More on “copyright” of the Greek New Testament

Still quite angry about the actions of the German Bible Society in claiming copyright of the work of the apostles.  I’ve been looking around the web for comment. 

The best comment I have seen is that the text can only be copyright if the scholars who produced it did their work badly.  Their intention was NOT to create an “original creative work”!

If the German Bible Society believes that it is not issuing the work of the apostles, but of Mr. Aland — to the extent that it is an original, creative work — and that no-one else has the work of the apostles, then I would like to see them say so!

But the most interesting comment was by Stan Gundry of Zondervan, here.

I am not a copyright attorney myself, but I have had lengthy phone conversations with a lawyer who is credited with being the best in the USA. Here’s the deal, at least according to USA copyright law. Ancient texts such as those we are dealing with in the OT (Hebrew/Aramaic) and NT (Greek) are in the public domain and are not protected by copyright. In fact (and this is controversial), even the critical texts as reconstructed by textual critics cannot be protected by enforceable copyrights. The textual critical apparatus has a somewhat better claim to copyright, but to the extent that such an apparatus is a catalog of information, my sources tell me that any claim to an enforceable copyright is weakened. “Sweat equity” in the recreation of ancient texts is not sufficient to establish copyright. It takes sweat equity to create a phone book, but you cannot copyright a phone book. This is not something that the United Bible Society or the German Bible Society wants to hear or agrees to, this is what our lawyer consultants have told us.

Peter Kirk has two posts full of common sense on this also.  Among other things he points out that the Germans have not actually issued take-down demands, and we shouldn’t act as if they have until they do. 

 

21 thoughts on “More on “copyright” of the Greek New Testament

  1. US copyright law is different from German Urheberrecht. Here §70 UrhG applies, which is about a so-called “Leistungsschutzrecht” (something like a related right for protection of performances and achievements) that ensures the urheberrechtlich protection of scientific editions of works that are themselves “gemeinfrei” (in the public domain). The urheberrechtlich protection is 25 years from the date of publication. NA27 was published in 1992, so the math is pretty simple: NA27 will be public domain Dec 31, 2017. NA26 was published 1979, so if I’m not mistaken that edition is public domain and can be used by anyone. In any case, German laws allow for extensive citations, so in principle one could publish the complete tagged NA26 incl. apparatus online and refer to the current edition with quotations.

  2. I thought that the only (substantive) difference between the NA26 and the NA27 was in the apparatus.

  3. Interesting, Hans — thank you. It sounds as if this very restrictive copyright law might be at the root of the problem, creating rights in Germany which don’t exist elsewhere.

  4. “Very restrictive” may not be the right term, because it’s a valuation, but “protective”—and all copyright laws must be protective. That law did and will allow GBS to earn revenue in order to finance further valuable publications and research. In any case it doesn’t matter if it’s German law. The urheber rights to NA27 held by the publisher (probably in conjunction with §71 UrhG) extend worldwide, just as the rights attached to works copyrighted in the US extend worldwide. The fact that these kind of laws don’t exist in many other countries does not mean that they can be ignored. E.g. Accordance Bible Software, a US company, licensed NA27 in a regular fashion. That should be standard practice for anyone who wants to use a copyrighted work in its entirety.

  5. Hans, no doubt these evil laws do “protect” the businessmen. They injure the community, however.

    GBS does not own the New Testament; it is the property of the world. The copyright on the New Testament, if it belongs to anyone, belonged to its authors. These are long dead.

    Every dishonest business would like to force the world to pay it money, for something that it does not own. We do not care what GBS does with the money, valuable or otherwise; the Greek New Testament does not belong to the GBS.

    The idea that German law applies outside Germany is very curious. It doesn’t.

    What the GBS is doing is a civil wrong. What I would like to see is US victims get together and launch a class action against it.

  6. (1) German laws of course do not apply outside of Germany—which is also why a class action against GBS is useless—, that’s a simple matter of jurisdiction, but the copyrights that are created *based* on these laws apply worldwide and are binding. (That’s what I wrote.)

