[sword-devel] Copyright Scripture distribution

Pergamum sword-devel@crosswire.org
Sat, 4 Dec 1999 02:28:10 -0600

Quite frankly, Sir, I was glad to see that this letter is so long,  It shows
others what can be accomplished if Christians take a stand.  Sadly, however
it also proves my point about many of these organizations only caring if
souls are brought to Christ *If* they can take the credit for it and most
importantly, if they can make a PROFIT off the person's conversion.  It is
petty, narrow-minded, and though it may be perfectly legal in a secular
legal system wherein the vested interest is to exalting the word of
government over the Word of GOD, it is wrong.  These people will spew all
the "protecting GOD's Word from the pink-o-commies" all they want... but it
is painfully obvious by even the sugar-coated responses you were given, that
the only thing they are interesting in protecting is their "profit-margin".
Another sad thing is that an old metal band I used to listen to "Suicidal
Tendencies" (shock-value name) reiterates the attitude of many of these
"ministry-minded" companies and organizations.  I'll paraphrase the lyric
"Now if you can only send a dollar or two, there ain't a whole lot I can
promise to you... but if you want to see Heaven's door, make out a check for
$500 or more."  later in the song it also says "I want you to make it hurt
when you dig into your pockets.  It makes me feel so good to make my profits
rocket."  (Oddly it is easier to get permission to repost that lyric than it
is for me to get permission to post a verse from the Holy Word of GOD.)
The thing is that THAT is the exact mindsets that many heathens have towards
Christians today BECAUSE of these greedy corporate publishers and others
like them that CLAIM to be doing GOD's work.  That is why I say that THEY,
not us for thinking their "proper use statements" immoral, are doing more
damage to the Body of  Christ and dishonoring him among the heathens.
At any rate, great letter Joel!  Keep up the great work.

In Christ Jesus,
----- Original Message -----
From: Joel Mawhorter <joel@uvic.ca>
To: <sword-devel@crosswire.org>
Sent: Friday, 03 December, 1999 22:23
Subject: [sword-devel] Copyright Scripture distribution

