Monday, July 15, 2013

Copyright, Permission, and the NABRE

There has been a lot of talk recently regarding copyright issues concerning official Church documents, like Papal encyclicals and Bible translations.  It has often been said that the USCCB has too restrictive of a control over the use of the NAB(RE), since it, as some say, is the main cash cow of the USCCB.  This may have been the case in the past, but after checking with Mary Sperry at the USCCB, new guidelines for using the NAB(RE) were approved around nine years ago that seem to dismiss that claim.

The USCCB has a page devoted to this issue, and I have reproduced the appropriate section concerning the NAB below:
  • No permission is required for use of less than 5,000 words of the NAB in print, sound, or electronic formats (for web usage, see below) provided that such use comprises less than 40% of a single book of the Bible and less than 40% of the proposed work.
  • Permission must be requested for use of more than 5,000 words from the NAB (or when the use comprises more than 40% of a single book of the Bible or more than 40% of the proposed work).
  • The Scripture citations should be highlighted and the reference citations must be clearly marked. The following information should be included: title, publisher, publisher address, publisher contact name, proposed publication date, print run, list price, length of work.
  • All quotations must be verbatim from the text, including capitalization and punctuation. The poetic structure of some passages and books written in verse (for example, Psalms, Wisdom, Isaiah, etc.) must be preserved in verse as printed.
  • The appropriate copyright acknowledgment must be given:
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Now, let's compare this with what the NCCUSA has for the NRSV/RSV, which is often said to have a far more lenient policy in regards to use of their translations:

The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:

"Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved." 

 "The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

If you compare the two, you will notice that they are pretty similar.  I think the 500 verses allowed by the NCCUSA is likely to be a tiny bit more than the 5000 words that the USCCB allows for the NAB in regards to use without permission.  However, the idea that the USCCB is very restrictive in protecting the NAB from use seems to be unwarranted.  Again, I am not sure what the situation was like pre-2000, but it seems that the NABRE is very comparable to the NRSV/RSV in this regard.  The only element that I cannot comment on is how the process is in gaining permission to use, either the NAB or NRSV, for more than the "non-permission" necessary amount.


15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yet different versions of NABRE eBooks sold on amazon.com today have the following in them:

Fireside-
“All rights reserved. No portion of this Bible, including all supplementary material, may be reproduced without written permission of the copyright holder.
Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, Revised Edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.”

Saint Benedict Press-
“Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2008, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington DC. All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.”

HarperCollins-
“The New American Bible (Revised Edition). Copyright © 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE. Copyright © 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books…
Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner. All maps, unless otherwise indicated, are used by permission of Zondervan. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com”

USCCB (Blue cover Amazon eBook)-
“Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.”

Not going to bother looking at all of the paper NAB versions I have but I believe they all have notices similar or identical to the above. I consulted one each of the 1970, 1986, 1991, and 2010 versions I own and all show that advance permission in writing is required for any usage!

So it seems odd that one must be aware of the page on the USCCB site to learn the true usage rights.

Bottom line is that for many years I have operated under the belief that the NAB/NABRE could not be used at all without written permission. Compare that to most Bibles one picks up where you see generous usage rights (500 verses or 25% of the work in question). If the USCCB/CCD adheres to what is on their website, that same information should be reflected in the millions of eBook and print NAB/NABREs that get sold.

Thanks for the informative site,
Rick

Timothy said...

Rick,

My understanding is that they did let them know initially of the changes, but evidently many of the publishers didn't do anything to change the permission info. I am under the impression that the USCCB will be sending out another notice soon to the publishers.

CarlHernz said...

If I may, it seems people are reading this backwards.

The reason for the differences in copyright notices may have more to do with specific editions of the New American Bible and not the text, per se. Each edition is the intellectual property of the publisher, not the USCCB.

For example, one edition may have prayers, a specially designed index, maps, and other extras that another edition does not. Some of these may be study editions, others have introductions made by their specific publishers. None of this additional material is part of the New American Bible or owned by the USCCB.

When a product is published, everything must be cleared for publication by a publisher, including small icon artwork (sometimes even cover artwork and page design setup and special electronic formatting which can include programmer fees). This makes every particular edition of a New American Bible a unique work of a publisher entitling the publisher to its own copyright. The copyright doesn't necessarily reflect the agreement the publisher has with the USCCB to reprint the NAB(RE).

According to current United States laws governing rights to intellectual property, all works are now considered protected by copyright even without formal filing or claim unlike in years past when such filing was necessary. One no longer even needs to place a copyright notice or symbol for full protection under current federal laws.

However this same law does state that unless the owner of an intellectual property sets stated boundaries, all who reproduce intellectual property without permission are committing a crime subject to heavy penalties. The “allowance” of how many verses of a translation one may use is mainly to protect individuals, not just the copyright owners, as doing otherwise will cause an individual to be considered guilty of breaking federal laws. In such a case the lawbreaker would be required to answer to the federal government, and not so much the copyright owner, for piracy and other theft issues due to their actions. These are federal laws and standards, not rules invented by Bible translation owners.

Ben said...

I wonder if copyright issues are the reason the NAB is not available on Bible Gateway, or other similar sites. (I know the USCCB has the text online, but the format is less user-friendly, and not amenable to side-by-side comparison.)

