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Kingdom of God vs. Copyright

aymon de albatrus

"……… and what have you that you did not receive? now if you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it?" (1Co 4:7)

"Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give." (Mat 10:8)

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20)


THIS IS A MOST SENSITIVE ISSUE.

It concerns Money: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Ti 6:10)

Before I get clobbered from all sides, please note that I am well aware that this issue touches the most natural side of man’s heart, but I am writing from a spiritual point of view and specifically accordingly to the tenets of the Kingdom of God, i.e. how things are to be done in His sovereign realm, in other words: "how we, His obedient children, should live".

The facts of life are that everything, but absolutely everything belongs to God, even our own life. There is NOTHING that exists that God did not create from nothingness. He is the absolute owner of everything, even our own souls, and has Sovereign control and Power over anything, as Scripture attests:

"… what have you that you did not receive?" "No but, O man, who are you that reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus?" (Rom 9:20) "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Mat 10:28)

This means that we have NO claim of possession on anything we use and do, it is ALL received from God and for a brief time, for when we die ALL is left behind. At the very best we just borrow it and we are accountable on what use we do with God’s possession.

Moreover ALL we do and write in our life it is not from us but God given therefore the concept to Copyright anything (in our name) for the purpose of personal gains is in fact copyrighting something which is not ours but Gods, For Jesus says: "freely you have received, freely give".

Certainly I do not want to be "the accusers o the brethrens" and will not accuse anyone, but brethrens that copyright the material they receive from God (and all is given) will have to render an account of that to the God of the universe, the God of their souls.

In fact when we are being made ‘born again’ we die to ourselves and made alive spiritually in Christ, we are joined to Him and we live in Him, and if we are dead to the things of the world we ought to set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:1-3)

If indeed we have crucified the greed of the flesh to the cross we are not to crave for financial gains or earthly recognition but should consider the things of the world as stinking dung, as Paul did: "Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ," (Phi 3:8)

Furthermore, if indeed what we have received is from God what right have we to restrict its diffusion to the people by putting a stranglehold on it for our financial gain? What Scripture says about that?

Even the Apostles wanted to ‘Copyright’ the teaching of Christ, but what Jesus said apropos: "38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in your name, and he follows not us: and we forbade him, because he follows not us. 39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is on our part. 41 ¶ For whoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Mar 9:38-41)

You see, the Apostles had the worldly attitude of copyright the miracles, they wanted to have their own private guild and keep this gift to themselves for personal gains, but Jesus rebuked them saying whosoever does something in His name is not to be stopped by legalism but to let him do it for he is in His side and his reward will be given to him. Furthermore, these people that were casting out devils were not taking anything away from the Apostles, but were actually furthering the blessings of God to the people in addition to what the Apostles’ were doing.

The Copyright concept is from the world, if not from the Pit, and NOT from God, for the purpose thereof is to limit the free divulgence of what God has given, to ensure personal greedy gain, this attitude is NOT the stuff of the Kingdom, "freely you have received, freely give".

A little History apropos copyright

Copyright was not invented until after the advent of the printing press and with wider public literacy (naturally, the more literacy grew, the more books sold and thus the more gains). As a legal concept, its origins in Britain were from a reaction to printers' monopolies at the beginning of the eighteenth century (greed). Charles II of England was concerned by the copying of books and used the royal prerogative to pass the Licensing Act of 1662 which established a register of licensed books and required a copy to be deposited with the Stationers Company, essentially continuing the licensing of material that had long been in effect. The Statute of Anne was the first real copyright act, and gave the author rights for a fixed period, after which the copyright expired. Copyright has now grown from a legal concept regulating copying rights in the publishing of books and maps to covering just about anything, something like the VAT (due to the great monetary gains associated with it).

The 1886 Berne Convention first established recognition of copyrights among sovereign nations, rather than merely bilaterally. Under the Berne Convention, copyrights for creative works do not have to be asserted or declared, as they are automatically in force at creation: an author need not "register" or "apply for" a copyright in countries adhering to the Berne Convention. As soon as a work is "fixed", that is, written or recorded on some physical medium, its author is automatically entitled to all copyrights in the work, and to any derivative works unless and until the author explicitly disclaims them, or until the copyright expires. The Berne Convention also resulted in foreign authors being treated equivalently to domestic authors, in any country signed onto the Convention.

