Thinking Out Loud

September 3, 2015

Content Not Copyrighted

There is no limit on what can be done for God as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.

There’s a worship song currently making the rounds that goes, “It’s your breath, in our lungs, so we pour out our praise; pour out our praise…”  To me, the song is a reminder that it’s God who gives us breath, gives us abilities, gives us opportunities and one of the best uses of that is to offer back praise to him.

For the third time in nearly 2,000 posts, this week we got a take-down order at Christianity 201. Yes, it would be nice to have a staff and be able to contact writers in advance and say, “We think your writing would be a great addition to C201 and we’d like to include what you wrote last Tuesday in our gallery of devotional articles.” But I just don’t have that luxury. So we pay the highest compliments to our writers by encouraging our readers to check out their stuff at source, while at the same time archiving it for the many who we know statistically don’t click through. 

The one this week offered some lame excuse about how I was disturbing his Google analytics by publishing his works, and reminded me that he could sue me. Nice attitude, huh?

These days, most of the authors are appearing for the second, third or fourth time, and many write (both on and off the blog) to say how honored they are that we find their material helpful.

I honestly can’t remember the name of the first two authors, but I know one had some recognition in Calvinist circles; so when the lightning struck again this week, I checked out the guy’s Twitter to look for clues and guess what?

That got me thinking about something I wrote here about 16 months ago…

The Bible has a lot to say about the accumulation of wealth and the hoarding of possessions. Probably the classic statement of scripture on the matter is,

NASB Matt. 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…

or

MSG Matt. 6:19-21 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

The Bible doesn’t say, ‘Don’t have any treasure whatsoever.’ True, when Jesus sent his disciples out he told them to travel light, advice that extends through all of life:

NLT Matt. 10:9 “Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. 10 Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick.

But in everyday life, the Bibles teaching presuppose you will have a home or a donkey or bread that you may or may not choose to give your neighbor when he comes knocking late at night.

CopyrightThis week it occurred to me that at the time the Bible was written, one thing that we can possess that they didn’t was intellectual property. There was no Copyright Act; no Letters Patent. Did Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph the Carpenter have a special way of doing a table that would cause him great consternation if Murray the Carpenter down the road started copying the idea? You get the feeling that everything was open source.

I think it’s interesting that in the prior verse of Matthew 10, Jesus makes the often-quoted statement, “Freely you have received, now freely give.”

Personally, there’s nothing on this blog that isn’t up for grabs, provided it’s cited properly and quoted properly and being used non-commercially. Like this article? Help yourself. Yes, in the past I have been paid to write and could thereby consider myself a professional writer; but this is only a blog and it’s vital not to get too caught up in your own sense of self-importance; and I say that not out the spirit of someone who is loaded with wealth, but as a person who has had no specific fixed income for 19 years.

I also thought it was interesting that the one person who was so upset about the use of his material on other than his own website was complaining about a particular article that was about 50% scripture quotations. More than 50%, I believe. Oh, the irony. I can just hear Jesus saying, ‘Uh, could you just link to my words in the Bible rather than print them out on your own website?’

That said, I am consciously aware that a double standard exists in the Christian blogosphere. We both permit and excuse the copying of text, but there is far less grace for poachers of cartoons and photographs. (I guess a picture really is worth a thousand words.) If you take what belongs to them, it’s like trying to wrestle a t-bone from a pit-bull.

In the early days of this blog, the weekly link list included cartoons from Baptist Press. Not any more. Baptists can be very litigious, which is too bad, because the cartoons were worthy of an audience beyond a single denomination. Everybody loses, but that’s the Baptist way, I guess.

Words are cheaper however. I respect intellectual property rights in general, but hey, guys, it’s only a blog.

I really think when the writer is a little older, they will look back and see the foolishness of trying to hang on to what really isn’t yours to begin with.

Think About It: Some things simply didn’t exist when the Bible was written, such as smoking cigarettes or driving over the speed limit. It’s the same with intellectual property. We have to appeal to the timeless, grand themes of scripture to make behavioral determinations.

The corollary to this is that if I do choose to copyright my blog writing here, I am basically saying this is mine; I wrote this, I created it, it was my talents and my gifts that went into creating it.

I’m glad the Biblical writers didn’t feel that way. If you believe in plenary inspiration — that God birthed ideas within them but they stylized it and added their individual touch to the writing — then even if you hold that “all Scripture is inspired” (which I do) you could still make a case that they could copyright the particular words used.

copyright 2But some would argue that even if you say, “This came entirely from God and I shouldn’t really take any credit for it;” if you want your writing to reach the greatest number of people, then you’ve got to put somebody’s name underneath the title.

That’s essentially the case with Jesus Calling. I don’t want to get into the larger debate on that book, because it’s been done elsewhere (with many comments) but if, like the classic God Calling, the “authors” feel that this book is the equivalent to Dictation Theory in Biblical inspiration, realistically, nobody’s name should appear on the cover. I wonder if “by Jesus” or “by God” would sell more or fewer copies than “by Sarah Young.”