    (2) GBS may not own the rights to the Greek New Testament (which one, by the way?) , but they do own the rights to NA27. It’s their product, and they have every legal and moral right to protect it. The “community” can refer to older public domain editions of the GNT for their studies or for online publication. I don’t think that the GNT text itself has changed since the 1970s, so that part shouldn’t be a problem. In any case, nobody should “steal in church”, and I don’t think GBS has anything against that. 😉 But if the community wants to use a new/copyrighted apparatus, they should pay for it. I did. I don’t see any injury there.

    (3) The copyright per definition protects the authors, publishers and copyright holders, so they can be business men in the first place. It prevents others from ‘stealing’ their property and making a “dishonest business” from it for themselves. A colleague has used §70 to bring down US/UK plans to turn his research into a fictional product. I myself have successfully fought US licencees of my work who were trying to circumvent and ignore German copyrights effective globally. I’m currently in my fifth year trying to force another US/German licencee to pay me royalties from the millions of Euros he has earned.

    There’s a tendency to want the best quality of everything and everything else for free. The internet is not really helpful, because it’s so hard to control, and the new pirate mentality is rubbing off on traditional areas. And there’s also a tendency—especially by US parties—to not give a damn about other nationals’ copyrights, while protecting their own at every cost. That’s just a few examples of my year-long experiences with US intellectual imperialism. And now a German copyright holder is doing the only logical thing, namely protecting what’s his, and sure enough our alleged US victims are crying foul. But it’s not foul play. It’s copyright, plain and simple.

  7. 1. “German laws of course do not apply outside of Germany—…, but the copyrights that are created *based* on these laws apply worldwide and are binding.”

    Interesting claims. But since you seem to know more about German law than most of us, a couple of queries.

    Has any German court agreed that 2,000 year old texts belong to someone in modern times?

    Has any court outside of Germany agreed that the Germans can claim copyright of non-copyright 2,000 year old material?

    2. “GBS may not own the rights to the Greek New Testament (which one, by the way?), but they do own the rights to NA27. It’s their product…”

    Interesting. So there is no such thing as the “Greek New Testament”? Is this the opinion of the GBS? Can we have that officially, do you think? (Which should destroy their reputation entirely, if they can be got to say it).

    Either the text in NA27 — we are uninterested in stuff which is not the text, and may be copyright — is the text of the Greek New Testament, as written by its authors, or it is not.

    In the former case it is not copyright; in the latter case, it is not the Greek New Testament and labelling it the “Greek New Testament” is fraud. The GBS need to decide which position it wishes to take.

    At the moment it is claiming that it is selling the Greek New Testament, to get sales, and then claiming that it is not, to claim copyright. One or the other!

    We all know that modern editions of ancient texts involve restoration of damage in transmission. But obviously they can only copyright these, if they are damaged. If they ar perfect copies of the authors’ work, they cannot be copyright. Unless, of course, “copyright” is whatever a German chooses to claim is his?

    Copyright is not a fundamental human right. It is an agreement, in the community, that creative people need to be able to sell the product of their labours without being pirated, since this encourages creativity and allows the whole community to benefit from this rush of creativity. All of us endorse that. But this is not what the GBS is doing here.

    3. ” The copyright per definition protects the authors, publishers and copyright holders, so they can be business men in the first place.”

    Indeed so. The apostles, however, were not business men, and their “protection” — which they never received — has lapsed. No-one is claiming that THEY have copyright. Instead we have this funny bunch of Germans claiming they own it.

    If the GBS wants to be business men, they need to renounce their charitable status (which, indeed, they seem to be violating by all this). After all, destroying open-source research projects in order to try to exact cash is not a charitable activity.

    You don’t seem to understand why a claim to ownership of a text which has existed since before Germany existed is so utterly offensive to everyone. Is this the case?

    “I myself have successfully fought US licencees of my work who were trying to circumvent and ignore German copyrights effective globally. I’m currently in my fifth year trying to force another US/German licencee to pay me royalties from the millions of Euros he has earned.”

    If the works are the result of your creative effort, that is your right, although it seems like a strange way to live. But how would you feel about a product that you gave to the world being copyrighted by someone else, and then they try to stop people using it as you intended?

