[sword-devel] Legal ?

Michael Paul Johnson sword-devel@crosswire.org
Tue, 23 Nov 1999 17:44:09 -0700

At 16:15 11/23/1999 -0500, you wrote:
>Can the copyright to a particuliar biblical translation be sold?


>   If so,
>then Satan can buy it.  Can the copyright holder really limit who
>publicly quotes in verbal or written form from their texts?

Yes, legally, with the exception of "fair use" (which is a fuzzy concept). 
In practice, it is difficult to do so and enforcement is not done except in 
the worst cases. However, if I were to publish the NIV on the Internet the 
way I do the WEB, I would expect to have been sued for much more money than 
I have by now.

>   Then the
>gospel can be silenced or severly limited by its translator or "owner".

There is certainly a legal chilling effect involved. This is the very thing 
I was praying about when the Lord told me to start a new Bible translation 
project several years ago.

There is a flip side to this argument, however. Because copyright law has 
created such a profit incentive for Bible translators in the USA, we have 
in English one of the richest sets of Bible translations in our own 
language of any language in the world, and a greater selection of Bible 
styles, help sets, etc., than any other language group. Even nonprofit 
Bible societies feel fully justified in flexing their copyright muscle for 
profit in the USA to help fund Scripture distribution in other languages. 
Copyright law hasn't really hurt printed distribution of God's Word in the 
USA, but actually helped it. It is mainly in the electronic realm where 
copyright law seems to have an adverse effect on Bible distribution.

The good news is that publishers of free Bible study software and free 
Bible texts are more of a threat to the copyright holders of its commercial 
counterparts than vice versa. If you want to do something about the 
restrictions and costs of commercial Bible text and software publication, 
just make the free counterparts better than the commercial ones.


Michael Paul Johnson