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evangelinux
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« on: July 14, 2004, 06:48:11 PM »

I have two questions:

(1) Should Christian publishers or software developers use copyright laws to restrict the freedoms of their brethren? or to threaten their brethren with legal penalties for helping others?

(2) Should Christians use material or software that restricts them from helping their neighbors?

Two examples:
(a) A book we have used in the past in our ministry is an excellent resource for discipleship, except for the fact that the book includes a pretty ugly notice about what could happen if you copy any of the material - and then they offer no provision that allows you to do so - even for a Sunday School class.

(b) Many computer programs restricted by copyright law as well.  Our ministry has discovered the freedom to help others by using free (as in freedom - not price) software.  We not only do not have to worry about whether we have the appropriate licenses, we are able to pass onto others copies of what we have.

I am presently working on a paper addressing these questions, and would like some input, especially from other pastors.  

Elders, deacons, and other believers are welcome to comment as well.  I would also appreciate hearing from the authors and publishers on this.  I would be willing, in the near future to send the rough draft out for comment prior to releasing the final draft.

Peace,
Don
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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2004, 08:04:34 PM »

FWIW:
1. a. Not sure  Huh The laws exist and people do take advantage, so it doesn't seem wrong to use those laws if the business is a business.
    b. No! One Christian shouldn't threaten another with a lawsuit.
2. Probably not. If they have legally stated that you can not make copies, then you'd be wrong to do so. Maybe find something else that's similiar or talk to the company and discuss your concerns?

Matthew 5:40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

Matthew 5:25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

1 Corinthians 6: Lawsuits Among Believers

1 If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?  3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another--and this in front of unbelievers!
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

I am curious to read other's viewpoints. Count mine as a 'bump' to the thread!  Wink

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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2004, 08:37:33 PM »

Quote
Count mine as a 'bump' to the thread
OK - this isn't even a bump; more like a ripple in the bathwater:

Asking is the key to getting answers. (I just made that statement up all by myself!) Grin

If I was a betting man (which I'm not) I would bet my bottom dollar that if a Christian or Christian organization, contacted another Christian or Christian organization and ASKED to use their copyrighted material to:
*teach a class
*help a ministry
*bring someone to Christ
that the answer would be YES!  And – if their answer was no – would you really want to use than material knowing Christ is being “used” to make a buck?  Am I saying they are wrong to sell it in the first place?  Not at all!  But they should also be willing to give it away to help the “needy”.

That’s my $0.02  Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2004, 11:50:39 PM »

I agree with the I Cor. 6 reference wholeheartedly.  While I understand the need of Christian authors and developers to feed their families, I think an  attitude of grace should be more prominent than threats of punishment.

Some additional scriptures to throw in to the mix include:
  • Mt 10:8 points to attitude required of Christians
  • Luke 6:1-11 - points to attempts by leadership to twist the law to favor their interpretation
  • Lev. 19:10 - points to need to leave something for the poor and strangers

The Leviticus passage is striking.  I realize that we are under Grace, not the Law.  Yet  the Law reflects God's command that we love one another.  Does this apply to us today, especially in a business setting?

For example, if I produce books that help people find new jobs, and a person who bought my book ran off a copy to help their poor neighbor, that 3rd party is able to benefit in a similar manner as the poor in leviticus.

According to American law, I have full rights to prosecute, but in doing so, I am essentially oppressing the poor.  Perhaps I am stretching things a bit here.  In other words, I'm saying that Christian authors/developers ought allow the poor (& strangers?) to benefit from their works.  When they insert their copyright notices, they could specify that a certain amount of reproduction is permissable.

Alternatively, they could use the so-called copyleft, which frees the reader/user to copy without any penalty.  The copyleft sits on top of the copyright, intended to protect the author/developer.  The copyleft is covered by the GNU Public License for software, and the GNU Free Documentation License for instructional books.  These licenses include additional freedoms as well.  There are other free licenses to boot.

This is where we get into free software.  Free software may actually cost something financially.  The word free means freedom.   Our ministry will not use proprietary software at all.  Using it requires us to agree not to help our neighbor.  Because of this restriction, we find it is better to use software that allows us to help others.

I pose the question because I do not think the church has given this issue much thought.  Consider worship music.  I can create worship music and copyright it to assure credit for authorship.  Yet I can also copyleft it to enable a Christian to share the song with their church.  Books and other creative works come to mind.

