[sword-devel] Module Licensing

Jonathan Morgan jonmmorgan at gmail.com
Sun Jan 27 21:30:19 MST 2008

On Jan 28, 2008 6:30 AM, Chris Little <chrislit at crosswire.org> wrote:
> Jonathan Morgan wrote:
> > Try sending something like this...
> ??

The email was drafted for me by my brother, and I copied and pasted a
little too quickly.

> > Currently the following modules of those I have downloaded cannot be
> > accessed by anyone without an internet connection, as Crosswire is the
> > only distributor. There are probably quite a few others.
> You can order CDs from CrossWire.

These CDs are intended to be "Bible Freeware" CDs, not Sword CDs.
They contain e-Sword, various Sword applications, as well as other
Bible related content that may be of interested.  If you are just
saying generally that the modules are available in other forms, then
that's true.

> > Is there any possibility of getting a license for these for
> > non-commercial or personal use, without permitting format shifting?
> Basically, no. We don't negotiate rights for third parties, and third
> parties not bound by contracts that we sign, obviously. Furthermore,
> some of the content you identify is emphatically not up for
> re-negotiation. We might not even maintain the existing level of
> distribution rights.

Sad, but I can't say I'm really surprised.

> > As given, these kinds of licenses breaks one of the principles of
> > free software.
> The software and the content are now and ever shall be separate entities
> and separate issues with separate licensing schemes. Our feelings or
> your feelings towards how content should be licensed really don't play
> into this. It's the copyright holder who determines licensing terms and
> fees.

That's your view and I understand it perfectly.  As you don't own it
you can't do as you have done with Sword.  However, just try
explaining to users (as I have) that you see a fundamental difference
between the freedom of the application and the freedom of the modules.
 Most users do not see that we have this software freely available,
but that the Bibles that come with it are not freely available.  Most
people I talk to have the view that if it is freely available for
download then they can do anything they like with it.

> > While I don't really care if the modules are non-free
> > in the Debian sense, what the current system means is that if
> > Crosswire disappears for whatever reason then we will still have all
> > the software (as the GPL requires), but we will no longer have
> > permission to distribute some of the modules (including the ESV, which
> > IMHO is one of the more important modules - it would certainly have to
> > be in the top three English ones for usefulness).
> Copyright holders (well, some of them at least) want a point of contact
> and a person who can take responsibility and sign a contract.
> Corporately, CrossWire has that. Sans CrossWire, you wouldn't get this
> content at all (ignoring other sources who might take that
> responsibility). Luckily, CrossWire isn't going anywhere.

I don't expect CrossWire to go anywhere.  However, I still thought
that it was worth asking.

> > However, I
> > still have a rooted objection to the idea of men holding a copyright
> > or ownership on the word of God, and using that to limit the people
> > who will be allowed to use God's word, or to use it so that they can
> > make unreasonable amounts of money from the word of God (somewhat
> > off-topic).
> Translation is work. The worker is worthy of is wage, and obviously, if
> you disagree, you're free to not use his work. :)

I'm not objecting to that, which is why I qualified it as making
"unreasonable" amounts of money from the work.  However, I do still
object to them having "copyright" or "ownership" of (a translation of)
God's word.  Again, this is somewhat off topic.  I do not at present
use any pay for versions, but the price charged far exceeds
distribution costs, and in the case of Bibles like the NASB the
primary market they were developed for (and which did give the worker
their hire) was the paper market, where printing and other costs make
it fairly reasonable to charge the amount they do.  Charging the same
amount for a medium with distribution costs near zero is not so
reasonable in my (probably biased) opinion.

> Since we are specifically talking about English Bibles in this case,
> there's really no good reason to claim that someone charging for a
> translation is hindering the spread of the Gospel. If you don't want to
> pay $15 for the NASB, you can use the ESV for free. If the ESV licensing
> is not to your liking, use any of a dozen modules offered as public
> domain content or such.

We were not specifically talking about English Bibles.  We distribute
most of the foreign language Bibles that we are permitted to
distribute.  The reason I didn't mention the other language ones is
because I didn't bother keeping them on my computer if they were not
distributable, since there is no way of my using them.  In some
languages, we are unable to distribute Bibles, because the only ones
that are available are Crosswire distribution only.


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