The UK signed the Berne Convention in 1887 but did not implement large parts of it until 100 years later with the passage of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. The USA did not sign the Berne Convention until 1989.

So as we can see the concept of Copyright is a worldly concoction to ensure maximum gain to the originator of the work, effectively limiting its exposure at large,

Fair use and fair dealing

Copyright does not prohibit all copying or replication. In the United States, the fair use doctrine, codified by the Copyright Act of 1976 as 17 U.S.C. Section 107, permits some copying and distribution without permission of the copyright holder or payment to same. The statute does not clearly define fair use, but instead gives four non-exclusive factors to consider in a fair use analysis. Those factors are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofits educational purposes,

  2. The nature of the copyrighted work,

  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relationship to the work as a whole, and

  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Copyright on religious works

The situation with copyright on religious works is not always clear (because of the greed involved) who the rights' holder is. Under the provisions of the Berne convention, copyright is granted to the author on creation of the work, but several religions claim that their works are authored (written or dictated) by their God and therefore no one can copyright these works. The Bible for example claims this: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2Ti 3:16); “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2Pe 1:21 

Indeed we Christians believe that the Bible is literally and inerrantly the Word of God that did not came by the will of man, but holy men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. And yet, many editions of the Bible are under copyright due to their edition or translation.

Does it mean that if a Bible version is translated on another language, the translator has now the copyright on the translated work? Surely NOT! What is copyrighted, the medium or the actual meaning the medium conveys? Incontestably, if anything can be copyrighted is the message that the writing transmits and not the words used, for they are public domain. AND the message is ALWAYS God’s property, regardless of the language used, otherwise it could not be considered Holy and Inerrant. Thus copyrighted Bibles are even contravening the Copyright tenets.

The greed of man is without limits.

Sharing freely what we have received

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If we can write well, it is a gift we have received from God and the gifts are given to be shared, they are not given to be hoarded and definitely not as a mean to get personal gains. Scriptures says this apropos: "10 As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God gives: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (1Pe 4:10-11)

The aim of all gifts, whether natural or spiritual, is "that in everything God might be glorified through Jesus Christ". This means that God's aim in giving us gifts is that his glory might be displayed. How can this be done well, if we restrict the gift of writing we have received by copyrighting it?

He wants us, and the world, to marvel at Him and recognize who He is. The stupendous reality of God is all encompassing. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (Romans 11:36). And there is nothing more thrilling, more joyful, more meaningful, more satisfying to be part in the eternal unfolding of God's glory (not greedy of filthy lucre, 1Ti 3:3). Even if our gift is only to write little articles in Internet, and may look small, it is nevertheless a blessing to some people and always bringing Glory to God and it must not be constrained by copyrighting it, to be part of His eternal plan.

The concept of Copyright is so deeply rooted in our society that there is even a satirical cartoon with deep insight showing a church building and a preacher looking with greed in his eyes at many packets of dollar notes with the Bible next to it. But then further down you read COPYRIGHT, thus negating the message the author wanted to give, i guess without realising it.

We are not our own anymore, and we have been purchased with a high price, the Blood of Christ: "… the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."(Act 20:28) "You are bought with a price; be not you the servants of men." (1Co 7:23)

Personally I feel highly honoured if someone considers my writing good enough to be copied into their sites, and very happy about that for it may bless even more people. No need to ask, Go for it, for the glory of God. Amen.

Suggested guideline:

We Christian have to be different from the world, and in a CLEAR way.  Absolutely we must NOT follow the ways of the world e not fall into Mammon. "... You cannot serve God and mammon."  (Mat 6:24)

If anybody wants, anyway, to apply some sort of "copyright" statement on his received literary work, the best I have ever seen is the one below, used by Loraine Boettner:

Anyone is at liberty to use material from this book with or without credit. In preparing this book the author has received help from many sources, some acknowledge and many unacknowledged. He believes the material herein set forth to be a true statement of Scripture teaching, and his desire is to further, not to restrict, its use.