The Wartburg Project

July 29th, 2022

80. Why Copyright the EHV?

Why have you copyrighted the EHV? Nobody can own the Word of God. It belongs to everybody.

Scripture says, “Now, we know that the law is good as long as one uses it correctly— keeping in mind that the law is not laid down for a righteous person, but for lawless people” (1 Timothy 1:8-9). This general principle is true also of copyright law.

Copyright is not some sort of license you apply for. Copyright is something you automatically have as a result of creating a work.

Copyright law protects a translation in two ways. It prevents people from taking our translation, making doctrinal alterations to it, and keeping the name EHV on it. (Though trademark is also involved in this kind of protection). It also protects the biblical principle that the laborer is worthy of his wages. There is a lot of cost involved in setting up publications. Those who have contributed nothing to this should not sell the labor of others for their own profit. Today most literary pirates do not pirate printed works. They steal the electronic versions because they can produce unlimited additional copies with the touch of a button. Instant profit! Sometimes they claim that they are giving it away for free. They steal a copy of the EHV, post it on their site with the notice “free EHV” but they surround it with ads and make their money off the ads.

The United Bible Societies, whose mission is to distribute Scriptures around the world, grants both commercial and non-commercial licenses. A non-commercial license gives the holder the right to make free distribution of the work, but if the licensee attaches ads to the work or asks for donations for the work, it must pay fees to the United Bible Societies. Our EHV licenses follow the practices of the UBS, which sets good standards for everyone. We offer our licenses directly or through the Digital Bible Library of the UBS.

Our translators worked for free, but if money is made from their work, they should share in that gain. Those who distribute Bibles, whether print or electronic, have costs in materials and delivery. Without income they cannot continue to distribute the Bible. It is not fair or ethical if someone else pirates their work.

We encourage free use of the EHV in derivative works. No permission is needed for anyone to use up to 1000 verses of the EHV in a work which they create. To use more than that in one work or to use whole books of the Bible, they need permission. We are very generous at granting permission. We recently gave a group permission to distribute free copies of Luke and John, but with the stipulation that they must give them away for free, which they readily agreed to do.

The reason that copyright expires after a time is that though it is intended to give the creators of a work fair wages for their labor, copyright is not intended allow endless rows of successors to profit from that work. The same principle is true for patents on drugs and other products. They protect the principle that a laborer is worthy of his hire, but after that has happened, free use of the product is open to everyone.

The essence of Scripture is the divinely intended meaning. Every translation is an attempt to convey that meaning. Copyright does not interfere with anyone’s freedom to translate and distribute the Word, but it does prevent people from selling someone else’s work as their own. The Wartburg Project has worked to establish the name Evangelical Heritage Version. Trademark law does not allow someone to make their own translation with different doctrinal views than the EHV and put the name EHV on it. Trademark and copyright laws can be misused to make excessive profit from rare or valued commodities. (The EHV is not yet close to being guilty of excess profit. 😁) Our use of trademark and copyright has two purposes. To protect the integrity of the translation and to hinder people from selling others’ work as their own (Experience shows that we cannot entirely prevent them from doing this.)

The law is good if it is used properly.