[sword-devel] Legal ?

Paul Gear sword-devel@crosswire.org
Tue, 23 Nov 1999 21:15:15 +0000

Michael Paul Johnson wrote:

> At 05:49 11/23/1999 -0700, you wrote:
> >My understanding of 'legal' is that if you own a printed work for which
> >you paid royalty to the copyright holder, you own the right to use that
> >work from any media you desire.  Thus, if I have an NASB Bible sitting
> >on my shelf, I have every right to scan that work to electronic media
> >for my personal use.
> According to the letter of the law, you have no such right. You have the
> right to make copies of small portions of it, but not whole copies, no
> matter what form it is in. The copyright holder has the right to control
> who makes how many copies and in what form. That is why it is called a
> copyright. To get an idea of what the publisher calls "fair use" of their
> Bible, look at the copyright and permissions page.
> >You are NOT legally able to 'distribute' that work to others, but they
> >may also use an electronic copy if they own a printed copy, or
> >viceversa.
> Again, this is even more blatantly contrary to the letter of the law. I
> dare you to find either a Bible publisher or a lawyer who agrees with you
> on this point.

I'm with Mike on these points.  We may not like the restrictions, but they are
there, and we should honour the law.

> >The reason they exist on our site is to TEASE people :)
> >
> >Actually, that's partially true.  I'm hoping someone will be encouraged
> >to contact the copyright holders.  I began efforts, but don't have time
> >nor the language ability to follow up.
> It takes more than eloquence. It takes money (lots of it, in some cases), a
> more accurate knowledge of copyright law, and the courtesy to not appear to
> them to be pirates (i. e. someone who posts their text on an ftp site
> without their permission) before you even start serious negotiations.

I think this is a very good point.  If we are going to actively seek the
permission to use these texts, they should not be on the ftp site.  The people
who have edited them can keep them on their own systems, and as permission
becomes available, transfer them to the ftp site.  That way we would be seen
to be doing the right thing, which is an important thing when dealing with
profit-driven publishers.

> As much as I detest the copyrighted status of some Bibles and the policies
> of some profit-driven publishers, I don't believe we are at the point where
> we need to defy copyright law to get the Gospel out. Although I would agree
> that some copyright claims are not very defensible, such as the UBS4/NA27
> Greek New Testament copyright claimed by the American Bible Society, others
> are quite defensible, like the NIV and NASB. Note that Zondervan (part of
> Rupert Murdoch's media enterprises along with "The Simpsons") in particular
> has both considerable interest in defending its copyrights on the NIV and
> NIrV, and the resources to do so effectively. Even the ABS has demonstrated
> the willingness to deny copyright permission for a public reading of one of
> their new translations in a city park.

The mind boggles at this!  I thought the whole purpose of the Bible societies
was to make the Bible _available_ to people!

> Still, there are several English
> translations that can be freely distributed, including the World English
> Bible. Granted, the World English Bible Old Testament isn't finished, but
> even in its current form, it is better than the ASV. It is also clearly
> Public Domain.

I really think that this is the way to go.  We need to find free resources and
make them the best they can be - hopefully even better than the ones that cost
money.  On this note, i think those people working on new texts and resources
need to seriously look at the OPL, an open _content_ license that is very
similar to GPL, but tuned for content such as texts and artwork.  Check out
their web site at <http://www.opencontent.org>.

BTW, has anyone got a copy of the ISV in Sword format yet?  The Learn
Foundation has generously offered to make this text free in electronic form to
anyone who wants it.  You can download Word 7, RTF, and PDF versions of it
from their web site <http://www.isv.org/isvi/isv_downloads.htm>.  They do make
some rather outrageous claims - that it is the most accurate and readable
English version of the Bible ever - which even a NIV devotee like myself finds
a little hard to swallow, and you KJV people would probably find quite
offensive.  But despite this i have found it quite a usable and readable
version.  And their commitment to 100% free usage in electronic form is
commendable.  They are working on Logos, STEP, and Online Bible formats as
well.  The OT isn't finished yet, either.

Our mantra for this work (pardon the pagan metaphor) should be 1 Cor 9:18
(NIV): "What then is my reward?  Just this: that in preaching the gospel i may
offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it."
Let it be so with us, Lord.

"He must become greater; i must become less." - John 3:30