    Your comments seem to be entirely that of someone with something to sell, determined to exact money, and determined to use whatever laws, however strange, to exact it. This won’t do. In some countries it is legal for men to run brothels, and sell what is not theirs and should not be sold. Doubtless the GBS would consider that legitimate. The rest of us do not.

    No-one is interested in original, creative work by the GBS; that is not the point at issue. But the text of the Greek New Testament is not such. It is original, creative work by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the like. The GBS did not compose it.

    There is a basic moral principle here; do not steal the work of others. Copyrighting 2,000 year old texts is theft.

    “The internet is not really helpful, because it’s so hard to control, and the new pirate mentality is rubbing off on traditional areas.”

    Most people rejoice at the richness of material freely available to all, and the new possibilities for research and to produce wonderful things new previously possible. I’m sorry if all you can see is lost opportunities to extort blackmail.

    Again; if the GBS produce original creative works, let them copyright them. No-one will object. But to try to claim ownership of the text of the Greek New Testament — for this is what is at stake — and thereby destroy open-source projects which would benefit us all is immoral and obscene.

  8. QUESTION: Has any German court agreed that 2,000 year old texts belong to someone in modern times?
    ANSWER: Nothing “belongs” to anyone. A Bible text “belongs” to you, if you buy it in printed or electronic form. Nevertheless, certain rights (incl. copyrights) are effectuated upon editing/translating/publishing, even if the publication is based on a 2000 year old text.

    Q: Has any court outside of Germany agreed that the Germans can claim copyright of non-copyright 2,000 year old material?
    A: With regard to the GNT I can’t say, but the highest German court did rule that revised and/or modernized editions of Luther’s Bible are protected by copyright, and whether a text is 2000 or 500 years old, then doesn’t really make any difference. In any case your question is not a valid one, because the original text of the GNT is unknown. This means that the NA-version of the GNT is an editorial work, compiled after careful decisions about which passages in which codices are the correct ones, which one is the lectio to use, based on text-critical research etc.. In German urheber law, this automatically means that the NA is protected under UrhG Section II §2 (“Bearbeitungen”) as if it were a new work, because (like any translator) the adaptationer and editor of the numerous GNT snippets, who creates a combined NA-reading, is also protected under German urheber law like any “real” author. Therefore I need to revise what I wrote earlier: Since the NA27 and previous editions are edited works, standard copyright periods apply, which means that every GNT by NA (GBS) enters the public domain 70 years after the last one of its editors has died. Furthermore and for the sake of the argument, even if II.2 did *not* apply, the NA-GNT editions would also be protected by *standard* copyright, and not only for 25 years according to §70, as I wrote earlier. (Nevertheless, §70 applies in any case!) That’s simply because the obertext of the NA constitutes an original and individual work, even if it’s derivative (cf. Gounalakis 2004). The same goes for the untertext, the apparatus (“compilation”, UrhG §4).

    Q: Has any court outside of Germany agreed that the Germans can claim copyright of non-copyright 2,000 year old material?
    A: That’s not necessary, because there is the UCC, which states the following (article 2): “Published works of nationals of any Contracting State and works first published in that State shall enjoy in each other Contracting State the same protection as that other State accords to works of its nationals first published in its own territory, as well as the protection specially granted by this Convention.” So the case is actually closed, because edited and/or compiled works are also protected under US copyright law (USC 17.1.103.a), including almost the same conditions for copyright protection as in Germany (“Schöpfungshöhe”, individuality etc.), and both the US and Germany are contracting parties of the UCC. So no US national has the right to infringe upon the rightful German copyright protection of the NA-editions.