Timothy said...

Ben,

Good point. I'd love to see the NABRE available on Biblegateway.

Anonymous said...

Timothy,

Do you know when this change to the usage rights was made? When was the ebsite changed? When did you learn of this?

Thanks,
Rick

Timothy said...

I was told by someone at the USCCB that te bishops had voted on this change around nine years ago. I don't know when the change was made on the site.

Anonymous said...

“Each edition is the intellectual property of the publisher, not the USCCB.”

That is incorrect. The copyright for the NAB content itself (the “Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references”) as stated repeatedly and rather explicitly above belongs to the CCD.

If a third party publisher wants to copyright their own cover, jacket design, maps, or what have you, they can do that and that is shown above too (see the notices for Zondervan and Harper that add to the CCD notice). Many books have multiple copyrights broken out: for font usage, for forwards written by famous people where they maintain control of their own words, for excerpts from multiple sources…

Since the basic notice…
“Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.”

looks like boilerplate and is quite similar to or identical to the print versions of the NAB, it seems likely that the notice itself comes from the CCD/USCCB, not the publishers.

“one edition may have prayers”

Right on, let’s copyright prayers too. Seriously? :|

All of this is moot when one realizes that the NABRE shown here (the blue one mentioned above): http://www.amazon.com/Bible-American-Revised-Edition-ebook/dp/B006298622 is a product of the USCCB and still has the more restrictive copyright notice in it. It was released October 31, 2011.

The USCCB has done a terrible job with their copyright and communicating it to users of their products. Back to the top post and “It has often been said that the USCCB has too restrictive of a control over the use of the NAB(RE)”.

They say it themselves in their own copyright notice in self-published works! And apparently, even if they open up the usage rights, they don’t want people to know it since they changed it on their website sometime between July 12 and August 22, 2006. But there is an eBook being published more than five years later that doesn’t show the more generous rights. Very odd.

See http://web.archive.org/web/20060712171331/http://www.usccb.org/nab/permissions.shtml

Rick

CarlHernz said...

The copyrighting of an intellectual property is often confused with the commercialization of the product, but the two are not the same thing.

In reality copyright law protects an intellectual property from being commercialized unless the copyright owner allows it. Due to an almost international adoption of standards known as the Berne Convention, there are no real legal means of releasing new works into the public domain. Therefore recent implementation of the Creative Commons system was put into place to allow owners of intellectual property to issue licensing rights without royalty lest individuals become pirates under the law.

While the bishops may have voted on what the license of use was to consist of, the breaking of copyright law is a federal offense with standards set by the Convention. Without such grant a user of the work can be left open to persecution by any nation that has adopted the Berne Convention even though the owners of the copyright do not themselves legal pursue a case of unauthorized usage.

Therefore when one reads comments from others complaining about Bible translations being copyrighted, this is due to a misunderstanding of what a copyright is and what the law means. Remember, copyright law is now instantaneous, does not need to applied for, and not only protects but actively restricts the “rights to make copies” of an intellectual work to the wishes of the copyright owner and the law. Copyright is not an instant license for commercialization.

In fact because it is quite the opposite, should a person wish to publish a Bible and keep the translation from being commercialized, taking advantage of copyright protection under the Berne Convention is thus the best way to ensure this.

Biblical Catholic said...

"Right on, let’s copyright prayers too. Seriously? :|"

One of the main purposes of a copyright is to prevent unauthorized alteration of a text, especially by someone with a malicious agenda. Without a copyright, you could have some Jack Chick type with an axe to grind against the Church to re-publish something from a Catholic Bible, with a couple minor changes that dramatically alter the meaning of the text, putting a copyright on it helps to prevent that kind of stuff.

CarlHernz said...

Biblical Catholic is correct. This is another advantage of copyright protection.

As for prayers being subject to copyright, again Rick you seem to be confusing commercialization and copyright.

“Copyright” means that the creator of any intellectual property, including if this be a prayer of their own making, is protected from unauthorized use or “copy” by others, as the “right” to use or “copy” are restricted to the creator and/or owner of the intellectual property. It does not mean that the intellectual property is a commercial product.

Legally speaking, under the Berne Convention, if you were to compose a prayer that was uniquely yours, at the moment of its composition it is considered protected by federal copyright laws. All the rights are instantly reserved to you as the creator of the prayer.

A copyright doesn't mean you have an item of any marketable value or that the intellectual property is or should be marketable. It only means you, as the owner of the property (in this example, a prayer), have the sole right to say who can use your intellectual property and how this is done.

Steven Buehler said...

The copyrights to individual editions of a Bible or through a given publisher are typically for the way the material is presented, not the material itself (the raw material still holds the copyright of its actual owner, who then licenses the publisher to print their presentation of it). The same thing goes for collections like music albums—the album copyright is not for the songs but for the order and selection of the songs presented on the record; the individual songs themselves have separate individual copyrights.

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Susan Uttendorfsky said...

For what it's worth, the NABRE is now on www.BibleGateway.com. The NAB is not. I just spent the last hour researching three verses from Isaiah in this version of the Bible for an editing client. :)

Greg Alberts said...

Anybody aware if these permissions extend also to commercial projects (i.e. projects that will make a profit?)