[sword-devel] Legal ?

Michael Paul Johnson sword-devel@crosswire.org
Tue, 23 Nov 1999 07:59:19 -0700

At 05:49 11/23/1999 -0700, you wrote:
>My understanding of 'legal' is that if you own a printed work for which
>you paid royalty to the copyright holder, you own the right to use that
>work from any media you desire.  Thus, if I have an NASB Bible sitting
>on my shelf, I have every right to scan that work to electronic media
>for my personal use.

According to the letter of the law, you have no such right. You have the 
right to make copies of small portions of it, but not whole copies, no 
matter what form it is in. The copyright holder has the right to control 
who makes how many copies and in what form. That is why it is called a 
copyright. To get an idea of what the publisher calls "fair use" of their 
Bible, look at the copyright and permissions page.

>You are NOT legally able to 'distribute' that work to others, but they
>may also use an electronic copy if they own a printed copy, or

Again, this is even more blatantly contrary to the letter of the law. I 
dare you to find either a Bible publisher or a lawyer who agrees with you 
on this point.

>The reason they exist on our site is to TEASE people :)
>Actually, that's partially true.  I'm hoping someone will be encouraged
>to contact the copyright holders.  I began efforts, but don't have time
>nor the language ability to follow up.

It takes more than eloquence. It takes money (lots of it, in some cases), a 
more accurate knowledge of copyright law, and the courtesy to not appear to 
them to be pirates (i. e. someone who posts their text on an ftp site 
without their permission) before you even start serious negotiations.

As much as I detest the copyrighted status of some Bibles and the policies 
of some profit-driven publishers, I don't believe we are at the point where 
we need to defy copyright law to get the Gospel out. Although I would agree 
that some copyright claims are not very defensible, such as the UBS4/NA27 
Greek New Testament copyright claimed by the American Bible Society, others 
are quite defensible, like the NIV and NASB. Note that Zondervan (part of 
Rupert Murdoch's media enterprises along with "The Simpsons") in particular 
has both considerable interest in defending its copyrights on the NIV and 
NIrV, and the resources to do so effectively. Even the ABS has demonstrated 
the willingness to deny copyright permission for a public reading of one of 
their new translations in a city park. Still, there are several English 
translations that can be freely distributed, including the World English 
Bible. Granted, the World English Bible Old Testament isn't finished, but 
even in its current form, it is better than the ASV. It is also clearly 
Public Domain.


Michael Paul Johnson