Friday, March 18, 2011

How Concordia Publishing House's Copyrights affect me

I have been a huge fan and steady customer of Concordia Publishing House.  I have read and given as gifts innumerable "Treasuries of Daily Prayer", "Catechisms", and so on.  I am seemingly the lone promoter in this outpost, mostly giving things away for free, which is almost a joke around here.  Last month I shipped three boxes of books to Africa, all CPH products worth I don't know how much, hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  CPH products are my vice.

I am deeply grateful for the work of the editors and marketers.  Yet, there are some things I don't know how to deal with.

How "intellectual property rights"  affect me.  

The answers to these points may not  be simple--granted.  But the problems are real and what's involved quite profound.

1.  When I want to type out hymn verses, I have to check my hymnbook to see if they are in public domain.  Many of them are not.  So I can't post them here or discuss them.  Unless there is a way and I don't know what it is.

Often a Google search comes to this blog looking for Paul Gerhardt songs in English for example.  Guess what they are not all in public domain.  So I discuss them a little bit and tell people they have to buy a hymnbook from CPH.

2.  On YouTube you can get many beautiful Lutheran hymns in German performed by unnumbered choirs, congregations, bands, organists, etc.--a huge wealth.   In English--you can get practically nothing.  (And people want to promote good hymnody.  Something here gives.)

I have spoken with a major Lutheran choir director of a major Lutheran choir and suggested perhaps the choir could perform some hymns and post them to YouTube.  Your guessed it, it can't be done--the translations are all under copyright.

So on-line, we can mostly find hymns originally written in English.  The English hymns are beautiful, too.  Often I think a hymn originally written in English works better anyhow than those translated into English.  But if you want them, the translated German hymns are not there.  You can get Bach Cantatas and such, but they are not translated.  Or the translations are quite ancient and therefore are not copyrighted, and usually not appealing to modern singers.

3. I used to be able to send people to a link under the LCMS website where Luther's Small Catechism with Explanations (basically lists of Bible verses) was available for reading by anyone.  Now, it is no longer there because of "intellectual property rights".  This is a big, huge loss to the community world-wide.

Many of us do not live in places where you can pick up a catechism.  When I travel, I check the bookstores small and large in big cities and small, to see if there is anything available by Luther or CPH.  Generally, there is nothing whatsoever.  So, most of us, who want to look at a Small Catechism with Explanations, have to order one on-line or buy an e-version--granted that would be much quicker if a person likes to read that way (not me).  It takes considerable time to get a delivery.  (So, I usually have several available and give them away.)

I grew up and was confirmed in Germany and we never studied the catechism.  It bothers me now that nice versions should not be available on the internet.  Luther wrote them because there was such a dire need among the poor and the young and the old, especially in far-flung places and the villages.

So much junk can be picked up everywhere and is beamed around the world.  I think we need to be more free with our treasures.  Somehow.  Let's figure it out.


proliturgy said...


tODD said...

As a prelude to any comment by me, I assume you are familiar with statements by Paul McCain (CPH Publisher and Executive Director of Editorial) on copyright? Notably:

Free the Catechism? Or “Free” the Catechism? Thoughts on Accessibility to the Small Catechism

Is it Sinful to Use Copyright Laws?

Those might answer some questions you have or even give you some solutions to your problems. Or it's possible you know all that and are expressing (understandable) frustration with the status quo.

Mary J said...

Once I wrote in to see which pieces of the liturgy (text, not musical notation, mind you) were copyrighted and they wouldn't even tell me! CRAZY!

But now I just email CPH to ask for permission and, I am very pleased to say, so far have never been denied.

It may be that this is just an oversight by CPH. Maybe Paul McCain will see this. :)

Brigitte said...

From Todd, somehow did not post:

As a prelude to any comment by me, I assume you are familiar with statements by Paul McCain (CPH Publisher and Executive Director of Editorial) on copyright? Notably:

Free the Catechism? Or “Free” the Catechism? Thoughts on Accessibility to the Small Catechism

Is it Sinful to Use Copyright Laws?

