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Should Bibles be copyrighted? NO. Significant alteration? That is wrong.

Updated on February 20, 2013
Back in the day of this bible publishing they were more concerned with authority than copyright. Yes those dates are in the 1500's and 1600's
Back in the day of this bible publishing they were more concerned with authority than copyright. Yes those dates are in the 1500's and 1600's | Source

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 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

I think I will go copyright a special kind of love and sell it.
I think I will go copyright a special kind of love and sell it. | Source

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.


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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      It is kind of a strange duck in the world of copyright. There is a dearth of cases considering the point straight on. Ministers actually get sued from time to time for copying too much of a given bible, but these are lower cases that are not recorded for precedent. From what I can tell none of the big publishers have ever sued someone for infringing on their work with the Bible. Some outliers exist in Scientology and A Course in Miracles but those are different issues.

      Thank you for the read and comment Ron

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      This makes a lot of sense, Eric. If you can copyright a restatement of the Bible in somewhat different language, why can't I copyright my paraphrase of, say, "Gone With The Wind" or of the Harry Potter series? I wonder if anyone has ever legally challenged the copyright on a Bible translation. It would be interesting to see the legal reasoning on both sides of that case.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I gotta admit it freaked me out. I have been studying multiple versions and never really cared. Makes you want to read Greek and Latin.

      thanks for commenting.

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      That's insane. I never paid attention, but I never would have guessed that the Bible was copyrighted. At some point, someone needs to step in and say enough is enough. Thanks for this Hub. Here is your Up!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you, I cannot help but think of Jesus turning over all the money changers tables at the temple.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      I agree, Eric. It doesn't seem right. From what I understood all versions of the Bible except the KJV are copyrighted. And I've seen people selling Gideon bibles, too.

      I look forward to reading more of your hubs. God bless you.