I released "Penguin in the Pew" under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL), thereby assuring that Christians can copy it and pass it on.  I charge no fee, but could.

Further input?
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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2004, 11:51:38 PM »

Oklahoma Howdy to Evangelinux,

You asked a great question, and I would really love to respond.

I honestly think that some of the best Christian material and software is absolutely free, with very minor or reasonable restrictions.

I enjoy adding several high quality devotions to my normal Bible study each day. Most of them say plainly to "please distribute", but they normally ask that you leave their name on the material. Others ask that you leave contact information on the material so that whoever wants it can get additional material free of charge. Many of these folks have been distributing free Bible Study material for 50 or more years. The high quality of their materials makes it very easy to comply with leaving contact information and/or their name on the material.

I have all kinds of extremely high quality Christian software programs that are completely free. Their requirements are much the same:  please distribute this, but it must be given free of charge, and we would appreciate you leaving contact information intact. Some make it an absolute requirement to distribute freely in the same package you got it in. BUT, money is the big issue for most of them. You can't sell what they have given you freely.

I have mixed emotions about paying for certain software and publications. However, I do know there are expenses to be paid, and many people earn their living selling Christian materials and software. If the price is reasonable and it's something I really want, I pay with some mixed emotions. I would rather give a love offering, and I might add that could be more than what they could sell it for. I obviously understand buying hard cover Bibles and other items that could not be produced without spending money. Someone has to pay the money. However, I have mixed emotions about charging for electronically downloaded translations of the Holy Bible, and other Bible Study related materials. I have bought some I really wanted, but only because the price was reasonable and I thought they had salaries to pay.

I guess you could have the same reservations about anything Christian that is for sale (i.e. music, games, crafts, etc.). For me, the biggest question is this:  Is someone trying to get rich by using God's name. If I think "YES", I don't buy it.

I've read some copyright material that is ridiculous. I don't buy those. There are far too many reasonable, low cost, or no cost places to get outstanding Christian materials. Most of them have done fine with reasonable prices or donations. I would greatly prefer to make a donation, even in cases where nothing is asked for. If it's good material, I want them to continue their ministry.

Some of the stuff is a sore subject, and many distributors are out for the money with hard core copyright notices and high prices. I doubt they survive for long.

I hope my two cents worth helps you.

Love In Christ,
Tom
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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2004, 08:42:50 AM »

Honesty in all you do....Christ is looking all the time.

We've run into similar areas where we wanted to use a book (or parts of it) for a bible study. The simple solution was to contact the publisher (or copyright holder) and ask for permission, spelling out what you are doing. We've done this on more than one occasion, and we've never been turned down.

Quote
(1) Should Christian publishers or software developers use copyright laws to restrict the freedoms of their brethren? or to threaten their brethren with legal penalties for helping others?

Copyright laws are in place for a reason. Are the publishers christian, or are they just publishing christian products? Regardless, it takes a lot of time, money and effort to produce some of this stuff. The publishing houses and software developers (if they are companies) pay the salaries of their workers....stolen materials mean the companies earn less (sometimes even lose money) and can't pay their employees. Christian companies also give to charity, which they can't do if they aren't earning; some of them "sew" freely into God's kingdom producing pamphlets and flyers for non profit organizations.

Personally, I use mostly materials freely given. I don't think it's wrong of them to expect people to follow the rules.

If we don't follow the copyright laws because we are christian, what kind of precedent does that set for the rest of the world.

The bible tells us to "give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's, and to God what is God's".

While we may not like the fact that there are rules such as this which might restrict our ability to help others, there are also a lot of wonderful "freeware" programs which can be used in place of purchased ones. Some of the companies who sell software are willing to give a discount to schools and non profit organizations, so it pays to contact them (we did this and purchased a $50 program for $16).


Gracey



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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2004, 10:42:33 AM »

Honesty in all you do....Christ is looking all the time.

We've run into similar areas where we wanted to use a book (or parts of it) for a bible study. The simple solution was to contact the publisher (or copyright holder) and ask for permission, spelling out what you are doing. We've done this on more than one occasion, and we've never been turned down.

