[sword-devel] Legal ?

Michael Paul Johnson sword-devel@crosswire.org
Tue, 23 Nov 1999 17:30:20 -0700

At 09:05 11/23/1999 -1000, Brandon Staggs wrote:
>I must disagree here. It is (USB4) merely a collection of copies of Greek
>texts (bad ones at that, but that is a different topic entirely). There is
>no unique material. ...

There is unique material in the "critical apparatus" -- but, if their claim 
that they have reconstructed the original manuscripts to the best of their 
ability is true, then the text of the Bible itself shouldn't be 
copyrightable. I choose not to argue the point, because there are Public 
Domain Majority Text and Textus Receptus Greek New Testaments, and I'd 
rather use them, anyway.

>English translations are even worse. Copyright law is clear here: if one
>translates a work from Spanish to English, the copyright still belongs to
>the Spanish holder of the text, and the English publisher does not have the
>right to use the text without permission. When the NIV was translated, they
>translated from public domain texts (perhaps with the exception of where
>they decided on the UBS4). Technically it should still be a public domain

Technically not. If I make a translation of a public domain text, I can 
copyright the translation. If I make a translation of a copyrighted text 
with permission of the original copyright holder, then I can copyright that 
translation, but the original copyright holder may put restrictions on what 
I can do with my translation. The law gets really messy.

>But the real kicker is that the NIV was originally done with DONATIONS from
>Churches throughout the U.S. So the Christian community PAID for the
>translation work -- ye they are continually charged for it over and over
>again, when they have to pay $10-20 to use it in their Bible software, when
>there is absolutely NO cost to the original publisher for such use.

Annoying, isn't it? Yet, according to the letter of the law, it is legal 
for them to do so. One minor consolation is that Zondervan sets aside a 
small percentage of their NIV revenue to help fund the other things the 
International Bible Society does.

>Bottom line is: If you think a text is God's word (and whether or not it is
>is a different topic), then man has no business pretending to own it.

I certainly won't argue with you on this point... but lots of people would.

>Anyone who knows me knows that I am a KJV man. But look at our friend MPJ
>here -- I respect what he is doing. He knows the need for God's word to be
>free and unrestricted. While I may disagree with his decisions in some cases
>(1Jo 5:6,7, for example), I would NEVER doubt his intentions and heart on
>the matter.

Believe me, this is a great complement from my brother. Thank you, Brandon. 
By the way, I'm currently adding in footnotes in the New Testament to 
indicate where the Textus Receptus (upon which the KJV was based) differs 
significantly from the Majority Text (upon which the World English Bible is 
based). The reader can then rely on the Holy Spirit and their own studies 
to decide what to do with that information.

>The only need for the NIV and NASB is a commerical one. A free project has
>no need, since there ARE viable alternatives for those who seek such texts.
>Besides, Zondervan will want 10,000 up front in advance royalties, IF you
>can get them to change their mind (they have stated that they are not going
>to license their text for any more software projects). Who around here has
>that kind of cash, when MPJ's WEB is a better translation anyway?

Thank you again, Brandon, for the kind words. The World English Bible isn't 
my work alone (many people are helping with it), and it belongs to God. I 
do have a high opinion of the NIV, NKJV, and NASB, but I must admit that I 
like the WEB better in those portions that are "done" (New Testament, 
Psalms, Proverbs, and some other parts). If I didn't, I would have changed 
it to be better (in terms of accuracy and readability).

I believe that we should remove the decryption keys for the copyrighted 
texts for which we have no distribution permission from the developer area 
immediately to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing. It would also be 
wise to remove even the encrypted versions of such texts from public areas, 
since they serve no purpose there, now, anyway. I have looked at the 
copyright law, and I'm not a lawyer, but I can read. Where there are real 
legitimate "loopholes" in the law, you know I am not afraid to exploit them 
(i. e. with cryptographic software distribution). Where the law of man 
conflicts with God's law, I likewise don't hesitate to go with God's law 
instead. In this case, though, I appeal to you (and especially to Troy) to 
be patient with respect to the copyrighted texts, and take them out of the 
spotlight. Doing otherwise will only poison future negotiations and give 
people cause to accuse us of wrongdoing.


Michael Paul Johnson