> Hello,
> I've introduced myself before but I send mail to this list so rarely that
> do it again.  I'm a computer science student at the University of Vicoria
> British Columbia, Canada. I have a strong interest in seeing electronic
> distribution of scriptures in various non-European languages. I am
> interested in the various middle eastern languages. It is not easy to get
> Bible into some of these countries, and, since many of the middle east
> countries are developed nations, electronic distribution makes sense. It
> also my interest to develop some simple, free Bible search software with
> support. I think the Sword project is great but there is not a lot of
> Bible software available for non-Latin alphabets. However, for this to be
> there need to be texts available in the various languages. I have
> several agencies in an attempt to find out what I need to do to get access
> these texts. Since the issue of Copyrighted texts is being discussed on
> list, I thought I would give some info. on my experiences.
> I first contacted Wycliffe Bible Translators, however they mostly do
> texts for small groups with no current scripture, so electronic
distribution is
> not going to be very useful for the groups they translate for. I contacted
> Canadian Bible society and received a reply.  Below is that e-mail with my
> reply to it. I never received a reply to this message.
> ---------------------------------------------------------------
> >Dear Mr. Mawhorter,
> >
> >Thank you for you enquiry, which was forwarded to me by the Rev'd Bill
> >Absolom.
> >
> >The Canadian Bible Society has access to many non-English texts,
> >our own translations of indigenous languages.  However, as we are in the
> >process of compiling and creating our own electronic collection
> >TM) you will understand our reluctance to release these texts to you.
> Dear Greg Bailey,
> I'm afraid I don't understand your reluctance; I was under the  impression
> that the Canadian Bible Society's main goal was distributing scriptures to
> many people as possible. I'm not sure how releasing electronic copies of
> Bible could do anything but further that goal. I should clarify that I am
> looking for texts to include in a commercial product. I only wish to see
> electronic texts of international Bible translations available to anyone
> wants them. If the collection that you are working on is along those
lines, I
> would gladly donate time and expertise to the project. Is it possible to
get in
> touch with whoever is leading the MultiBible project?
> >Also,
> >you should be aware that virtually all current translations of the Bible
> >have been copyrighted either by the translators or their publishers.  For
> >this reason it would be necessary for you to apply to each of the
> >holders for permission prior to starting such a project.  Distribution
> >agreements would need to be signed with the publishers, and in most
> >instances, royalty fees paid.
> I am aware that most modern translations are copyrighted and  I have no
> intention of distributing copyrighted material without permission to do
> Since I am hoping to distribute these texts and the program I create for
> I would not be able to distribute any texts that require royalties. I
> the Canadian Bible Society to see if I could get permission to format and
> distribute the texts to which you hold the copyright. How would I go about
> applying for such permission?  Also, are there other agencies that I
should be
> contacting? I contacted Wycliffe first and they suggested I contact one of
> Bible Societies since Wycliffe is not primarily involved with distribution
> scriptures.
> In Christ,
> Joel Mawhorter
> >I'm sorry not to be able to assist you directly in this matter, but hope
> >this information will be of some use to you in the future.
> >
> >Your servant in Christ,
> >
> >Fr. Greg Bailey,
> >National Director,
> >Canadian Bible Society
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> I also sent a message to the International Bible society.  Below is that
> of messages.
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> Dear Sir or Madam,
> I am hoping to become involved in distributing international Bibles
> electronically.  In my search for what is available in this area, I found
> collection of online scriptures in various languages. I understand that
> texts are copyrighted by the IBS; however, I was quite disturbed by the
> of your "Proper Use Statement" that restricts coping or re-posting the
> scriptures. Your mission statement is "To serve the Church in evangelism
> discipleship by providing God's Word so that people around the world may
> to faith and life in Jesus Christ." How do you reconcile your mission
> with your requirement that people not distribute your international Bible
> translations?
> How would you suggest the following (very likely) scenario be dealt with?
> Chinese Christian in Mainland China is the only one in his town with an
> Internet connection.  He finds your Chinese Bible and wants to give copies
> his neighbors in hopes that they will accept Christ.  He has no way to get
> printed copies of the Chinese Bible from other sources.  Should he give
> of the Bible to his neighbors and violate your "Proper Use Statement"?  Or
> should he follow your requirements and decrease his effectiveness in
> evangelism? Despite the respect I have for copyright law, I know what I
> do in that situation.
> Please prayfully consider changing your proper use statement. The primary
> goal of any society created to distribute Scriptures should be to ensure
> anyone in the world can get access to the Bible in their own language.
> Electronic distribution of the Bible has a hugh potential to bring that
> much closer.    At the moment, Bible Societies are not able to keep up
with the
> current demand for Bibles in many areas.  Electronic distribution removes
> per copy cost that a printed copy of the Bible has (the main thing that
> its distribution).  As well encryption and steganography allow electronic
> scriptures to be smuggled into areas where it would be impossible to
> large numbers of printed Bibles.  Once an electronic text is in an area it
> be copied from computer to computer without any further cost.  This has
> potential to impact a large number of people for Christ!
> If free electronic distribution of the Bible is something that the IBS is
> planning to get into, I would gladly donate time and expertise to such a
> project.
> In Christ,
> Joel Mawhorter
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Dear Mr. Mawhorter:
> Thanks for your thoughtful inquiry a few weeks ago about our "Proper Use
> Statement" on Bible Gateway. This is a subject that we talk about from
> to time, wanting to be good stewards of the treasure of God's Word.
> Sometimes we tend toward allowing greater reproduction of our text, as you
> urge; then again, we are well aware of the entrepreneurs in cyberspace who
> would like to profiteer off the Bible, too. It's hard to strike the right
> balance.
> You raise a poignant example of the Christian in mainland China wanting to
> distribute copies of the Bible to his or her neighbors. Of course, I
> I could raise an equally troubling example from China: What if the
> propaganda department of the Communist Party in Beijing wanted to post
> quotations from the NIV in support of the Communist regime-such bits and
> pieces about sharing all things in common, giving full obedience to
> government authorities, etc.? They could make quite a website to say,
> even the Christian Bible supports our point of view."
> It is this kind of thing that cautions us from just giving carte blanche
> our Bible texts. If someone wants to make public use of the NIV, we would
> like first to be asked about it and have a chance to discuss it.
> Here in North America where you and I live, of course, the question is
> pretty well moot. Most people have access to the Internet for themselves.
> But in underdeveloped nations, I admit, the issue is more complicated.
> Yet even now, we are finding that users all over Asia and the Middle East,
> among other places, are benefiting from Bible Gateway. Some of the
> e-mails would bring tears to your eyes. So we are making at least some
> impact for the gospel in these areas.
> Sincerely,
> Dean Merrill
> Vice President & Publisher
> International Bible Society
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> Dear Dean Merrill,
> I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my e-mail. I am glad to
> that IBS reconsiders its policy on redistribution of texts from time to
time.  I
> realize that there is always the risk of someone using your work and
> money from it.  However, if you change the policy to allow non-commercial
> redistribution of your texts, there is no way for anyone to legally make
> from your work.
> Your point about China misusing the Bible is an interesting one. I think
it is
> highly unlikely that the very anti-Christian Chinese government would use
> Bible to support their views. In fact, the restrictions in place now
> couldn't stop this from happening, since the NIV copyright allows
quotations of
> a few verses without permission; however, that is secondary.  The
> question is, why does the Internation Bible Society exist? Does it exist
> spread the Word of God or does it exist to ensure that political
> groups can't misuse the Bible? I hope that the question of purpose is one
> is constantly considered by IBS. If I am not mistaken, the misson
statement of
> IBS is "to serve the Church in  evangelism and discipleship by providing
> Word so that people around the world may come to faith and life in Jesus
> Christ." I can't think of a better missions statement for a Bible society.
> believe that removing the restrictions on non-commercial distribution for
> on-line texts can only help you to achive your mission. There may be some
> consequences to doing so; however, none that are near as important as your
> primary goal: to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ.
> Please prayerfully consider allowing your on-line texts to be freely
> copied for non-commercial purposes. As I mentioned in my previous e-mail,
> allowing redistribution of the international translations would be
> important. In considering your policy, please consider this: what will
have the
> greatest potential impact for the kingdom of God?
> I would be glad to volunteer my time and experience in any project that
> undertakes to freely distribute electronic copies of the Bible.
> In Christ,
> Joel Mawhorter
> ---------------------------------------------------------
> Sorry that this message was so long. I hope that some of you find the
> useful.  I am stilling trying to figure out who I should contact next. Any
> suggestions would be appreciated.
> Joel Mawhorter

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