You can however engage the commercial marketplace and at the same time take no money (or very little) for your wares. Keith Green is a name that some of the younger generation don’t know, but Keith basically said that if anyone couldn’t afford his records or cassettes, he would send them copies free of charge. It was radical at the time — this was before free downloads — and Keith took ribbing that perhaps he was also going to ship stereo systems to people who had nothing on which to play the music.

Keith GreenKeith Green would have loved blogging — he’d have about ten of them — and would be fighting hard for the open source blogosphere mentioned above, and also  when the first writer protested. (The post then was triggered by an irate blogger at C201 as well, so we’re running one complaint every 700+ articles, which isn’t bad.) In fact, Keith would argue for open source thinking in a variety of Christian media and art.

Bottom line: We have to be careful about holding too tightly to the things of this world including possessions that are tangible and those which are intangible such as intellectual property. 

Moving forward: We’ll try to stick to repeat authors and original devotional material. If you’ve ever wondered if you could write devotional material — and it’s both a rare and challenging calling — check out the submissions guidelines at C201.  

“It’s your breath, in our lungs, so we pour out our praise…”

Advertisements

February 21, 2012

Christian Blogging: Longing for Open Source Community

Did God give me what I’m writing right now or am I making it up on my own strength?

That’s a question it’s fair to ask in all areas of Christian endeavor. Am I doing this ‘on my own’ or under God’s power? What about the idea that ‘all things come from God?’ Do I really ‘own’ the concepts and insights shown here.

As we closed in on having 700 posts at Christianity 201 last week, for the first time we had a writer who objected to having his content used here. While blog etiquette dictates that you link back to writers’ original pages, statistics bear out the idea that people read the teaser paragraph but don’t click to continue reading. So C201 was created as a showcase — and a bit of a potpourri — of devotional and Bible study writing; much of it from previously obscure blogs that nobody had heard of, whose writers are thrilled to have an additional audience for their thoughts.

For several months, a music and book distributor for whom I was I was doing contract work assigned me to help out in royalty administration and distribution. I appreciate that those who have given themselves full-time to writing for major publishers derive their income from sales. I would never dream of photocopying an author’s work and I have strong views about churches which project song lyrics on a screen at weekend services for which they haven’t paid the appropriate license fees.

But a blog? Seriously?

When the attribution is clear, and the readers are given two separate opportunities — and sometimes additional inducements — to click to the original source page, I feel there is a legitimization of one-time use; though a few writers have been featured at C201 on two or three different occasions.

(Cartoonists however, seem to be another subject entirely. Despite having the largest treasure trove of Christian cartoons online, one denominational website had so many copyright warnings we decided they could just keep their comics to themselves, and stopped using them here at Thinking out Loud.)

The article in question had no copyright indicia, and no page dealing with reprints and permissions.

I would like to think that when God gives us an idea, he gives it to us not only to share, but to see disseminated as widely as possible. Someone once said,

There is no limit on what can be done for God as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.

Attribution’s greatest value is that the people can go back to the same source for more insights. If I enjoy what “X” has to say today on this topic, then I may want to read what “X” has to say tomorrow about some other subject. In fact, I’ve had a handful of off-the-blog comments from people who are now regular readers of writers they heard about here at C201 and at Thinking out Loud.

In giving instructions to his disciples, Jesus said,

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. (Matt 10:7-8 NASB)

I’ve had content used (and misused) on other blogs, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter much. What does matter is how I respond to the “borrowings” at other websites. Do I say, “It’s all good;” or do I fight for increasing my personal empire here at this website?

The writer in question also accused me of changing his content. I could see how that would be serious. But in fact, all I had done was to remove links to an online bookseller which left him, in one sentence, referring to “this book” with no remaining hint as to what that book might be; so I took the time to insert the title where the words “this book” had been.

I think it was with the objection to that change that the author really betrayed their true motives. Referrer fees from online sales can be fairly significant for a blogger at the end of the month; and I believe it can really cloud a writer’s motives.

I simply won’t do that here. I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’m not making money from this, and in fact I don’t draw a salary from my “day job,” so perhaps I have a different attitude toward the need to see everything I do as a line on a profit-and-loss balance sheet.

I wonder what the early church would think of what we’ve come to; a world where royalty administrators and agents hash out mechanical royalties and performance royalties and you buy a license in order to share the words to the latest worship songs. I wonder if the Apostle Paul were alive today if he would put a little copyright symbol at the end of each epistle? Would Matthew be expecting dividends from the sales of the Visual Bible DVDs that bear his name?

Freely we have received. Freely we give.

All that we have and are is a gift from God.

And we should keep it open source.


Ironically, trying to find a stylized copyright symbol to accompany this article was a challenge since nearly half of them were, in fact, copyrighted. This one above is from an article that also looks at this issue from a balanced Christian perspective

It turns out the “There is no limit…” quotation is making its third appearance here.  In addition to the reference linked above, I also used it in reference to Garrison Keillor at this post.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.