Play Free Bird!

Opps, I meant “Free Word“!
I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of copyrighting and limiting the reproduction of translations of the Scriptures. I think I understand why the people at copyright holders like Zondervan, the American Bible Society, and the Lockman Foundation have resorted to copyright. I understand the desire and need to protect the integrity and trustworthiness of a bible that is published with their respective titles such as NIV or NASB. I even understand and agree with the need to make money to pay a fair wage to the people who maintain the translations and create the huge range of different formats, notes and helps, and additional content included with modern print bibles. I recently ordered an NASB wide-margin from Zondervan.

But… ( You knew there was going to be a “but”!)

Telling someone they can’t reproduce more than 200 hundred verses, or that any use must not exceed 25% of the total text being published, just seems contrary to God’s expectations for the spread of the scriptures.

Again. I don’t condemn bible publishers for doing what they do, but I am glad there are alternatives and thought it might be helpful to share some of them. The following is not an exsahsive list, more information can be found at  BibleGateway and the SWORD Project :

  • King James Version (1611) – It’s the bible Paul carried, right? Because of it’s age, the KJV has fallen into the public domain and is free to copy and reproduce in any format. The availability of the KJV text has also started somewhat of a cottage industry creating updates and derivations original texts.
  • American Standard Version (1901) – The ASV is not quite are archaic as the KJV but it has also passed into the public domain. Also like the KJV, the freely available text has spawned at least to other translations, including the freely available WEB (World English Bible) and the copyrighted NASB.
  • World English Bible (current) – As noted above, the WEB is based on the ASV ( with some help from the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament ) with more contemporary language and grammar. The WEB currently a work in progress, with some archaic grammar remaining to be fix in the Old Testament. One cool aspect of the WEB is that it is specifically intended to deal with the copyright issue and makes the text available in a wide variety of open formats including an audio version in Vorbis Ogg.
  • New English Translation (2005) – The NET is a bit of a hybrid in terms of copyright, in that it is copyrighted, but the biblical text is available in whole for personal use in a number of formats. However, the massive number of translation notes are only available for a fee or on their online tool. I have to point out that I may have a bit of a bias, since I had the opportunity to work with the NET and folks.
  • Young’s Literal Translation (1898) – For something a little different, the YLT attempts to preserve the tense and word usage of the original Greek and Hebrew text while still being readable in English.

Given the number of good quality, free translations available, there is no reason not fill out your study library with some new bibles translations. You probably wouldn’t want to print them out, so a good (free!) bible study program would be the next order of business, but I’ll save that for another blog entry.

2 responses to “Play Free Bird!”

  1. What is the status on the English Standard Bible? I do not have a physical copy of the ESV Bible, but I am able to download and read the ESV on several Sword based applications and there are multiple places to find it online. I assume that the copyright isn’t entirely too strict on it.

  2. Another good one –
    I have browsed the ESV a little. It seems to be an attempt to be on the literal side of the “dynamic equivalence/essentially literal” spectrum. It’s license is like many “open” text that allow free personal use but it has an attribution requirement for published quotes and a limit on total quoted text without getting permission. Also, like many “open” text, the copyright holders ( Crossway Bibles ) seems pretty easy to work with when it comes to getting permission to repackage the text for use in software.

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