[sword-devel] Copyrights and derivative works

Daniel Russell sword-devel@crosswire.org
Sat, 18 Jan 2003 02:39:07 -0800

Chris Little wrote:

>According to the US Code Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 101: A ''derivative 
>work'' is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a 
>translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion 
>picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, 
>condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, 
>transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, 
>annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, 
>represent an original work of authorship, is a ''derivative work''. 
NONE of these examples listed by the copyright webpage are like a 

A concordance is a precipitation of facts, not a remolding of a work. In 
the examples, the works are merely translated, rearranged (what 
instruments play what parts, etc in a musical score), reproduced 
(copied), abridged (same text, but shorter), condensed (similar to 
abridgement; this is not what a concordance does).

A concordance simply does not fit the bill. However, if the NIV people 
were Evil (TM) enough, they would make up some bogus lawsuit to try to 
argue that a concordance is a derivative work but the same kind of 
reasoning Chris just presented; namely, that a concordance can be 
reverse engineered to produce the original text.

This is such a preposterous argument that any judge that has an I.Q. 
above 70 is going to throw it out of court. Just because something 
*could* possibly, maybe, sorta be reverse-engineered, does not mean that 
it is practical or likely that it will be reverse-engineered. And 
frankly, i don't think a concordance can be reverse-engineered to 
produce a text that is more similar to its object than some other, 
independently copyrighted translations are. For one thing, a concordance 
does not record the order of each *instance* of a word, and generally, 
concordances do not contain pronouns, and other mundane words, which 
make up a large portion of the essential grammatical structure of passages.

In short, the examples listed in the U.S. copyright definition of 
"derivative work" are there to show us that only works that are 
basically the same as the original with some recasting count. Works that 
are *related* to the original work, or that refer to it, are not 
derivative works; unless of course you have some extremely dishonest and 
talented lawyers in a courtroom of some senile judges.