Copyright and Christian publishing, today...

If technology is behind many evils, although I wouldn't put it at the top of the list, the aggressive lobbying of publishers for expansion of their copyrights would be way up there. You know a recurrent theme here is the click we all are forced to perform before new software installations and updates: "Yes, I've read and agree with your 10,000 words of legalese here binding me to give notice to Apple if I ever put on a pair of socks again without explicit permission from Apple's in-house socks permissions department. And no, I will never, ever eat an apple again without paying you a user fee. Promise and cross my heart." You know the routines and the lies it's made pervasive.

But this is almost the least toxic part of the abuse of copyright, today. We have Christians threatening lawsuits against those who copy works in the public domain when those works are not and cannot be covered by copyright, so their threat is a lie. We have Bibles copyrighted when the Holy Spirit inspired every word, and Moses, Kings David and Solomon, and the Apostle Paul did the work and have been dead for many centuries. We have Mickey Mouse getting an extension of royalties for Disney simply because he has well-paid lawyers and lobbyists buying legislators who think making the Disney corporation filthy richer is fine because Disney is next to apple pie and motherhood.

It's a mess and we all need to remind ourselves that there's another way for believers...

Further thoughts on the NIV2011 MacArthur Study Bible...

NOTE FROM TB: I wrote the text below and was ready to post it this afternoon but other things intervened and I didn't get to it until late this evening. So I wrote this without having seen Phil Johnson's response to our previous posts, nor my brother David's response to Phil. Just an FYI.

* * *

Let me clarify my thoughts concerning the publication of the MacArthur Study Bible in the text of the New International Version 2011...

Appreciation for John MacArthur, warts and all...

(DB) In the 1980s I couldn't take John MacArthur. Every time his voice came on WMBI in Chicago, I turned it off. My mother would say to me that he was a better man than I thought. I didn't care. Something snide and self-assured seemed to emanate from from the radio when he was preaching.

And then in 1985-86, I spent a year in Fullerton, CA, as a pastoral intern under Paul Sailhamer at the Fullerton Evangelical Free Church while Chuck Swindoll was senior pastor there. As part of the year, Paul took the two interns to visit significant California churches. We did a trip to San Diego (on which Chuck accompanied us) and a northern trip to the Bay area.

We also went to visit Grace Community Church, where Paul, Dave Butler and I had breakfast with John MacArthur. 

During breakfast I asked John if he was willing to preach on abortion. I had a private interest in the question: I had been trying to convince friends at Fullerton that Chuck should preach on abortion, something he hadn't yet done (he did the following year). Fullerton was willing to have then-surgeon-general C. Everett Koop preach on abortion, but not Chuck. So I secretly scored a point when John answered emphatically, "Yes, I'm willing. I've already preached two series on it."

Large corporations are the real pirates...

I'm sure many readers of Baylyblog consider my opposition to Christian organizations and publishers' claiming copyright on works in the public domain as quixotic, tilting at windmills.

But it's not tilting at windmills--not at all. Rather, it's a serious case of theft and you can get a better understanding of this evil by reading this article showing that the real piracy today isn't your teenage son using Limewire to download a song or movie. That's shoplifting and it's sin, but the real piracy is done by the large corporations abusing copyright law for their own profits. And Christian publishers are not speaking out against these abuses. I have yet to see or hear of them taking a Christian stand against such theft.

If a reader can point me to a place where they have opposed it, please do so. (TB, w/thanks to Lucas)

Stop the sweetheart deal the wealthiest corporations are demanding of Congress...

Google:SOPADid you notice Google's protest today, shown to the right? I can't remember another time we've done this on Baylyblog but rich corporations' abuse of copyright has to stop. Join millions of others in registering your opposition to Senate 968 (PIPA) and HR 3261 (SOPA).

The corporate authors of this legislation are demanding the ability to take down any web site (including Craigslist, Wikipedia, or Google) that hurts their profits without prior judicial oversight or due process. You'll notice sites such as Wikipedia and Craigslist have joined Google in protest.