Those might answer some questions you have or even give you some solutions to your problems. Or it's possible you know all that and are expressing (understandable) frustration with the status quo.

Brigitte said...

Thanks Todd, I have not seen those and I have not been referred to them. I will look them up.

Brigitte said...

OK, that was the first one from Todd.

Brigitte said...

That was the other one from Todd.

tODD said...

The upshot on the Small Catechism (SC) is that, basically, you can have it for free as long as you don't want the "with Explanation", too. You can find free copies at the Book of Concord site, and also on CPH's Web site. I'd link to them, but I'm afraid it will mean my comment won't show up again!

I'd guess that the English translation of the SC is in the public domain anyhow, at this point. But the "Explanation" part is likely still covered by copyright laws, being written more recently.

And there is something to be said for CPH's needing to make money somehow, of course, given all that they do with the money they make.

So perhaps the free online versions will suffice -- they are, after all, what Luther thought sufficed for Christian instruction! :) But if you want explanations, you'll either have to write your own or write CPH for permission to use them. If the latter, they'll almost certainly only grant you for permission to use the text privately, not publicly. So you could maybe email a friend the SC with explanations, but you wouldn't be able to post it online.

Brigitte said...

So those are some of the issues, and we are in an economic downturn in the United States, and will be for some time. So things will remain tight.

But so much discussion goes on on-line, you have to be able to refer to something. ???

And the internet is the way for the nations on all the ends of the earth to access things they could never access before. We must use it for distribution.

tODD said...

As for song lyrics, I'm less familiar with how copyright works there, but I think that CPH might be at the whim of the actual copyright holders, at least for some songs. That is to say, they paid for or otherwise licensed the text and possibly the arrangement, as well. They can't grant you the right to use them, in that case, since they're not their rights to give!

But, of course, there are many hymns whose text is in the public domain, and in such a case, I imagine it's up to CPH to grant you permission to use it or not. Sounds like they have a pretty liberal permission-granting policy, though.

Brigitte said...

Well, it is the Explanations that I want, too.

It says here that: "This explanation has been based upon and largely includes the work of Johann Konrad Dietrich (1575-1639), Walther and Schwan."

So they are not new.

Yes, I can see how one is stuck with the lyrics. But it is still too bad with all the on-line sharing going on.

tODD said...

That's interesting, Brigitte! I'm not a copyright lawyer in the least, but I assume that means that, if you wanted to, you could do your own translations of any public-domain SC explanations that exist in German. However, a recent translation of a public-domain German work would still be covered by copyright.

Brigitte said...

About Africa: when I sent the three boxes in a Sea Container from Sherwood Park, it was explained to me that they may not arrive, seeing what happens to shipments. So all the money and all the packing may yet have gone to waste.

Brigitte said...

Intriguing idea, Todd! I like it.

Mary, thanks for your comment, too. You are probably not posting any of it on-line?

Myrtle said...

I have very mixed feelings about this issue and fear most anything I say would not necessarily be of service. However, a few things come to mind:

Pastor McCain was generous with his writing that I used in the booklet to help others read the Book of Concord. I am not saying this to toot my horn, but I created it and made it publicly available so that others might use it. I could not have done so as well as it turned out without his help. He understood my intention--that I am simply not interested in earning money from such a resource--and supported that action.

Certainly, balance is needed in considering the issue. However, it seems to me the things I have found online most often leave much to be desired in the charitable department. Not you, dear Brigitte, but others. To me, the important question is:

How can we, as a Church, protect the resource that CPH is to the synod and the Church and yet help provide free resources for the teaching of the sweet, sweet Gospel for those who simply cannot afford to purchase materials so that the Gospel remains unfettered by economics?

Perhaps, if more people who wish for resources to be free would write and offer them, then maybe the copyright they could hold would be that it could be used by anyone as long as it was credited and unaltered.

[Brigitte, you could do some translations of things you enjoy and offer them as free.]

