[sword-devel] Copyrights and cash

Don A. Elbourne Jr. sword-devel@crosswire.org
Tue, 18 Jun 2002 20:51:44 -0500

I have given a lot of thought to this issue as well. I agree, a bible
software can only be as good as its modules. In the past, I have advocated a
more open content creation environment. If content creation tools were in
the hands of content creators and not just programmers, I believe we would
see a much wider user base and a much richer module selection. But as Rev.
Drake has pointed out there also needs to be a mechanism in place to
securely distribute copyrighted modules. I believe the best way to do this
is through a third party company.


Suppose that The Crosswire Bible Society made a program available to content
providers that would enable them to create Sword modules. For the sake of
discussion, lets call this program SwordWriter.

Pastor Jones has preached for 25 years. Each week he hand writes a complete
manuscript that he carries into the pulpit. For the past 3 years his wife
has been entering the 25 years worth of sermons into the computer. With
SwordWritter she can now convert these files into Sword modules and make
them available on the churches web site. Anyone in the world can now
download his 25 years of work and have it all in an easy to use, searchable
free program from the Sword Project.

Professor Craft has published 14 scholarly journal articles and has a couple
more in the works. He would like to share his research with others and so he
has converted his articles to HTML and created a web site. He has also used
SwordWritter to convert his articles into Sword modules ready to integrate
into anyone's digital library.

John  has been reading the works of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield
and feels lead to help distribute these works as Sword modules. With the
help of a few other volunteers and SwordWritter he makes the collected works
of both authors available on his web site.

Multiply these three examples times 1000 and I believe we will start to
scratch the surface of what is possible through Sword.

But there is more. We have not mentioned the copyrighted works yet. The
likelihood that Zondervan, IVP, Broadman & Holman, Moody, and other
publishers are going to download SwordWritter and use it to convert their
Bible translations, and commentaries into Sword modules for free
distribution is null.

Since we are dreaming, lets suppose there was a third party company. We will
call it eScabbard for the sake of discussion. This company, eScabbard, is
able to approach the big publishing companies with an offer to make their
material available to a blossoming audience of users. eScabbard insures the
publishers that they are able to securely distribute the modules without
fear of widespread pirating. They are able to undercut the prices of the
commercial software makers because the software engine itself is created by
a team of dedicated volunteers.


Joe Christian is looking for a good bible software program. Perhaps he is
looking for a low cost alternative to Logos/BibleWorks/QuickVerse or perhaps
he wants to run an OS other than Windoze. Whatever the case, he stumbles
upon The Sword Project, downloads the application along with several free
modules.  He is impressed. He finds a web site with links to other web sites
offering free modules. He finds Pastor Jones' site and since he is currently
studying the Book of Acts he downloads the sermons on those texts along with
the ones from the pastoral epistles, just for good measure. He notices that
several New Testament scholar's have also made their work available and he
downloads them into his library as well. He orders a copy of The Great
Awakening CD from a guy named John and finds several other modules of
interest. He then visits the eScabbard web site and buys a Sword compatible
NLT and NASB along with a New American Commentary on Acts. He is able to
download, purchase and unlock the titles straight from the web, or purchase
a CD. His digital library continues to grow as he finds a wealth of free and
purchasable material that can be easily integrated into his Sword program.

Now that there is a wealth of freely distributable material in Sword Format,
Pastor Jones decides to take all of his material, bundle it with the KJV,
the WEB, and a few other classic works. He enlists a programmer from his
congregation to customize a Sword distribution with their churches logo on
the splash and hand selected titles from Pastor Jones. They make 2,000
copies and give them away in there community as part of an evangelistic
campaign. The idea catches on and several other churches do the same.


In order for this dream to become a reality a few things are going to need
to happen. First we are going to have to give up our visions of building a
Cathedral with tightly controlled content handed down by a small
cyber-presbytery. I will try to refrain from a Baptist educed rant on the
legitimacy of soul competency and the priesthood of the believer, but I do
believe that we should trust Tom, Dick, and Brother Harold to decide what
content they want to create and obtain from others. (BTW if you are an
opensouce programmer or are on this list and have not read "The Cathedral
and the Bazaar" shame on you.)

Second, we need something akin to the SwordWriter program mentioned above. I
know this is a little premature for several reasons. I am not trying to put
pressure on anyone, I am just setting forth a vision.

Third, a secure unlocking mechanism needs to be in place for a third party
company like eScabbard to utilize. I know there is a locking mechanism now,
but I'm not sure how it works or if it is conducive to third party

I have been lurking on this list for quite some time now, I've thrown my
comments in now and then, I helped with the new Sword web site, but I wish I
was able to do more. I really believe in this project and want to see it
succeed. I am not sure how my vision lines up with the vision of the inner
circle, and since I am not a programmer, perhaps no one has even read down
this far. These are just my thoughts on the issue. I hope I am not speaking
out of turn. :)

by grace alone,

Don A. Elbourne Jr.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Barry Drake" <b.drake@ntlworld.com>
To: <sword-devel@crosswire.org>
Sent: Tuesday, June 18, 2002 1:59 PM
Subject: [sword-devel] Copyrights and cash

> Hi there ....
> I've been thinking a lot about the big copyrights issue.  The Sword
> has some exceptional software to offer now.  The performance outshines any
> of the commercial programs and the potential is growing rapidly.  The
> library itself is awesome and completely platform independent.  But at the
> end of the day, it is only as useful as the modules that we are able to
> offer.  In English speaking countries, the majority of Christians seem to
> want the NIV.  Second to that is possibly the NRSV maybe followed by the
> NJB.  I could be wrong, but I guess there will be few other real
> contenders.
> We may eventually get some success with the copright holder of the NRSV -
> but Zondervan will never, I'm sure allow free issue of the NIV.  Is it
> totally against the policy of the Sword Project (that's us, I think) to
> refuse to allow anyone to charge a copyright fee for a locked module which
> we would provide?
> I know we have no mechanism or desire to handle copyright funds.  Could we
> not consider arranging with a copyright holder together with a commercial
> retail organisation such as Amazon to handle the commercial side of
> transactions involving downloadable modules only?  Or maybe Zondervan
> themselves could set up a mechanism to arrange the supply of the Sword
> module?
> This would not mean that we would (ever) charge for the software.  Simply
> make it available as we do now, but with a method of buying copyrighted
> modules.
> I seriously believe we ought to do something in that direction and would
> like to propose that listmembers offer their thoughts.
> God bless,
> Barry
> From Barry Drake (The Revd - minister of the Arnold and the Netherfield
> United
> Reformed Churches, Nottingham - see http://www.arnold-urc.supanet.com for
> our
> church homepages).
> Replies - b.drake@ntlworld.com
> Fax: 0705 069 8746