Register your opposition now. Stop this money grab by the likes of News Corp, TimeWarner, Comcast, Ralph Lauren, ABC, Juicy Couture, Chanel, Sony, Rolex, RIAA, and Nike.

And if you think SOPA solves a real problem, read this and this.

Odd allies of the protest include Nancy Pelosi and Ron Paul. The ACLU is right on this one.


Legacy publishers' days are numbered...

Legacy publishers are in trouble and no tears needed. As with seminaries, colleges, denominations, parachurch organizations, missions, and certainly churches, wealth and power corrupt. So it's good to see fresh faces committed to God's truth using the new media that are taking the publishing world by storm. Although those losing money and power will bear false witness against it...

<i>NIV 2010</i> and postmodern sensitivities (I)...

(Tim, w/thanks to Andrew) Working for its employer, Biblica, the Committee on Bible Translation has just announced a new line of merchandise labelled the New International Version 2010. Aimed at postmoderns who are quite sensitive to the charges of sexism and anti-Semitism made against Scripture, News Corp's Zondervan has purchased exclusive rights to what is likely to be a highly profitable product line. (The latest year for which stats are available, Zondervan paid Biblica $6,000,000 in royalties.)

David and I have long opposed changing Scripture to make it less offensive. Where does it end? If we're going to avoid offending feminists, what about post-Holocaust Jews? And if we're going to avoid offending feminists and Jews, what about the slaves? And if we're going to avoid offending feminists and Jews and the slaves, what about the gay community? What about all of us who hate repentance--can't they tweak things so repentance isnt' so prominent?

Where does it end?

But really, if we're going to sell Scripture short, let's skip all the secondary offenses and go straight to...

Liar, liar, pants on fire; nose is as long as a telephone wire...

(Tim) A notice on my screen tells me Firefox has an update I should install. I'm obedient and, after installation, restart Firefox. Immediately I'm presented a screen that says it's quite important I update to the latest version of Adobe Flash Player. I push another button and then another and another and another... Finally, I'm presented with a screen saying "This program will install Adobe Flash Player 10.1. Usage subject to the Flash Player Software License Agreement." Then there's a checkbox next to the statement "I have read and agree to the terms of the license agreement," and two buttons--"QUIT" and "INSTALL."

If you click "INSTALL" without checking the "I have read and agree to the terms of the license agreement" checkbox, you'll notice it's grayed out and won't be functional until you...

Why no free MP3s of the NASB, ESV, NLT, and HCSB?

(This post was quite different, originally, and I've changed it to reflect what I found after more research. I'm sorry for my earlier errors.)

(Tim) Evangelical publishers would do well to offer free digital MP3 files of their Bibles to facilitate memorization. Free MP3s of the KJV are widely available, while other Bible publishers are earning good royalties off these audio files that cost little to nothing to serve on the web, nor do they need to be printed or shipped. The NASB95 is about the least expensive of contemporary versions at $20-30 for the entire Bible in MP3...

Good comment posted...

(Tim) Because we no longer have a comment feed, you wouldn't know that a 2006 post has just had a comment posted. This is to inform those of you who might be interested.

The subject is Christian Bible software and the open source movement and you can find the comment here.

Legacy publishers on the ropes...

(Tim) The latest New Yorker has an article by Ken Auletta chronicling the death throes of bookstores and traditional book publishers. People are still buying books, but there's a hostile takeover of these legacy hard copy businesses being waged by authors and their strong allies: particularly the explosion of e-books and the pricing structure and self-publishing services of a number of companies; most especially, Amazon. 

It's been a long time coming and nothing but good that authors are regaining some authority over the marketing and distribution of their work.

Take, for instance, self-publishing. In the old days, traditional book publishers cultivated the notion that anything worth publishing would be recognized and put under contract by a reputable publisher. If you weren't able to interest the big name publishers and went the vanity press route, it was because you were vain and wouldn't listen to the simple truth acquisitions editors kindly sent you by letter--that your book had no market. So hardheaded authors who wouldn't take "no" for an answer went off to a vanity press and paid, rather than being paid, for their book to be published. They spent money out of their own pockets to purchase a few hundred copies they could pawn off on business associates or family members.

