Copyright issues

Just some thoughts about worship and copyright issues. In a world filled with lawyers, it pays to be careful.

I really do attempt, especially with this blog, to follow the wishes of those who own copyrights. It is difficult when I post sermons — for, the only way to avoid using more than 500 verses or a large portion of the whole book is to just avoid the version all together. It is difficult to guess when something such as a sermon series ceases to be several independent essays, and becomes instead a unified title. These copyright issues are painfully obvious when sharing such work on a blog, but unfortunately do not go away, even in public worship… Fortunately, publishers make it easy for Churches to buy enough permission for their needs, but it is something that cannot be ignored.

For scripture, there are several solutions, one is to either use older translation, or to make new ones. The Authorized Version, known to Americans as the KJV is commonly used, as the United States (and much of the world) ignores the copyright protection claimed by the royal family of England. I do not even know the process of understanding UK crown rights — so, even if the KJV were not somewhat archaic, I would look for a different version.

Of course, there is no shortage of 18th and 19th century translations to choose from. None of these are burdened with a perpetual copyright, though many are burdened with a rather wooden translation that is difficult for any not educated in Classical Languages — the turn of the 20th century American Standard Version could be used as an example of this.

While looking into these difficulties, I have also looked into modern attempts to address my needs. The first I found is an ongoing revision of the ASV known as the “World English Bible.” It has the advantage of being in the public domain… It has all the advantages, and disadvantages of being a revision of an older translation. The second I only found recently, and have not evaluated, though I am optimistic. NET appears to be an independent translation, under copyright but they imply they wish to give permission easily. I intend to look into this further, and if I like the text ask permission, If anyone else has suggestions I am open to them.

As a side note, while my concerns in sermons are with Biblical translations, I realise that many worship groups struggle with music and other audio-visual works. As mentioned before, it is possible to license many items at once from a trade group such as CCLI, however this does not apply to something such as a blog or a recorded worship service. if we want to reach people outside our own auditorium we must seek public domain resources, such as the Open Hymnal Project, or obtain permission for such use.

While I attempt to work within the rules, these rules can also be a little bit of a handicap. Any advice would be appreciated.

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