I have this lovely old Small Catechism with questions and answers from 1863 by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Pennsylvania. Perhaps I could type it up for people to use. [I love the language in it!] I would be happy to make the investment of time to type the thing up if I could ascertain that I would not be in violation of some law.

My own struggle is with the heritage of our faith that really should not even be limited to the LCMS or the Lutheran Church at large. For example, the Book of Concord is actually the Christian Book of Concord. It was never meant to be divisive, but rather one of common belief amongst Christians who were interested in stripping out the things of man that had crept into the Church and hold firmly to the things of God.

A practical example is that at my first parish, the pastor made acapella recordings of hymns so that I could learn them. Others wanted to learn them, too, and I got his permission to share them. They had mistakes and were not all that musical at times, notes slipping and all. But they were beautiful and certainly done in the service of truth. My pastor found out that helping his parishioners this way was in violation of copyright laws and ceased the practice for those under copyright and eventually ceased all together.

As an ex-Protestant come home to the true doctrine, I cherish mightily the riches of Lutheran hymnody. I struggle to learn the hymns, however, and so rarely get to join in...except on those long enough for me to finally follow along in verse 9 or 10. There are, however, 27 hymns I can sing myself and sing for others to encourage them because of the efforts of my pastor.

I simply cannot see how a non-professional, mistake-filled recording done to help people learn hymns harms the livelihood of the authors/translators of those hymns.

But there is much...oh so much...that I do not understand.

Myrtle said...


I do know that the Internet, especially Facebook and blogs (again...not yours, dear one!), have afforded some people the opportunity to be publicly quite offensive and rather vile at times. At the very least, there is not a covering of another's flaws and failures as is taught in the Large Catechism on the eighth commandment.

I understand, having been the recipient of such action, that it is entirely possible for one to take offense by reading something into the text that is not there or was not intended. However, blatant insults are ubiquitous and heated exchanges with harsh words are captured for all to see, leaving the harm for as long as the online interface exists.

Christ. Paul. Luther would not hesitate to call a spade a spade and to heap coals of fire upon the heads of those obscuring the Gospel. But I do not find personal dislike amongst their words. I find a fierce, unabated clinging to the Gospel, but also a clear compassion for the sinner and forgiveness in abundance.

I do not really see much of that forgiveness in many online discussions. Occasionally, I have read an exchange grown heated that ended with genuine repentance and savored the opportunity to learn more about forgiveness. But not as much as I would think I would see, especially amongst those who have the pure doctrine and who understand that we are all wretches who deserve nothing but wrath and yet who have been given utter and complete mercy.

I, of course, am a wretched sinner who has and will again caused offense on my own blog. I hope that I can learn, though, how to better cover the sins of others and use my words in the service of truth...even if that truth be merely that though I struggle to believe at times, He is faithful to forgive me and continue to sustain the faith given to me.

James Swan said...

The Internet is what I refer to as the "new wild west."

Brigitte said...

I think maybe James hits it on the head. Things are different now.

Myrtle wrote a very nice booklet introducing people to a regular and systematic reading of the Book of Concord. Which is free. Thank you Myrtle. (James did you get your copy of BOC Reader's Edition, yet?--Purchase from CPH!)

My lowly self has a little translation published in a deaconess newsletter, this month--which is also free and anyone may have it. I can see that attribution matters, so some unsuspecting person knows whether something is likely a decent translation.

James does a ton of valuable work for free and easy access.

Anyhow, that's the new world.

That someone abandons a hymn learning project over copyright, as Myrtle says, is a tragedy to me.-- As tragic as a tragedy can be.

It may be that we just don't know how this should be handled.

As Mary says, people don't seem to know all the rules even when she phones in. As others and she say, it's not that difficult to get approval. So that little bit of work could be gone through.

But the catechism with explanations I am missing already again. I just had a dinner with an old church youthgroup friend who has drifted into Baptist church, who is beyond dealing with the catechism (for children only) and anyhow they read the Bible, the catechism isn't the Bible. I said "Do you own a catechism with explanations?" Yes, it must be somewhere. The whole house is confirmed, so they must have at least one.

Much good having it somewhere will do.