to be exposed to it, while giving appropriate credit
to the publisher; or to threaten an individual with prosecution because they
want to use NIV quotes (that do not even reach Zondervan's limits) in their
private IRC bot is immoral and does indeed harm the Body of Christ.  That is
why many heathens see the church in general as a bunch of two-bit, no-good
money-stealers.  Zondervan, Nelson, UBS, GBS, etc. are in this for one
purpose and one purpose only: PROFIT.  They could care less if every soul on
the face of the planet goes straight to hell so long as their market shares
are up.  If that is not true I hereby challenge any CEO or high-ranking
official of these Pharasitical companies to debate this in the eye of the
church.  And to bring along the portfolio of their companies holdings so I
can ask them just where in the plan of spreading GOD's Word owning the
rights to and holding shares in things like "Beavis and Butthead" and
"Penthouse Magazine" comes into play.  I don't think they would show up.

> 2. English translations of the Holy Bible abound. One of the contributing
> factors to this bounty has been copyright protection and profit motive.
> most popular modern English translations are copyrighted.

Again that simply proves my statement from above.  Copyright for protection
against altered "NIV"s showing up on shelves is one thing.  Copyrighting for
the purpose of maintaining a monopoly on the right to spread the Word of GOD
is quite another.  If they understood things beyond their own profit margins
they would realize that by , say, my posting, unaltered, the NIV text of Gen
1 - Rev 22, up on a website, not seeking profit, but saying "this is NIV
folks" then I am in esscence giving these owners of "Beavis and Butthead"
FREE ADVERTISING.  No one can  drag their computer to church.  Thus they
have to go out and BUY the NIV version if they like it.

> 3. Many well-meaning Christians are involved in the creation of
> translations -- Christians who see no problem doing so.

The well-meaning Christians involved in the creation of copyrighted
translations are not the ones throwing the copyright on it.  It is the
secular lawyers working for these secular "Christian" publishers that pay
the secular government for the right to put their name exclusively on the
translations made by Christians, paid for by historical societies,
universities, Government tax-funded grants (us), archeological foundations,
and christian philanthropists.  Technically the only thing copyrightable in
a biblical translations are the company-specific commentaries, color-coding,
lexicons, etc. that make it unique among other bibles.  Since oft-times the
commentaries , etc. make up more percentage of the book than actual
Scripture that is how the company circumvents the fact that Genesis 1 -
Revelation 22, regardless of language, are irreversibly Public Domain, and
screams "we'll sue if you quote John 3:16 NIV on your irc-bot".  Thus being,
in an actual battle against someone NOT using the company-specific
commentaries, etc. Zondervan would have a hard-time actually prosecuting.
The only reason they have little problem threatening it is because they know
most people cannot afford to even pay for legal representation in a "small
matter" like this.  Thus, since Satan cannot completely have the bible
banned in this nation yet.  He'll settle by winning a smaller battle in the
courts.  He will use any means to limit one's ability to spread the Word of
GOD.  As for copyrighting commentaries, etc. and prohibiting or limiting
their use in other works   There is nothing at all wrong will this concepts
where your individual comments are concerned.  Just claiming exclusive
rights to Gen1 - Rev 22 is the problem.

> 4. Maintaining a copyright on a Bible translation is good in that it
> some (limited) legal control that could be used to prevent or punish
> perversion of the text or use of the text in an inappropriate way.
> Sometimes a copyright is used only for this purpose (i. e. for the GLW,
> http://ebible.org/bible/glw).

As I stated earlier, protection of the Word is one thing.  Zondervan and
company are merely trying to hoard the Word of God.  Things of that nature
caused the Dark Ages.  Satan infiltrated the church in 300 AD and made sure
that what was to become Catholicism would be the "downfall of the church".
He added books that the Hebrews never meant as Scripture, introduced false
doctrines, greed in the hearts of the high officers and worship of false
gods.  We hear them called "saints".  He has even tried getting the Virgin
Mary introduced as the fourth part of the Godhead.  Most importantly though
he made his corrupt church official hoarders of the Word.  laymen were not
allowed to own bibles.  Any laymen caught with one was suspect of heresy.
Now, 1700 years after that, and 500 years after Luther set the record
straight (sort of), Satan is trying the same trick again.  Only this time
he's using big business and secular law to deprive the laymen.  Granted, as
you say, we could all just make new Public Domain translations... but in
order to get them published in great number... they would have to be
subjegated by the secularists in Zondervan, Nelson, or someone else.

