Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Free Bible

Today has been a "broken" day... My dishwasher broke (Should get a new one tomorrow from the apartment people - so that's good). My Internet connection at home went down (I hope it's back up when I go home tonight). So I'm kinda in a funky mood today... what better time than to post a rant that has always bothered me.
Of all things that should be free in this world... The Bible. I don't mean the books themselves, but rather the text. One of today's most popular translation is the NIV translation (New International Version). Get ready for some acronyms... The NIV version was translated by a group called the CBT (Committee on Bible Translation), and this part gets a little fuzzy... The company that is doing all this is called IBS (International Bible Society). Here's a link that might explain all this a little better than I did as I was trying to simplify this.
Now to add one more level of who owns what... Zondervan is a company that is connected here somehow. My bible shows that both Zondervan and IBS hold the copyright (which I didn't know two different companies can hold the same copyright). Which brings me to my main point... Of all the books in the world that should be made freely available, I think the Bible is one of them. Yet due to copyright laws it is illegal to make copies (of more than 500 verses). There is a new movement called "creative commons" and I would hope someday a plain english translation makes it's way to a Creative Commons license. It's an interesting copyright twist that a translation can be copyrighted. There's no way to re-translate a text without it ending up similar to the NIV version, which would then be a violation. Yes, I understand a lot of work/time/money went into this new translation, but it seems like there could have been a better way to make the text freely available to the world, and still have them get paid.
I guess, the free version will have to remain the King James Version.
Ok, I'm done my rant now - stepping off my soapbox now.


PS> I'm by no means a biblical scholar, so if I've made a mistake in this rant (or you know the connection of Zondervan to IBS) please let me know. Post in the Comment area - please dont use the comments area to debate religion, any post that doesn't pertain to this I will delete.

1 comment:

JWD said...

Hi Cyen,

I'm also interested in the question about whether the Bible is in public domain or not. I found a page on the Augsburg Fortress website that explains that the Bible is in public domain in its original languages of Hebrew and Greek. It is only translations that are copyrighted. As someone in academia, I do see the value of 'protecting' the work of scholars who often labor for years and years on a translation.

I think your concern that there would not be a way to translate the Bible without coming close to the NIV (and therefore becoming a copyright violation) is not really accurate. There are many different ways to translate texts because of the nuances of language (both original and the language it's being translated into). Also, if you were quoting it, all you need to do is write in paranthesis 'translation mine' and it would be fine.

Finally, just because the text in the original languages is in public domain does not mean it would be free. There are still costs to putting together even that! (Lots and lots of manuscripts from which to choose your "original" text from. After all, there is no such thing as an 'original' Bible, you know?

If you are looking for a good online resource for biblical texts, I recommend www.biblegateway.com.