Copyright Chains

Copyright laws can be good because they attempt to protect people from others who may want to steal and sell their creative works. Like most laws, they only work if the tempted person chooses to obey the law rather than disobey it. At times copyright laws or chains can be so strict they can actually hinder or render the work useless. Such copyright chains can bind up the Christian worker’s and keep them from using the creative work. It’s really a let down when a Christian teacher pays money for a lesson or song book and can’t use it in class or copy it for overheads or slides.

As a Christian teacher and writer, I can understand why a Christian curriculum designer or other creative artist would want to protect their creations from others who would desecrate, misuse, or sell them illegally for financial gain. However, if you make the copyright so inflexible that the item can’t be used by a Christian worker without a bunch of extra cost or red tape, why bother to create it at all? It can’t be used for the purpose it was made for.

Personally, I don’t see how any company or individual can have a legitimate copyright on the Bible, the Word of God. God originated it and people from long ago (way over 50 years) hand wrote it on papyrus scrolls. Those scribes are no longer living and that was so long ago that no one should have a valid copyright on it. Scripture tells us, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by The Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21 NIV)

As a Bible teacher, there’s nothing more frustrating to me than finding a great Bible-teaching resource and not being able to use it because it’s so bound up by copyright chains. By the time you jump through the hoops and cut the red tape needed to use the material, you’ve become so frustrated that you’ve lost interest in it.

It doesn’t make sense to me to design a Bible-teaching material and not allow the teacher to copy off worksheets for visitors or to make a slide for a class presentation, or to copy off to words to a song so your students can have them to look at while you teach them the song. Also, the teacher should be able to copy the craft pages, patterns, and worksheets for students who accidently mess up or lose their papers. Wasn’t the material(s) made to help teach God’s word or spread the Gospel? What good is it if you can’t even use the material for its intended purpose?

Several years ago I paid over $20 for a beautiful songbook full of Christian children’s songs. This book had the music, the words, and even hand motions to go along with each of the songs. I was excited about using the book to teach the children in Children’s church some of the songs and the hand motions to go along with them. When I took the book to church to make a copy of the words on an overhead and a copy of the hand-motions on an overhead, I discovered that I couldn’t even photocopy any pages from the book because of the copyright.

I have to confess that finding out the copyright law prevented me from using this beautiful song book made me angry. By then the last thing I wanted to do was go through a bunch of hoops and red tape to get permission for a few copies for use in my class. Consequently, I put that book on a shelf in my home office as a reminder of how greed can ruin a beautiful teaching tool. To this day, I have never used this book because it’s so bound up by copyright chains. It’s a nearly-worthless Bible- teaching tool.

In my opinion (for what it’s worth) there’s nothing wrong with earning a modest profit for your effort and time put into creating Bible entertainment or teaching materials. It helps offset the cost of producing and selling the products and it helps the designer/writer make a moderate living to provide for their needs. However, we must guard our hearts against the greed that can so easily entangle us. The same goes for companies that help publish, market and sell these products.

God gave each one of us gifts to use for the common good, equipping the saints and sharing His gospel. He wants us to use those gifts for His glory and pleasure. When we succumb to greed and bind up one another with excessive copyright chains, how does that bring glory to God?