[sword-devel] host[ing] despite legality

Leon Brooks leon at brooks.fdns.net
Mon Aug 22 19:10:30 MST 2005

On Tuesday 23 August 2005 07:15, Gabriel M. Beddingfield wrote:
> the law says that this is stealing

No. Stealing involves the original owner not having the item stolen, and 
thus being deprived of its use. This is not stealing.

The law says that this is illegal copying. David should be delighted to 
host the KJV, YLT, RSV etc, and should not be illegally copying nor 
providing illegal copies of copyright-restrcited translations.

> David Kennedy wrote:
>> As I do not believe the word of God can be copyrighted (as it is
>> the inspired work of God)

Indeed, you are correct. The word of God cannot be copyrighted.

Unfortunately, all we have to hand is translations and arrangements of 
that Word, and the translations most definitely can be copyrighted, and 

I don't believe that they _should_ be -- except perhaps to underwrite a 
Creative Commons licence or the like -- and I believe that copyrighting 
a translation (or worse still, copyrighting the arrangement of the 
Greek/Aramaic/Hebrew from which the translation was made) opens a major 
can of worms which will come back to bite all Christians on the butt 
sooner or later, but what actually metters here is that these 
translations _are_ copyrighted.

Whether copyrighting the translations is right or not, breaking the law 
to distribute a particular translation of the Word of God is most 
definitely wrong, and most definitely against the spirit of that same 

If you don't like that, make your own translation from scratch (a useful 
substance, scratch), copyright it and donate it to the Public Domain or 
distribute it under a CC licence. I've often been tempted. If enough 
such versions were made and distributed, it would be very difficult for 
anyone to retain or enforce the copyright on any existing version 
because of similarities to other translations (called "dilution").

My own perspective is that while funding a translation by restricting 
distribution of it and charging for its use is very much akin in spirit 
to the money-changers at the Temple, such translations have always 
leaned towards Higher Criticism, and so the restricton of their 
distribution is not the unalloyed negative which it might otherwise 
have been.

There are many ways of funding a translation which are not at such 
discord with the spirit of the Word, and they should by all means be 

Part of the fault lies with our so-called "intellectual property" laws.

There was no safe way at the time of publication that the author of, 
say, The Message or The Clear Word could legally specify something 
along the lines of "Go ahead, copy it for all you're worth, just don't 
obscure the authorship or set yourself up selling copies in competition 
with me."

Nowadays, a Creative Commons Sharealike-NonCommercial licence is 
available, has been tested, and has been shown to work in practice many 
times over.

Due to problems with trademark law, however, there is no commercially 
safe way to allow derivatives or variants. If translation is supported 
"out of band", ie, the translation work would all be paid for even if 
you sold zero copies, trademark issues are much less likely to be 

Cheers; Leon

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