    Q: So there is no such thing as the “Greek New Testament”?
    A: Of course there is no such thing as *the* GNT. See above: The original Greek text is unknown. Any GNT we buy in the stores today is a compilation, an edited work that is different from the original text. One tiny example: The original codices only use the nomen sacrum for Christ: IC. In Nestle-Aland it’s written out as Ἰησοῦς, and as far as I remember, the apparatus doesn’t even mention the nomen sacrum (at least not always). That’s a clear redaction and individual interpretation, because nowhere in the oldest codices is there any hint that IC actually does stand for Iēsoûs. Based on “common knowledge” we assume this to be correct. Even if it common opinion is correct in this matter, it still means that NA, by rewriting the nomina sacra into full names, clearly deviated from the original text, which is “creative” (or at least “individual”) in the legal context and therefore definitely protectable under copyright. Furthermore, NA have corrected the orthography of the manuscripts, and the original reading is only accessible when looking at the hand written exemplars. E.g. “Môsês”, which is a frequent reading in many of the old manuscripts, has been redacted to “Môysês”, not only by NA, but also by other text critics and publishers.

    Q: Is this the opinion of the GBS?
    A: Of course it is. It’s the only logical opinion.

    Q: Can we have that officially, do you think? (Which should destroy their reputation entirely, if they can be got to say it).
    A: You can try, but I don’t think you’ll get an aswer. In any case, it will not destroy their reputation, because exactly this fact that the original GNT is unknown and that the NA-edition of the GNT is a new work compiled by specialists, is the main reason, why it is copyrighted. If the original Greek text were known, the argument would of course be a different one. (There wouldn’t even be any need for an alternative obertext!)

    Q: Either the text in NA27 — we are uninterested in stuff which is not the text, and may be copyright — is the text of the Greek New Testament, as written by its authors, or it is not.
    A: The text in NA is *not* the one that was written by the original authors. It’s not the original Greek text. That text is unknown and has been lost for almost two millennia. The NA-GNT is a newly compiled work, based on modern scientific deliberation.

    Q: In the former case it is not copyright; in the latter case, it is not the Greek New Testament and labelling it the “Greek New Testament” is fraud.
    A: Everyone else calls the NA (and the numerous other Greek editions) the “Greek New Testament”, although it’s not the original Greek text. So why should it be fraud all of a sudden? Because you and your community are in a snit?

    Q: At the moment it is claiming that it is selling the Greek New Testament, to get sales, and then claiming that it is not, to claim copyright. One or the other!
    A: They are selling *their* version of the GNT. There is no disparity.

    Q: We all know that modern editions of ancient texts involve restoration of damage in transmission. But obviously they can only copyright these. If they are perfect copies of the authors’ work, they cannot be copyright.
    A: But they’re not perfect copies. The original GNT text is unknown. So of course they can copyright it, also under US law.

    Q: Unless, of course, “copyright” is whatever a German chooses to claim is his?
    A: It’s about the same as in the US (see above, compilations and derivative works).

    Q: Copyright is not a fundamental human right.
    A: We have i.a. the universal declaration of human rights, but that’s written law, just like any copyright law, and therefore subject to change. So either there is no such thing as “fundamental human rights” or international copyright laws must be “fundamental” too.

    Q: It is an agreement, in the community, that creative people need to be able to sell the product of their labours
    A: It’s not only about selling. Sure, the US copyright is almost exclusively about the economic aspects of original works, but other countries that have a long history of excellence in arts and science like France or Germany view the rights of the author a little differently, especially not so narrowmindedly.

    Q: this encourages creativity and allows the whole community to benefit from this rush of creativity. All of us endorse that. But this is not what the GBS is doing here.
    A: There’s also creativity in science. The NA-edition/compilation is a creative work in its own right, therefore the GBS is doing the only logical thing, the only right thing in a legal context.

    Q: The apostles, however, were not business men
    A: Who says they weren’t business men? Christ Himself seems to have had a preference for financial issues, as the original Greek version of the Lord’s Prayer proves: there are no “sins” and “sinners”, or even that strange English “trespassing”, but *debts* and *debtors*. (That’s the lectio difficilior and therefore the original reading.)

    Q: No-one is claiming that THEY have copyright. Instead we have this funny bunch of Germans claiming they own it.
    A: That’s just your opinion. The laws (not only the German laws) state otherwise. They can claim that they own it, because they actually do!

    Q: If the GBS wants to be business men, they need to renounce their charitable status (which, indeed, they seem to be violating by all this). After all, destroying open-source research projects in order to try to exact cash is not a charitable activity.
    A: You’re putting the cart before the horse: It’s not charitable to illegally use rightfully copyrighted material and call it “open source”.

