Saturday, July 17, 2010

About Yesterday's Question

My wife suggested that perhaps Christians could set up a copyright that would expire after five years or so. As it is, copyrights today expire after 95 years, or at times, after the death of the individual copyrighter plus 70 more years.  I guess her plan could work like the medical drug system in America: a new drug is copyrighted for a few years, then the market is opened for generic drugs to copy. 

A friend of mine named Easten suggested another idea:  It's an organization that's worked out riders to tack onto copyrights. You can choose to modify your copyright for free in several ways: to allow others to share it, or modify it, for non-commercial or even for commercial reasons.  Worth checking out.

How selfish is a traditional copyright for a Christian, in light of Acts 4:32?


  1. I'm unsure on this one. On one hand, I feel that if people who prodced "Christian" material (songs, books, course material, whatever) kept no copy rights, (or perhaps limited copyrights so other folks didn't try to pirate it for personal financial gain) they wouldn't exactly be left out in the cold. I mean, even if it was legal to download and distribute a David Crowder CD, I imagine there would probably still be people like you and Amber who would pay for his music because you believe in him and are inspired by him.

    I've probably bought five or six copies of Crazy Love to give away. I really believe in what Francis Chan is saying, so even if I could get my hands on it for free, I would still buy copies of it, though I might give it away even more if it were free. I don't mind paying for his book, because I know how much money his church gives away.

    I tried to say, "but I still understand they have a legal right to their work...", but I'm not sure I can say that. If this "Christian" material is designed to be, and indeed is, helpful for the encouragement and growth of God's children, then how can one claim rights to it? Can you imagine how unthinkable it would have been if Paul claimed legal rights to the letters wrote, expecting payment for everytime they were read, and royalties on every copy made? After reading Acts, I think you can guess God might have struck him dead.

    Now, you can argue that its different, that those were the inspired word of God, and that is true. But then you have to ask yourself the question (if you're producing these "Christian" materials): How involved is God in the production of these books, songs, course materials, etc.? Is it just you? Producing these works from your own creativity? Or is God working in your life, the Holy Spirit guiding you, these very materials a calling from God for the purpose of building up His children?

    If it is the latter, I would say (off the cuff) that the claim on legal rights is pretty shaky. Holding onto the financial rights of material brought about by God's work in you is pretty shoddy ground to be standing on. The only way you could soundly argue that the rights are yours and yours alone, is if you contend the work is purely of your own imagination, God was uninvolved, and the material is unhelpful in directly encouraging or helping God's children (obviously if you own a restaurant, made a sandwich, and a believer claimed it lifted them spiritually, I think you still have the right to get paid for the sandwich). Of course, if you claim it was all yours and unhelful to believers, then why are you producing "Christian" materials?

    Obviously there isn't one answer. I wouldn't want to be the Christian Artist who makes a pretty penny off encouraging God's children, and drive's a $60,000 car because of it. On the other hand, I pray God will make me like Rich Mullins, who made money with his CDs and concerts, but surrendered it all to his church, not even knowing how much it all was.

    It might be a little radical, but I agree that Christian copyrights (on first thought) seem boarderline ridiculous (if handled traditionally).

  2. As a Christian author, I would be delighted to give my stuff away if I thought it would increase circulation. But there is a principle in marketing that for most people, the value of a product is what they paid for it. So, my books for free would not get valued and not get read and circulation would be diminished. The ONLY reason I charge for my stuff is to do a better job of getting the word out. But if anyone out there knows how to increase circulation by giving it away, I will gladly give you rigthts to do so. Just let me know.

  3. thank you both for thoughtful comments.

    David>> Hmmm.. There is also that verse Paul said about a workman being worthy of his hire. As a -male- guy who wants to be a writer, I feel the pressure to be able to provide for my family (and if I don't, I'm worse than an infidel). If I'm using my admittedly God-given time and abilities to write a story that someone else wants to enjoy reading, I think the greater sin would be people just reading the story, patting me on the back, and wandering off while I struggle to make ends meet. Is there really that much difference between me spending my days crafting stories to bless people and spending my days crafting wooden furniture, say? So how to avoid the copyright mess we live with today, in which Bible studies can't be copied, songs can't be shared, and Christian bookstores sometimes stink of selling sheep in the temple? I think some of those creativecommons copyright modifiers do look pretty good. I also like the idea of that quick copyright expiration date--say five years after it hits the markets it's public domain.

    But maybe we just do need more Rich Mullins who step out onto thin air and live a life more free of security. Maybe we do.