The Policy of The Word
The Word team respects all legitimate copyrights for both Bibles and non-Bible resources. We expect users to follow this example. No copyrighted modules will be knowingly made available for download on The Word website or allowed to be made available by a forum user unless a prior and legitimate permission has been granted by the copyright holder. Because of the multitude of resources available on the internet, and the impracticality of researching each and every work and its copyright, The Word still will not be responsible for posts that include links to copyrighted materials. This responsibility will fall directly on the user who posts these links. We will, however, remove links that we learn to be under a copyright, or there is doubt concerning the work’s copyright, according to our judgment.
The Nature of Copyrights
Copyright laws vary from country to country. There are no such thing as an “international copyright” that will protect a holder’s work in the entire world. However, most countries have international copyright treaties that, under certain conditions, make copyrights in force in countries foreign to the country in which the copyright is secured. The internet makes this issue more difficult. In the United States, if a work was/is copyrighted after January 1, 1978, that work is automatically under copyright protection (unless the author allows its distribution, etc.) for the lifetime of the author and an additional 70 years. In general, if a work was created before January 1, 1978, the copyright is valid for 28 years, at which time it is eligible to be renewed for an additional 67 years. Based on these laws, it is safe to say that most works written before 1914 (as of this writing, 2009) are in the public domain. Laws may vary from country to country, so these are general guidelines. If you are unsure, do the research and find the copyright information.
Public Domain Works in Reprint or Found in Digital Form
Once a text goes out of copyright and enters the public domain, it cannot be copyrighted again. This is important to understand. Much of the confusion regarding copyrights stems from reading copyright notices in Old Scofield King James Bibles or Matthew Henry’s Commentary in printed form. The publishers copyright the typesetting (which is quite a large job), additional notes, maps, and the page layout. This prevents someone from legally photocopying the printed book. However, the text itself is still in the public domain and will remain so. Further, some groups and individuals have painstakingly typed out (or paid to have typed) a work that is already in the public domain. This kind of work is not copyrighted. The text is in the public domain still. Now, we should be very grateful that this labor has been done so that digital editions are available for use with programs such as The Word. This does not constitute a copyright however. When a Bible software developer compiles these digital files into a module for use in that program, this does not bring that work under a new copyright. Though these modules may be “locked” or secured otherwise, the text within is still in the public domain.
Copyrighted Works Paid for Use in Other Bible Software Programs
Just because someone pays for a printed copy of a book that is under copyright does not give him the right to retain a digital copy of that work. It is true, however, that if you have computer software that is legal and legitimate, you may make 1 backup copy for archival purposes. However, this archive may not be used by a third party or distributed in any way. Further, if someone pays for a digital version of a work for use in a Bible program, this does not mean he is licensed to transfer this work to another Bible program. The reason for this is that the copyright holder grants permission for that work to be distributed within that particular Bible program. Transferring it to another program by “unlocking”, “hacking”, or “cracking” it is a violation of the license. So, just because you bought the NIV for e-Sword does not mean you are licensed to use it in The Word. You are especially not allowed to distribute it. Further, just because Christian material is freely available on a website does not necessarily mean that it is 1) in the public domain, or 2) licensed to be used in any other way. There is much Christian material that is under copyright. A simple request to the copyright holder may get you the permission to use it within The Word, albeit sometimes for a small fee.
Considerations for Importing e-Sword Materials into The Word
All official e-Sword modules are password protected, public domain or not. Public domain texts in e-Sword modules are not protected by a copyright, though they may be protected by a password. The author of e-Sword has expressly refused to give permission to use the public domain e-Sword modules that he has. Again, this does not mean that the texts within these modules are copyrighted by the author of e-Sword. There are, however, hundreds of e-Sword modules created by users that are not password protected. They can be easily imported into The Word using the Importer Tool. We will not provide a way to import password-protected e-Sword modules, per the author’s wishes. Further, most of these password-protected modules’ texts can be found from other sources anyhow.
A Note About the King James Bible and Copyright
The King James Bible is under a copyright. The following quotation is from the copyright page of a King James Bible published by the Trinitarian Bible Society in London, England:
Publishers in the United Kingdom must obtain permission from Cambridge or Oxford to publish the King James Bible within the United Kingdom. Outside of the United Kingdom, the King James Version is considered to be in the public domain.Rights in the Authorised Version of the Bible in the United Kingdom are vested in the Crown. Published in the United Kingdom by permission of the Crown's patentee, Cambridge University Press.
This edition of the Authorised Version is published by the Trinitarian Bible Society.
The image and setting of the Bible is the property of the Trinitarian Bible Society, Tyndale House, Dorset Road, London, SW19 3NN, England [emphasis mine]
A Real User Example
This is a common problem. The answer is difficult to swallow, but nevertheless true. The user paid for the NASB via e-Sword. He is licensed to use the NASB only within e-Sword. Porting this Bible into The Word, because it is copyrighted and licensed by the copyright holder for use only with e-Sword, is not legal.How do you find out what exactly is in the public domain? I am not interested in breaking federal or international copyright laws. I understand that I paid for NASB to use in eSword, and am actually getting somewhat used to KJV. It just bugs me a little bit that it is locked up in a program that I will probably remove from my computer. I paid for it for nothing. It also bugs me a little bit that these companies find it necessary to copyright the Bible of all things. It just seems to me to go against the whole grain of the Great Commission, but I realize economics plays a major role in that. Just my rant.
Excepting long and difficult methods of searching the copyright office of the country in which is copyright was secured, the only way to find out if a work is under copyright is find the date of the publication and calculate the number of years that the copyright is valid. Asking in this forum may get you a quicker answer, since some users may have already done the research before you.
We must protect this site and program from doing anything illegal. We must be sure that the modules we post are either truly public domain works or the copyright holder has granted permission for its distribution in The Word. The rule concerning the copyright of modules is "guilty until proven innocent." Our goals are, in short:
1. Ensure that no copyright is violated.
2. Ensure that no public domain material is removed because of someone’s false pretention of a copyright.
If we all work according to the guidelines in this article, we can be fairly certain that we will be honest and accurate in our dealings with copyrights.