    Q: You don’t seem to understand why a claim to ownership of a text which has existed since before Germany existed is so utterly offensive to everyone. Is this the case?
    A: Personal feelings are irrelevant. Only the law is relevant, and according to the law the GBS has every right to enforce their copyright.

    Q: If the works are the result of your creative effort, that is your right, although it seems like a strange way to live.
    A: It’s not my choosing. They ignored my fundamental rights as author and didn’t pay me the royalties I’m entitled to under law.

    Q: But how would you feel about a product that you gave to the world being copyrighted by someone else, and then they try to stop people using it as you intended?
    A: You can’t compare my situation with that of the evangelists, although I’m honestly flattered. 🙂 It was meant as a comparison to GBS’s situation, in that there are parties (even regular licencees), who don’t care about existing copyright and the financial obligations resulting from it.

    Q: Your comments seem to be entirely that of someone with something to sell, determined to exact money, and determined to use whatever laws, however strange, to exact it.
    A: As I wrote above in this post, it’s not only about selling. But as the US copyright laws teach us, selling is an important part, yes.

    Q: In some countries it is legal for men to run brothels
    A: I’m a friend of many sinners. 😉

    Q: and sell what is not theirs and should not be sold. Doubtless the GBS would consider that legitimate. The rest of us do not.
    A: Again: What you or others consider is not important. Only the law is important. And the law fully supports GBS’s claim, in Germany *and* in the US.

    Q: No-one is interested in original, creative work by the GBS; that is not the point at issue. But the text of the Greek New Testament is not such.
    A: Under the law it qualifies as such, even in the US (see above).

    Q: It is original, creative work by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the like. The GBS did not compose it.
    A: The GBS did compose it, from codices that were themselves derivatives. It’s their version of the GNT. The “original, creative work” by Mark, Matthew, Luke and John is unknown. It’s lost—probably forever. We don’t even know who Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were. We don’t even know if the evangelists produced an “original creative work”. Who wrote Q? Who wrote the Ur-Mark? Mark as well?

    Q: There is a basic moral principle here; do not steal the work of others. Copyrighting 2,000 year old texts is theft.
    A: Even if it were the original text, it wouldn’t be “theft”. (Under the law “theft” is something different.) But the NA-GNT is *not* the original text. It is a newly compiled work, edited, redacted, based on individual and scientific considerations—and therefore subject to full copyright.

    Q: Most people rejoice at the richness of material freely available to all
    A: So do I. The internet can be a place with valuable free information. But that doesn’t mean that every information is automatically free, if it’s transferred into the internet.

    Q: and the new possibilities for research and to produce wonderful things not previously possible. I’m sorry if all you can see is lost opportunities to extort blackmail.
    A: That’s not true. In this specific case however I’m simply trying to make clear that there is no other way than to respect other people’s copyright—a legitimate copyright.

    Q: Again; if the GBS produce original creative works, let them copyright them. No-one will object.
    A: So why are you objecting? Under the laws the NA-GNT qualifies as a work that’s fully subjectable to copyright.

    Q: But to try to claim ownership of the text of the Greek New Testament — for this is what is at stake — and thereby destroy open-source projects which would benefit us all is immoral and obscene.
    A: Again the cart before the horse. It’s immoral to use copyrighted material without a proper license and call it “open source”.

  9. Many thanks for your note, parts of which are interesting and other parts very funny, in a strange way.

    Your argument is that whatever you can get away with is right. No, it isn’t.

  10. The GBS is not trying to “get away with” something. They have every legal right to claim copyright for their GNT. The laws support them. The above-mentioned legal expert supports them. High court decisions support them. International copyright laws support them. If anyone disagrees, he should present his case and make valid legal arguments. A merely personal opinion/assumption that what the GBS is doing “isn’t right” is outside of any serious debate.

    PS—for those interested: The only editions of the Novum Testamentum Graece currently in the public domain are those edited by Eberhard Nestle, i.e. all editions from 1898 to 1901. They have been in the public domain since 1984, because Nestle died in 1913. All later editions by his son Erwin Nestle, starting with the 13th edition in 1927, will enter the public domain in 2043, 70 years after his death. All later editions edited by Kurt Aland (starting in 1952 until NA26) should enter public domain in 2065, unless he had additional younger editors as collaborators.