But no serious man with serious credentials and serious things to say would be caught dead going that route. That's what was meant when you heard the suits say "he went with a vanity press."

Of course those who live in the publishing world know how fallible acquisitions editors and publishers are. John Grisham had his first mystery turned down by twelve publishers and sixteen agents before he found someone willing to take him into print...

Logos 4...

(David) Several weeks ago Logos Software suddenly began advertising a new version (No. 4) of their Bible software. I've owned Logos for years and my frustration with their publishing practices has been expressed on this blog in the past. But beyond a business model which charges often-ridiculous prices for public domain books, and book sets which contain an inordinate amount of chaff, I have consistently found the intricacies of the software off-putting. Logos has never been easy to use. It's complex, counter-intuitive, challenging software. Consequently, I seldom use Logos for anything but simple Bible searches.

So an updated version promising greater speed and ease-of-use sounded attractive. How could things get worse? Any simplification would help, especially since I've found it hard to incorporate additional book collections I've purchased over the years into my work flow. So I ponied up $150 for the upgrade and here's what I found.

Copyright law used to deny God's Word to Portuguese believers...

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)

(Tim) Under "Save your church money...," David Ker, a Bible translator and blogger of Mozambique, commented on the lockdown the Portuguese and Brazilian Bible Societies have put in place denying Portuguese Christians access to Portuguese digital versions of God's Word.

In a blog post titled, "Illegal sources of the Portuguese Bible in digital format," he writes:

While every other major world language has multiple versions of the Bible represented online, Portuguese has not one. To paraphrase Emerson, make the Bible illegal and we all become criminals*.

The spirits of John Wycliff and Brother Andrew hover over this shameful situation compelling us to act. If the enemy forces were a state religion like the Church of England or an oppressive government like China or Iran we would think nothing of risking our lives to bring the Bible to those who can’t access it otherwise. But in this case because the bad guys have the words “Bible Society” in their name we’re supposed to sit on our thumbs...

Copyrighting the Holy Spirit's words, then living off the profit...

But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities... (Acts 16:19)

(Tim, w/thanks to Lucas) A Greek Bible web site used by lovers of God's Word around the world has been shut down by the German/United Bible Society. Why?

Because they are intent upon defending the stream of money they've lived off for many years, now, provided by the Greek text of God's Word they've assembled. They claim their text is the closest anyone can possibly get to the original autographs inspired by the Holy Spirit.

So think about this. The better they do their job, the closer they will be to claiming copyright for the very word of God. In an e-mail, my son-in-law, Lucas, put it this way:

I was trying to figure out what, exactly, the UBS was copyrighting when they produce their version of the Greek New Testament. My only guess is that when they produce a Greek New Testament, they are copyrighting their specific choice of words. In other words, their copyright is not so much on the words themselves, but on the precise sequence of Greek words in their version of the Greek New Testament.

Their ultimate goal, of course, is to produce a Greek New Testament that is *exactly* the same as the original. But here's the crazy part: If they succeed in their goal, they will have succeeded in copyrighting the *actual* text of the Greek New Testament--not a translation, but the real thing.

Is that not crazy? If I'm right, then you can state it another way: the goal of the UBS is to copyright the *original* text of Scripture.

The head spins...

The abuse of copyright law...

(Tim, w/thanks to James) David and I've long argued that the Bible ought not to be copyrighted by anyone except to guarantee the text's accuracy. The Word of God's Author is the Holy Spirit--not the International Bible Society, Tyndale House Publishers, the Lockman Foundation, Zondervan, or Crossway. But of course, Bibles are the cash-cows of Christian publishing and no one's withdrawing their copyright of the Bible, putting its text into the public domain.

