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Should Christian Copyright their Works.

aymon de albatrus

"For who makes you to differ? And what do you have that you did not receive? And if you received [it], why do you boast as [if you] did not receive [it]?" (1Co 4:7 LIT)

"But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God." (1Co 2:12 LIT)


It is reported that Mark Twain once said in a flippant and cheeky way: "Only one thing is impossible for God: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet." Of course nothing is impossible for God, but Mark Twain (a sceptic) made a point on the state of chaos produced by the greed of man.

Looking at the statements on Copyrights in Christian sites, there is a huge gamut of positions:

  • Some have no Copyright at all,

  • Other clearly state Copyfree, e.g. copy as you will,

  • Several show the Copyrigt symbol but allow posting their articles with due credits,

  • A number do not allow posting on other sites but welcome hyperlinks,

  • A few do not allow anything, almost implying that even looking at their articles will make you the worst criminal, ever.

We can clearly see, by these statement, that Mark Twain had a very good point here.

But what is the spirit of Copyright ? Basically it is the spirit of greed and covetousness, indeed the spirit of idolatry. (Col 3:5)

Copyright is intended as a legal way to protect oneís intellectual property. This imply, of course, that the thing being protected is truly property of those that copyright, for it is agreed by all that one cannot justly and legally copyright something that is not of his own. Who is the rightful owner, then? For example in the past slaves did not belong to themselves but to their master, and not only themselves, but also anything of theirs, including their wives and children and works. In our days if an employee invents anything or anything he does in relation to his employment, then that thing is property of the employer, e.g. the employee cannot copyright his invention.

What about you and me and everybody else? The Bible states that: "Know ye that the LORD he [is] God: [it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves; [we are] his people, and the sheep of his pasture." (Psa 100:3) In other words we are His property, and not only that, ALL we have, He gave it to us: Ö. And what do you have that you did not receive? And if you received [it], why do you boast as [if you] did not receive [it]?" (1Co 4:7) Clearly stating that: "But all things are of God, Ö. (2Co 5:18)

Consequently, even using the secular laws as our basis, have we the right to Copyright anything that is not ours?? Obviously NOT. Now the facts are that everything we have or have produced is not ours, indeed not even our very own life is ours, but Godís. Thus, are those that Copyright, actually sinning against God? Well, obviously yes, for the 8th commandment forbids stealing, and they, by Copyrighting, are appropriating for themselves what belongs to God. They are robbing God of His glory.

For example, should an article or book about the marvellous Salvation in Christ be Copyrighted and the broadcasting of its salvific message restricted by secular laws?? Surely we all know that the world is trying to do that, but we MUST not, for our Lord told us: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" (Mat 28:19), and yet many defend their purported property with drawn sword.

Is this the guiding principle in the Kingdom of God? Methinks not. And not only they do Copyright their supposed own intellectual properties, but even the Bible. The Word of God was given freely to mankind for the knowledge of Christ and His marvellous Salvation but many limit its distribution by Copyrighting. Indeed our Lord clearly told us: freely ye received, freely give." (Mat 10:8). Are we obeying this command by copyrighting His Word? Obviously NOT.

How can any Christian possible engages in Copyrighting the Bible is a mystery to me and I fear a heavy offence to God. An interesting thought here; surely we are all agreed that God Himself has The FULL "Copyright" on His own Word, so anyone who prints a Bible placing on it his own acerbic Copyright statement, is he not actually breaking the very Copyright laws that he so eagerly defends and implements?? Indeed, are these zealots actually paying royalties to God?

No use saying that their Copyright refers only to the translation, for the Bible is not like any other book, but the Book of God, and not a business transaction. It is High time Christian preachers should instruct their people not to use Copyrighted Bibles.

A typical Bible copyright statement is the following:

"The goal of the copyright is to prevent others from profiting from the work that IBS, Nelson or other translators have done. As we live in a society based on capitalism and trade, the copyright law is what allows these companies to continue to do the work they do."

Does this strike you as a Christian statement? Are they involved in Christian activities? Where is a statement about spreading the WORD? Are they trusting God or the world? Methinks this is not the language of the Kingdom, but that of the world. Are Bibles to be treated like any other secular books? And, YES, they admit to be working under a secular system.

If we for a moment reason after the manner of men we can consider the situation in two ways:

  1. The material is entirely from manís mind: then man can act after the manner of man and can put barring limits on his own creation, e.g., Copyright.

  2. But if the material is from the Lord: In that case man would sin against the Lord if he were to copyright His Material. Also he would sin by disobeying the command to share freely what he has received freely, and all he has, he has received freely.

Indeed, we know for sure that all we are and all we have has been received from the Lord, we know that for the Bible tells us so, by asking us a very clear and pertinent question: And what do you have that you did not receive? Therefore the first option is wrong, and we, His children are not to do so.