> 5. The potential for using a legal copyright monopoly to make a profit off
> of a good Bible translation is very tempting to a Bible society looking
> ways to fund Bible translation and Bible publication work.

Most of this expense is covered, as I said, by private donations, historical
and archealogical societies, educational institutions, chrches, tax-funded
government grants (under auspices of the "Arts"), and philanthropists.
Profit is not bad... on materials, commentaries, etc.  But the Word of GOD
is no one BUT GOD's intellectual property.

> 6. While the temptation is great to defy copyright law in the case of
> texts, doing so looks exactly like stealing to many people, and in the
> of the law of the land, it is indeed theft of intellectual property. Such
> conflicts between Christians can do serious damage to the Body of Christ
> and dishonors the name of Jesus Christ among the heathen.

On this I must disagree.  Again I say the Word of GOD is NOT the
intellectual proprety of Zondervan.  What do you think GOD would say to you
if you were CEO of Zondervan and you went up to Him and claimed exclusive
proprietary rights on His Word.  To paraphrase a wrestling catchprase I
think the All Mighty just might "layeth the smacketh down" if you smell what
GOD is cooking  What do you think GOD would have done to Moses if he made
such a claim?  For these companies to be so petty and immoral is what does
"serious damage to the Body of Christ and dishonors the name of Jesus Christ
among the heathen."  Again, it makes Christians look like a bunch of greedy
profiteering gluttons that enjoy stealing the retirement checks of the
elderly.  It gives weakness to the Body of Christ in the eyes of the
unbelievers.  I think this would do inifinitely more damage to the Body of
Christ than challenging a copyright claim in court.  There is also a
distinct differece in the forbiddence of suing brethren for criminal and
civil matters.  Criminal matters are indeed to be dealt with in court.  A
good example would be the family whose young daughter (9 if I recall
correctly) was sexually mollested by a fourteen year-old in the Sunday
school closet.  The boy's parents and even the pastor were pressuring the
family not to sue based on 1 Corinthians.  (now I really wish I could find
the story again because I don't remember the Chapter/verse basis they used
to discover the difference between civil and criminal.)  But the bottom line
is that the boy was accountable.  As should Zondervan, etc. be held
accountable on the basis of theft of public domain text.  For that is
essentially what it is when one takes Public Domain and forbids anyone else
the right to use it.

>  7. The Lord Himself has made a way to get a high quality, Public Domain,
> Modern English translation of the whole Bible that can be copied and
> distributed for free in a manner that is totally above reproach, making
> arguments about the moral value  of the NIV, etc. copyrights a mute point.

That is almost true.  The only problem with it is time, cost, and content.
If I had to go through the time to obtain the original Greek and Hebrew
manuscripts and make a new translation, simply to post it on a website or
base a commentary then the Rapture will come and go by the time I'm ready to
write my commentary, my not being here will prevent my posting or completion
of work and many souls that may have benefitted from my posting are now
lost.  All because Zondervan, owners of "Beavis and Butthead", said I could
not use a the NIV so that those that could not understand KJV would benefit
from the Word of GOD.

> 8. While concerns about translational accuracy abound, and I take great
> care to be more accurate than is humanly possible in the World English
> Bible, I submit to you that even a "loose" translation read and acted on
> will get people saved. Lots of people get saved because of reading about
> Jesus in "The Living Bible" paraphrase and others that have no legitimate
> claim to great accuracy. The basic Gospel message is robust enough to be
> translated and still come through strong in many languages. If it weren't,
> then Jesus would be very unfair to us by telling us to preach the Gospel
> and make disciples of EVERY nation. Jesus is not unfair -- unless you
> the "unfairness" of the grace He offers us that we don't deserve.

I must say, in closing that I am very impresesed with the WEB thus far.
Like I said, though it is currently not readily available to many outside
those that  are already familiar with it and know where to look.  It is also
not well known to many in the secular world.  Thus limiting its

As it was said by someone else on this thread though:  "We are all in His
Hands".  His Will be Done.

GOD's guidance, blessing and protection on you all.

In Christ Jesus,

NetZero - Defenders of the Free World
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