Glad to hear that.  I'll raise the question with the Christian publisher of the book we like.  It just seems kind of ironic that the secular publishing houses I'm familiar with have never included such a threatening warning.  For a Christian publishing house to warn about the $50,000 fines and prison time, seems pretty harsh.  (Not that God hasn't fairly warned us about Hell, of course.)  Even so...


Quote
Copyright laws are in place for a reason. Are the publishers christian, or are they just publishing christian products? Regardless, it takes a lot of time, money and effort to produce some of this stuff. The publishing houses and software developers (if they are companies) pay the salaries of their workers....stolen materials mean the companies earn less (sometimes even lose money) and can't pay their employees. Christian companies also give to charity, which they can't do if they aren't earning; some of them "sew" freely into God's kingdom producing pamphlets and flyers for non profit organizations.

That's a major misconception.  Copying is not theft.  Legally, these are two different crimes.  Many would have us to believe that copying is theft, but it plainly is not.  I can copy materials for good use (helping my neighbor that cannot afford it), or I can sell it for personal gain without the rights to sell it - which would be wrong.

No one can claim theft in the case of copied material - mainly because one cannot prove the sale would ever have occured to begin with.  The poor person I help cannot afford the product, thus would not have purchased it to begin with.


Quote
If we don't follow the copyright laws because we are christian, what kind of precedent does that set for the rest of the world.

That's part of my point.  I've encountered situations where churches might be using proprietary software illegally (though I did not have proof of that, just an off-the-cuff remark someone made raised the question).  If the product (books, music, or software) is proprietary, then church members have an obligation to ensure they pass the license along with the software.

We use an operating system on our copmuters that cost @ $80.  Because it is free software (meaning it protects our freedom in using it), we can pass it along to other people without incurring the wrath of the developer(s).  Likewise, there are licenses available for publishers to use, that guarantee people's freedom to use (and redistribute) their materials.  They can still get paid for the copies they sell.  My point about the leviticus passage is that Christian publishers should think about leaving room for the poor/strangers.  (If the publisher gives permission to copy their materials, then they are acting in the spirit of this command.


Quote
While we may not like the fact that there are rules such as this which might restrict our ability to help others, there are also a lot of wonderful "freeware" programs which can be used in place of purchased ones. Some of the companies who sell software are willing to give a discount to schools and non profit organizations, so it pays to contact them (we did this and purchased a $50 program for $16).

Understand the difference between freeware and free software.  These are two separate terms.  Freeware is free of cost.  Yet it is not free software if the source code is not included and one is not allowed to modify it.  Fre software guarantees 4 freedoms.  (1) use the software for any purpose.  (2) Study and modify the program to suit your needs.  (3)Redistribute the program to help your neighbor.  (4) Improve the program and pass it on to the comunity.

The Creative Commons Licenses apply to books, music, arts, and provide options on what privileges to extend or withhold.  I am suggesting that these licenses offer the Christian community a much better alternative than the standard copyright.  Usually, these are applied on top of the copyright notice.  Using such licenses offers us the ability to be graceful while still keeping the roof over our heads.

Thoughts on this?
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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2004, 02:49:15 PM »

Quote
That's a major misconception.  Copying is not theft.  Legally, these are two different crimes.  Many would have us to believe that copying is theft, but it plainly is not.  I can copy materials for good use (helping my neighbor that cannot afford it), or I can sell it for personal gain without the rights to sell it - which would be wrong.

You are right, copying is not technically theft unless you are selling the copied materials.

Quote
The poor person I help cannot afford the product, thus would not have purchased it to begin with.

(Depending on the cost, I likely would have purchased it myself as a gift, so I tend to look at things from that perspective)

Here's how I look at it: if I purchase a book (Lets say for $5)and it turns out that it's really good, and would make a good bible study, but it has a copyright notice I would either have to purchase 10 or 12 copies of the book, or "copy" it...or, I could just use the book as the centre of the study and not produce written materials from it, or do what we did.

If I photocopy it without permission and hand it out, the book sales for this event total $5....if, on the other hand I purchase the 12 books, the sales total $60. The publisher loses and I may have done something I would consider wrong. If they give us permission to copy it, the book sales still only total $5, but there has been a blessing from God along the way, both for us, and for the publisher.