But beyond the text of God's Word, we have other Christian publishers denying the works they sell are in the public domain. Instead, in direct contradiction to firmly established copyright law, they claim turning old hard copy theological works into digital text allows them to claim possession of that text and make a profit off it. Not so.

Of all those working to expand their profit making ability through copyright law, Disney has to be one of the worst. Which is why this movie is priceless--click on through to the next page...


What you think you know about the copyright of old books that have been digitized, but don't...

(Tim) Here's a post that should be read by everyone who cares about getting old books written by fathers in the faith the broadest possible distribution around the world. To summarize: Christian corporations that claim copyright for old books in the public domain that they have digitized, formatted, and distributed electronically are making false claims. And if they threaten legal action against fellow believers who reproduce those digital copies, their threats have no legal merit; but more, their threats are contrary to Scripture:

Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6:7)

Yes, it's a long read (and don't miss the comments), but it's quite interesting to find out what copyright law really says about works in the public domain.

This is a crucial matter. The church around the world would be well-served by the free electronic distribution of works in the public domain that really are vastly superior in scholarship and doctrine than most of the stuff being churned out today by evangelical corporations owned by, for instance, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (Zondervan).


"Not I," said the pig...

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who are born to you, shall be taken away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:16-19)

(Tim) Recently, our eldest son, Joseph, and his excellent wife, Heidi, were rejected by an adoption agency when the home office came across an obscure sentence in the report of the home study social worker indicating Joseph and Heidi believe in corporal punishment...


Copyrights and Christian Bible Software

I just purchased a beautifully cared-for set of James Bannerman's The Church of Christ via Alibris. I had to check to make certain it wasn't a later printing than the used bookseller listed (1974, Banner of Truth). I've bought new books from Banner of Truth's warehouse that didn't look as good.

It's a shame that this two-volume set is no longer in print. The last printing I'm aware of was Banner of Truth's 1974 edition. Of course, photocopies of various editions have been sold over the internet--I bought one several years ago--but actual volumes of this classic remain frustratingly elusive.

Which brings me to my primary thought.... Why has no one scanned and OCR'ed this work? For that matter, why has no one scanned and OCR'ed countless other worthy classics? CCEL (Christian Classics Ethereal Library) has done a good job of scanning and serving an eclectic mix of titles, but no Bannerman--and no plans to scan him (or many other worthy titles) appear on their "Wanted List."

I'm afraid part of the reason many Christian works in the public domain haven't been scanned and made publicly available is the balkanization of the Christian Bible software market and the greed of Christian software publishers.

When Adobe came out with Acrobat they chose to distribute the Acrobat reader freely and to charge for PDF-creation software. Not long after that, they went further and opened the PDF format to the public, allowing other software companies to publish and sell PDF-creation software. As a result there now exists a healthy market in PDF creation software and a world of publications in the PDF format.

And by opening its standards and allowing others into the market, Adobe profited greatly. Its PDF creation software remains the standard for PDF production and Adobe continues to expand Acrobat's capabilities: from forms to pre-press production, Acrobat reigns.

Contrast this with Logos Bible Software's work in the Christian market. Logos not only charges for the software necessary to read books published in its format, it also charges for titles. You must buy a collection of electronic titles from Logos when you purchase their software; depending upon the price you pay you receive either a modest collection of Bibles and various other works, or a larger number of scholarly and devotional works.

While it is possible to purchase software to convert an electronic book into a Logos-compatible file, the software costs $100 and explicitly requires that any converted books not be transferred to other Logos software owners. For $240, a program that permits you to convert an electronic book into Logos format and give the converted file to fellow Logos owners is also available. But the license explicitly forbids sale of the converted work and cripples some of its features.

In essence, Logos wants the entire pie. It wants to sell the reader. It wants to sell the converter. It wants to sell the books. And, as you might expect of a Christian software company, many public domain works are sold as copyrighted material. Matthew Henry is sold as copyrighted and costs $34.95 from Logos. Jamieson, Fausett, Brown costs $79.95. The irony is, print versions of many of the works available through Logos can be purchased more cheaply than Logos electronic editions.