  11. ADDENDUM: A variant of Nestle-Alands Novum Testamentum Graece is the USB-GNT, currently in its 4th edition. It’s published by i.a. the American Bible Society. And lo and behold, the work is *copyrighted*! You may not like it, but this proves that the GNT copyright originating in Germany is also valid under US jurisdiction and is fully accepted and enforced by the US publishers—as I already wrote earlier, because that’s the *law* (see above: UCC).

  12. I said: “Your argument is that whatever you can get away with is right. No, it isn’t.”

    You replied: “The GBS is not trying to “get away with” something. They have every legal right to claim copyright for their GNT.”

    This seems to be agreeing with me, tho. I’m not arguing whether their position is legal in Germany; I have no means to know. I argue that it is incredibly immoral.

    From your post, you suggest that right and wrong is merely whatever the law allows. That makes you probably the most immoral person I have ever encountered, by the way. But if people holding that position are the only defenders of the GBS, then it is clearly doing something dishonest.

    The remainder of your comment continues to assert with the utmost certainty that the law is on their side. I understood from your earlier post that this has not been tested in court. Are you changing your statement on this?

    You said: “A merely personal opinion/assumption that what the GBS is doing “isn’t right” is outside of any serious debate.”

    Let me tell you that those who advanced this argument at Nuremberg were hanged. And quite rightly too.

  13. This is a matter of copyright, so yes: “right and wrong” is in fact whatever the law allows. And the GBS isn’t even acting immorally, because they offer the Greek text of the NA27 for free on their website, in the spirit of education etc.. How then can anyone hold the opinion that GBS is acting immorally? Because the apparatus is only available in print? Give me a break!

    And yes, with utmost certainty the laws (not only the German law) are on their side. German copyright (especially in this specific matter) extends under US jurisdiction, as the American Bible Society’s USB-publication proves. Furthermore US and German copyright laws in this matter are in accordance (v.s.), governed also by the UCC. The German court decision on the Luther Bible gives circumstantial support, and Gounalakis—based on the current legal situation—has written a very detailed essay, which fully supports GBS’s position and claim.

    PS: You may compare the GBS’s actions to the Holocaust and/or WWII, and my argumentation to Nazi apologetics. I would normally protest against such an insane argument, but I don’t care. It doesn’t matter here. Only this: Judging from my Christian standpoint it was *not* right to hang those Nazi criminals. They should’ve been forgiven. But Christian ethics are irrelevant in a secular court, if the case is fully covered by preexisting laws. And equally irrelevant are arguments on morality when it comes to GBS and international copyright laws, even more so if these “moral arguments” are moot (v.s.).

  14. Dear Hand Dampf,

    On one hand you oppose the execution of the Nazi criminals, even though the international and moral law allowed it, because of your Christian standpoint, yet on the other hand you defend the GBS’ copyright because it is supported by the law even though it may not be morally defensible, or sit comfortably with one’s Christian conscience.

    True Christian organisations, and I would assume the GBS is one of them, allow free publication of whatever work done by them, not just to promote knowledge but also to spread Christianity (freely received, so freely give).

  15. Dear Boles,

    (1) The GBS has published their GNT on their website. It’s free for everyone. And it’s more than other publishers of other Greek NTs have done. So in your own words the GBS is a “true Christian organization”.

    (2) There are no moral issues whatsoever connected to GBS and the NA-GNT. It’s a simple and VERY MUNDANE matter of international copyright.

    (3) With regard to the “Nazi criminals” I have questions for you: (a) Which “moral law” allowed for the execution of these men? (Additional question: What is a “moral law”? There are “moral righs”, but that’s something different.) (b) Which “international law” in effect and legally binding at the time allowed for the execution of these men?

    In any case: Christian ethics teach us to forgive people their sins. (I personally also favor amnesia in addition to amnesty. It helps to reduce future violence.)

