Should Bibles be copyrighted? NO. Significant alteration? That is wrong.
Here are some requirements to copyright a bible
The Word, copyrighted? I have always been interested in the language of different Bible versions. And I have had the pleasure of working around the legal aspects of internet publishing and the rights and restrictions thereto. I am not a stranger to copyright or trademark law. I have also given opinion on canonical law, regarding personal sex issues. Today I ran into this:
The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
For these purposes there are two types of writing that can be properly copyrighted, Original works and derivative works. With new versions of the bible we fall into the derivative work area. One primary requirement of a derivative work is that it has substantial changes from the original. Certainly in a large book just updating language to modern parlance is not enough, that is changing archaic to current is not substantial enough to allow it to be copyrighted. The key is to change the meaning enough in order to make it your own work. Hmmm.
As a writer for Chick.com noted: "Since the KJV has laid claim to these first, the derivative copyright works must replace them with harder, Latinized words which always have three or four syllables; many have suffixes and prefixes." There are many other subtle changes required for these new versions to be copyrighted.
From Wikipedia, which does a fair job in this area: US Copyright Office Circular 14: Derivative Works notes that:
…..To be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a "new work" or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify the work as a new version for copyright purposes……
I looked and could not find a copyright for this classic picture
Hard to envision copyrighting the Constitution
Now you just have to wonder what the motivation might be to make a version of the bible different enough to be copyrightable. All that I can think of is money. That sounds a little perverted to me. Changes for the sake of making it copyrightable would seem to me that perhaps just perhaps that it might mean the changes were not developed for understanding, but rather for a profit motive.
From one of the largest publishers of bibles you can get a permission form here: (oops I had a link here but it got overwhelmed with inquiries and the site shut down) Nelson is the publisher. And their having copyrights is dubious.
I just can’t get a good feeling about quoting something out of a Bible, that requires permission from a mega corporation
Well I think I will just follow my old rule, view all that I read in any version with the love that is intended and let it flow from there. In fact the small group of versus that I do quote and publish are too small to be an infraction, but perhaps they are an infraction against The Word.
I fully recognize that this article will give ammunition for those who deride the Bible and Christianity as a whole, not to mention any form of religion. On the other hand maybe it will get them focused on a trivial matter that really does not affect the power and truth found in scriptures. There is no substitute for a community. If we stay in unity we help one another read and understand scripture and not be led astray.