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COPYRIGHTS

BIBLES and Christian Writings

by aymon de albatrus


In this site the symbol  signify "Copyfree" (freely copy)


A dear brother in the Lord shared a useful maxim concerning motivation:

"Whenever you do anything, firstly ask yourself:
 < why am I doing that I am doing? >".

And then ask yourself a more important question:

<What would Jesus have done in this situation?>

When we consider the concept of Copyrights on Bibles and Christian Writings, it is necessarily implied that the authors of these works are, definitely,  believing Christians and so their motivation has to be, by definition, to propagate the Christian beliefs above all, even above personal lucrative gains, in obedience to the Lord. This may also be considered as their < ministry in the Lord >. There may be, of course, some that are not believers and do compose "christian" writings, incredible but true, and that possibility shall be dealt specifically below, for these are NOT Christian Writings but secular, if not satanic fantasies.

The best Copyright statement that I ever read is found in the books penned by Loraine Boettner (LB), which goes this way:

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.

Now lets us examine a few points of this statement:

1. Anyone is at liberty to use material from this book with or without credit
LB here, shows greatness of heart with simple humility together with a real understanding that nothing is truly our own, superbly summarised in: For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 AV)

2. In preparing this book the author has received help from many sources, some acknowledge and many unacknowledged. Again we see the acuteness of LBís understanding of the real facts of life for no matter how bright one is, the reality is that no work is truly unique but well over 90% is a product of what one has received during his lifetime. Isaac Newton encapsulated this concept very well when he said: "I was able to see further because I was standing on the shoulder of giants". Besides, our dear Lord has clearly told us: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8 AV)

3. 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. First of all we see here that he is a real Christian very much concerned in dividing the Word of God correctly and then we note, in high evidence that his foremost concern is to spread the Word of God in liberty and not to restrict its expansion by exercising personal gains. Truly a Kingdom of God statement, as the Apostle strongly compel us to do: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind (1 Peter 5:2 AV)

Let us now honestly investigate the tenets of Copyright, which are basically two:

1. The first fundamental concept has to do with; gain, money, greed and concupiscence.

2. The second implication actually covers two aspects: that of pride of oneís "creation" and the other of protection thereof.

If we now consider: For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (1 Timothy 6:7 AV) and 1Co 4:7 (above) we honestly cannot escape the conclusion that we are nothing in ourselves and possess nothing of our own, but all is of God. Once Rick Godwin at my church gave us a word/picture that has remained with me ever since, he described the worth of man as a big fat zero with Ö the rim removed. I consider that to be a true statement. Surely, he meant a man on his own worth except what God has added to the man, for Jesus did no die for nothing, this is understood. Thus, under this real situation, how can a Christian even distantly consider the application of Copyrights to "his" religious works? It is a situation skirting blasphemy with respect to God.

Am I passing the message across OK?

Practical Aspects

Surely a Christian man has got to raise an income for himself and for his family, to live and serve the Lord. That is not denied, but commanded. "For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. 1 Timothy 5:18". So he may translate Bibles or even write and sell Christian Books for a living and/or even as a ministry, no problem with that. But, to brand Bibles and Christian Books with anathematic copyright statements a-la-Microsoft, is that really a Christian thing to do? Methinks not.

A dear friend of mine, a Christian and Patent Attorney has written a guide about Copyrights of Christian works and in that he quotes the origin of copyrights:

The first recorded copyright case in history involved the Bible. St. Columba, famous for taking the gospel to Scotland, lived from 521 to 597 when Bibles were scarce. Columba desperately wanted a copy and set out in secret laboriously to transcribe the abbot's Bible. Upon discovery, the abbot claimed the copy. King Diarmaid's judgment against Columba-"to every cow its calf, to every book its little book"-indicated that a book's owner is entitled to its copies.

Gutenberg introduced printing to the West in 1455, with the Bible being the first book printed. Around 1476, Caxton brought printing to England. With printing, and the possibility of mass copying, objections to copying arose. Under Henry VIII in 1529, Bibles became subject to patents which were exclusive royal licenses. In 1556, Queen Mary formed the Stationers' Company to register books to prevent "seditious and heretical books ... spreading great and detestable heresies against the Catholic doctrine."8 Printing was regulated also by the Star Chamber. These state controls were dissimilar to modern copyright, being for political and religious reasons, rather than protecting authors' rights.

The first copyright legislation was the Statute of Anne of 1709, which provided protection only for a limited term. To overcome this threat to their livelihood, publishers contended that, aside from statutory copyright, a perpetual copyright continued based on common law. On this premise, publishers obtained court orders against copying of expired books, particularly in Millar v. Taylor in 1769.

As we can clearly see, it was motivated by lucre and politics and not by Biblical principles.  Copyright belongs to the world.

Consider these practical aspects:

1. To publish a Book takes quite an effort under all stages and it is very unlikely that anyone would copy the Book fully and publish it under his own name. Even if this were so, he would not sell much for the fact would be quickly known.

2. If the copyist were to copy large chunks from anotherís book, what is the problem, ego?? Since we are concluded that the efforts of a real Christian, is the expansion of the knowledge of the Kingdom of God, then, all the better for this knowledge in not the Copyright of any man, but that of God. As the Word says: "What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." Philippians 1:18

Even from a lucrative point of view, does one actually believe that the implementation of these two points would really lead to a large loss of copyrighted gains? I guess that if anybody wants the book, he will buy it, and anyone who is not interested in buying, then, he would not buy, anyway.

Jesus had a clear view on something like this: And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. (Luke 9:49-50 AV). Surely the copyist may be against us in terms of lucre but unwittingly "for Christ" for the Good News is spread about, nonetheless.

This same friend asked me these questions:

Would it bother you if they used the articles to make themselves profit?

Do you want them to credit you as the author?

What if they modify it?

Do you want to be named as author? or are you happy for them to use it giving the impression that they are the author?

My overall answer to my friend is:

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth 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". Galatians 2:20

If I were motivated by the flesh, of course those things would bother me, but now I am a slave of Christ and it is no longer I that matters, but Him. And what I am and what I have is not mine, but His, for I have nothing that I have not received. Besides, He is well able to defend and protect what is His. Spurgeon said: "Scripture is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose; it will defend itself."

Copyrighted Bibles????

This I cannot conceive at all. How can any Christian possible conjure up to Copyright a 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?? 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? Wescott and Hort believed so. Not for me, thanks.

Books written by unbelieving "christian".

Well, Christian market is big enough to entice all sort of people to parade as christian to reap financial gains, the many "christian" Rock bands are a good example, ditto for books and ditto for Bibles too. A famous example of that is the compilation of the Revised Standard Version that was guided by two men reported to be unbelievers, Westcott and Hort. Now the majority of bibles in churches are based on that version, and copyrighted, to boot.

I suppose that not much can be done against that, directly, but real Christian writers can overcome this by simply placing Kingdom of God "copyright" statements (a la LB) on their own works.

Well , in a nutshell here it is.

1. Personally I consider the Copyright statement of LB to be sufficiently in harmony with the language of Godís Kingdom, both Biblical and Christian,

2. Under no circumstances Bibles should be Copyrighted,

3. ALL Christian Books should not be constrained by limiting Copyrighted statements for the first priority of any true Christian is to diffuse in every way possible the knowledge of the Kingdom of God and not to restrict its diffusion because of filthy lucre,

4.To flash out "christian" books written by unbelievers, the believing writer should use Christian Copyright statements such as LBís,

5. Slaves of the Lord Christ Jesus should use this Copyfree symbol on their Christian works.

This article is not copyrighted in any way (poor as it is).