    But there is no sin committed by the GBS. There is no moral wrongdoing, nothing offensive, and also nothing illegal in GBS enforcing their legitimate copyrights. I don’t see your point. They’re only following the law—German law, US law, international law. Why should any sane person object to that?

    Do you have any *real* (i.e. valid) arguments?

  16. Thanks, Herr Dampf, for your discussion of German law. The US law is somewhat stricter about authorship for copyrightability, however, in part because the Copyrights clause in the Constitution explicitly refers to authors.

    When I last revisited the issue a number of years ago, the thinking among U.S. legal scholars then was that a critical text was not–as to the text itself (not the apparatus)–independently copyrightable, much along the lines mentioned above in connection with Stan Gundry’s comments. It should be noted, however, that this precise issue has never been tested (to my knowledge) in the courts (the Qimron case being settled, I think), so it still remains an open question as far as U.S. law is concerned.

  17. “The New Testament in Greek” by Bart D. Ehrman et al. for the American and British Committees of the International Greek New Testament Project, published in Boston & Leiden, is copyrighted — like the UBS-GNT, published in the US by the American Bible Society under US copyright (extended). The copyright is surely based on US Code Title 17 Chapter 1 §103. Any court of law will at least refer to that USC in this matter. Of course if a hypothetical plaintiff is able to prove that the Novum Testamentum Graece is nothing but a Greek telephone book, then you have a chance for sure. But I doubt that this will succeed. German and US laws are almost the same in this respect.

    Because the primary and defining fact is that the original GNT is unknown, and all current GNT versions are compilations, individually edited, based on scientific consideration. In German law it’s called “schöpfungshöhe”, more or less the “threshold of creativity” or “threshold of originality”. GBS’s GNT editions (like any GNT editions) are of course derivative and compilated, but according to US and German laws they demonstrate originality and individuality in a scientific sense, because they are careful selections and not just sweat of the brow.

    PS (personal note): I regularly follow your blog. Keep up the great work.

  18. I have a question: There are 3 versions/families of the New Testament: The Alexandrian, Byzantine and Western families. Which of the 3 is NA27? Or is it a compilation of all 3 with the differences shown in the apparatus criticus?

    Whenever I buy an ancient author (say Herodotus) in the introduction it has a list if all major recent editions of the text (Teubner, OCT, Loeb, Bude, Maronitis’ version…) and it strongly implies that their version is a collation of these editions and not of the original manuscripts. Yet the only copyright they claim is in the comments and translation, not on the ancient words.

    Copyright is an idea that first appeared after the invention of printing, all ancient works were by definition public domain. When the Athenian slaves captured during the Sicilian campaign were freed because they knew by heart the stasima from Euripides’ tragedies, they showed him gratitude, they didn’t give him royalties. Being an agricultural engineer I have no idea which way a court would rule in Greece but I doubt that they would affirm copyright claims, the general idea is that copyright law is too restrictive and it seems more likely that all things taken equal they would rule against the GBS.

    If the ICC is the problem though there is a very simple solution: go to a non signatory country. Syria I think is not signatory, I remember they used to sell in 2002 CDs and VCD on shops that were most definitely copies of the original, the kind that in other countries would be considered illegal

  19. Thanks for comments, people. I’m rather interested in the claims about German law, and I appreciate what Hans has been able to tell us on this, since all this is new to most people.

    Hans, are you able to tell us precisely what piece of German law you believe allows a modern publisher to claim ownership of a text by an ancient author? I.e. What is the *legal* basis for this claim in Germany? Is this statute law, passed by some lawmaking body; or case law? In either case, at what date did this law come into being? (Most copyright law has come into existence in recent decades, usually because of lobbying by publishers.) You’ve given us some of this already, I know, but not as clearly as I’d like.

    Likewise, what case law exists in Germany giving this interpretation? You’ve referred to a case concerning the text of Luther — thanks — and I’d like to hear more about this. But are there any others?

  20. Hans, no I don’t have real argument on this as I am not interested in the subject as much as Roger is, but I notice the discrepancies and conflicts within your argument. I notice that you are argumentative, Hans, so hands up just for the sake of closing this arguments, but really you are not convincing.

Leave a Reply