To be sure, what the Lord has given us is ours to use and to enjoy, but on the understanding that it really does not belong to us, it is a temporary gift to us that nobody should take it away (except Him, the rightful owner), but with the stipulation that we are to share what we have received freely, and that is ALL. If we are branding His gifts with our own mark we are trespassing and definitely sinning.

But I hear a worried voice: "what about if other men take advantage of my work?". Well we have already stated that there is nothing of ours: your abilities, your intellect, your brains, and surely your very own life, where did you get it from?". Can you say that you made them yourself?? Methinks NOT. ALL you have you received from The Lord, absolutely ALL, nothing excluded. So, dear friend, to which claim you can put a stake to?? And will not our Master defend His propriety? Are you taking things in your hand?

Did not our Master say: "31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, With what shall we be clothed? 32 For the nations seek after all these things. For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." (Mat 6:31-33)

If God cares enough for little sparrows, would He not look after us all the more? Are we not sinning in not trusting Him? Will he not protect what is His? Do we not believe that God is capable of doing what He has promised? "Is anything too difficult for Jehovah?" (Gen 18:14 LIT). Are we really seeking the Kingdom of God?

Today we do not trust God to look after us and follow the way of the nations for it is commonly accepted that copyright is the only right thing to do, when in fact it is also legal to permit free copying, i.e. the so called rights need not be invoked. The other perhaps more altruistic options are equally legal and moral, albeit the road less travelled.

Todayís norms are upheld as an ethical standard, because the church equates standard worldly business practices with Christian ethics. History shows, however, that the church in previous centuries, guided by courts with a more religious outlook, had a different approach, for in fact todayís standard business practices and Christian ethics are diametrically opposed.

But where did copyright started and what was the reason that motivated it?

The concept of copyright emerged in England in the sixteenth century from the bylaws of the guild then monopolising the country's publishing industry. The guild was granted a charter of incorporation by Queen Mary in 1556 and reorganised itself as the Company of Stationers of London. With official recognition of the Company's monopoly, its bylaws and concept of copyright also came gradually to be acknowledged as those of an official institute. The quasi-right known as Stationers' Copyright was based on royal prerogative or letter patent covering the entire publishing industry as an estate. This monopoly was assigned to its members as a virtual freehold interest.

Although the Stationers' Copyright was based on a prerogative which laid down three basic characteristics of Anglo-American copyright - namely that registration is indispensable for its protection, copyright was available not only to the author but also to purchasers, and it remains valid for a term that is a multiple of seven years - it gave no consideration whatsoever to the author's right. Eventually England enacted the world's first copyright law in 1710. This statute has long been considered a turning point in the history of copyright as it clearly recognised the author's presumed right.

So the bottom line that motivated the introduction of Copyright was the usual one: MONEY. For this reason the Word says apropos: "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)

The other reason for adoring the Copyright idea is of course PRIDE.

Pride in our own "creation" as if we did it ourselves. A good example of this is exemplified by Michelangelo. One of his many works was a statue representing the dead Christ laying on His motherís lap. This statue is called "La Pieta" (made when he was only 21) is exposed for all to see, at the Vatican in Rome, as you enter S. Peterís Basilica you will find it to the right. Well the story goes that after this most moving piece of sculpture was exposed to the public Michelangelo overheard someone attributing the statue to another sculptor. Full of passion during that very night he went with his chisel and carved his name (MICHELANGELO) across Maryís chest (as a seat belt) so to tell everybody whose masterpiece it was. This can be seen even today.

If effect Michelangelo Copyrighted his work, and did not write on it "GLORY TO GOD" for having given him hands capable of such masterpieces, but he wrote his name. Why? For Pride and Glory, of course. This sense of pride is covetousness and the Bible says that covetousness is idolatry (Col 3:5). Indeed Michelangelo idolized his works and by all accounts it seems that he did not give too much glory to God for the gifts received.

Those who insist on Copyright are in fact saying: "I am the captain of my soul and I do what I want with what is mine". Truly in their mind they do away with God as the Sovereign Lord over their lives and live in Independence which is the single root of every sin. They are no different from those who took Communion indecorously and were severely chastised by Paul: "For when you take your food, everyone takes his meal before the other; and one has not enough food, and another is the worse for drink." (1Co 11:21)

IN CONCLUSION

Having analyzed the matter carefully and keeping in mind the rules of the Kingdom, we conclude:

  1. All that we have belongs to God and not to ourselves,

  2. All we have received is a free gift from the Lord for us to enjoy and to manage carefully, always bringing honour to Him as the rightful owner,

  3. All that we do is the Lordís for we can do anything only because He gives us the ability to do it, "Ö.. For apart from Me you are not able to do anything." (Joh 15:5)

  4. All that we have received is to be shared with others freely as our Lord commands,

  5. If other do not share what they have received and limit or bar their use by imposing manís laws on that, we are not to force them to share, or take it from them. We should, of course, always ask for permission of use.

  6. The Lord will look after His property as He pleases, and All is His,

  7. We are to continually glorify and recognize Him with our actions, for All He is and for All He gives.