No, it's not stealing or theft in legal sense, but in the moral sense, is it right or wrong? That's usually the question I ask myself. If it's "freely given" then I consider it a gift, and say "Thank you Jesus".

It really depends on just what the copyright notice states, I would think, but I am not a lawyer. A reply from a good legal representative who knows the copyright issue would be a good thing. It may be that the copyright laws vary, even, from place to place.

Quote
My point about the leviticus passage is that Christian publishers should think about leaving room for the poor/strangers.  (If the publisher gives permission to copy their materials, then they are acting in the spirit of this command.

I do agree with you here. And very likely there are some who do.

Quote
Understand the difference between freeware and free software.  These are two separate terms.  Freeware is free of cost.  Yet it is not free software if the source code is not included and one is not allowed to modify it.

I do know this, and I've used both. The fact is (for myself), I don't see the point in whether it's "free software"  or "freeware" if one hasn't got the need to modify the software, but I also know that this is how good free software grows and changes and develops.

Quote
The Creative Commons Licenses apply to books, music, arts, and provide options on what privileges to extend or withhold.  I am suggesting that these licenses offer the Christian community a much better alternative than the standard copyright.  Usually, these are applied on top of the copyright notice.  Using such licenses offers us the ability to be graceful while still keeping the roof over our heads.

This sounds like a good thing - balanced and honest.

I'm sorry if I gave the wrong impression; I think I must have missread the original post.

Gracey

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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2004, 03:40:40 PM »

Out of all of the email discussions, two sentences jumped out at me.

No one can claim theft in the case of copied material - mainly because one cannot prove the sale would ever have occured to begin with.

No, it's not stealing or theft in legal sense, but in the moral sense, is it right or wrong?


Copyright laws were written to protect the authors and whatever publishers interest.  I believe you'll find that making a copy of a copyrighted item is legally defined by most states as some sort of theft.

My opinion:
The material is the fruits of someone's labor.
That person is entitled to compensation.
Copying rather than buying another copy - to me - is stealing/theft.


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« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2004, 04:52:48 PM »

Gracey,

You may not have misread my original post. Wink  I'm a pastor, and questioning things I'm not certain many Christians question.  Has the Church had this dialogue, and I missed it?  Has it ever popped up in Sunday School materials?  Are preachers and publishers talking about this?  At the same time, I would like to encourage authors/pulishers/developers to consider alternatives to standard copyright - especially in light of our faith.

It is wrong to violate the law (in most cases, but refer to Acts where God's law is higher than man's), as God has granted it.  However, many are well aware that the copyright laws are not a constitutional right, but rather pure legal code designed - not to protect the copyrightholder or the public, but rather to strike a balance for the good of both.  That's why it's limited in time.

Unfortunately, WolfBrother, many in the media/publishing & software business are pushing to make the laws favor them, thus adding the weight of the Scales of Justice to their side.  Having lost that balance, we, the citizens, are slowly sloing many rights to material.  The extension of time limits on copyright is one example.

Where the public could have benefitted from the many works held in copyright by Disney (such as the Jungle Book), now they remain in copyright instead of being placed into the public domain, as should have been the case.

And no, copying illegally is copyright infringement - not theft.  Gracey makes a good point above, though.  Both are wrong.  However, one should be free to help one's neighbor.  The GPL, FDL, and CCL permit this, while at the same time assuring credit for authorship.  One still has the rights to sell the product, although one might make less money than through standard copyright.

I also believe that God will bless those who do make their works "free" in this sense.

Grace and Peace,
Don
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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2004, 04:43:29 PM »

I assume a lot of the members here do a lot of what I do. I post other places on the web that obtain to my interests and a lot of what I post everywhere is related to my Christianity. The one thing I always keep in mind is to use the KJV of the Bible in posts. As far as I know (correct me if mistaken) every version of the Bible besides the KJV has a copyright of some sort. The KJV has no copyright and is free for anybody to use.
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« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2004, 07:32:37 PM »

Actually, the World English Bible is a more modern, public domain translation in progress, though I think it's mostly finished now.  You should also check out the International Standard Version - not sure about it's copyright status, though.

You are always allowed to quote small portions, assuming you give proper credit.  No big deal.

From my discussion in another forum, it seems some people think they would lose money by publishing "free" (as in freedom) software/works.  On the other hand, others are already making money using the free and open licenses available.  So what gives?
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