I could say more about the kludginess of Logos software. It takes forever to load--even on a blazing computer. Searching requires a graduate degree in Boolean terminology. Original language tools still bamboozle me after nine years of owning the program. And there is still no way to insert Bible verses from Logos into a manuscript you're working on without firing up the entire program.

But in the end, the thing that offends me is the greed of a company refusing to permit users of its software to convert and sell their own personal works--but then turning around and selling public domain texts themselves. Almost the whole CCEL could be converted for use in Logos if Logos would only put the needs of its customers ahead of its desire to profit from every text read on its software. But that wouldn't make Logos money so it's unlikely ever to happen.

For an alternative vision of how Bible software should work to the glory of God, check out the SWORD Project. This open source Bible software is available at no cost--with many public domain books available free as well.

I notice on the SWORD Project's front page news that a German publisher has made its commentary series availabale in the SWORD format. The commentary comes locked, but can be unlocked for a reasonable fee. SWORD makes no money from the sale of the commentary.

I wish SWORD the very best. Now let's get Bannerman's Church of Christ up on the web--along with a great many other deserving works in the public domain. If enough public domain works can be put up in the SWORD format, more and more publishers will put out electronic versions or copyright material for SWORD rather than Logos. And that will benefit us all.


Poythress and Frame on copyright...

Last night one reader of the correspondence with EPP reminded me of the interest Vern Poythress and John Frame have in copyright issues and I responded that I'd found their articles on the subject very helpful months back when I began this dialog with EPP. For those wanting to delve more deeply into this subject, here are three pieces that open up these issues with biblical wisdom.

"Copyrights and Copying: Why the Law Should Be Changed" by Vern Poythress.

"Digital Ethics and File Formats" by Vern Poythress.

"The Other Shoe: or, Copyright and the Reasonable Use of Technology" by John Frame.


Christian businesses make copyright claims without legal merit...

Readers may think this is too boring to read, but if you have any interest in the matter of copyright, particularly as it pertains to works in the public domain, this letter is essential reading. (Yes, I know that's self-serving but I do want you to read this so we can get the message out.)

Some weeks ago, I sent this letter off to the good folks of the Encyclopedia Puritannica Project. I had written them earlier to protest the threat they displayed prominently on their legal page to sue anyone who shared the Puritan works in the public domain they had digitized--changed from paper to digital copies. Specifically, this claim from their legal page is without legal basis:

The republication of EPP digital texts for commercial or non-commercial purposes is not allowed without permission. These texts are copyrighted and the EPP reserves the right to employ stealthy, text-tracing in order to detect and legally prosecute the theft of its work.
In my letter to EPP, I pointed out that their work digitizing the Puritans did not authorize them to make a profit off works that were in the public domain, and therefore owned by no one.

They responded defending their actions by saying they'd spent a lot of money on digitizing the Puritan works, and that the copyright they claimed was ironclad based upon that money and the work it represented changing mediums from analog (paper) to digital (electronic).

With much help from several attorney-friends as well as another attorney who specializes in intellectual property law, I wrote the following letter.

There are plate tectonic implications for Christian companies who have built their business model on threatening to take to court anyone who reproduces their work in cases where the heart of their work is a public domain work that was written centuries ago. Threats of legal action and the underlying claims of copyright are not sustained by the law.

Unless Christian businesses making money off selling digitized copies of works in the public domain can demonstrate they have added significant original or creative content--not hyperlinks, standardization of Scripture references, formatting, or indexing, for instance--their claim of copyright is baseless, legally. Further, threatening that they will take users to court if they share the public domain text with others is contrary to the explicit command of Scripture--that we are not to go to court against one another.

For too long, Christians have been nave concerning these claims and have allowed themselves to be intimidated by the threat of legal action. Who wants another Christian accusing one of being a thief?

But works of dead fathers in the faith are in the public domain and no matter how much money and time Christian businessmen have spent scanning, OCRing, and proofing those texts as they take them from analog to digital media, the courts are clear that they may not copyright that work.