RIP TNIV (c) Zondervan

September 2, 2009

The announcement that Biblica (aka International Bible Society) and Zondervan (aka Rupert Murdoch) are withdrawing the TNIV Bible from sale and will, in a couple of years, update the older NIV is just a small reminder:

You do not own your Bible.  You own the physical paper it is printed on, you own the ink.  You own the cover.  The text itself is owned by the translator and publisher, and you have a limited right to use that text for your own personal non-profit use.

So when the publisher decides to remove a translation from sale, then you better take very good care of the bits of paper and glue that you do own because when they finally give up the ghost you will not be able to replace them.

And if you are accessing that text through a website or a Kindle? Ah well.

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8 Responses to “RIP TNIV (c) Zondervan”

  1. Robin Edgar Says:

    Presumably the copyright on the King James Version ran out a couple of centuries ago. Perhaps there are other older translations that are now copyright free aka in the public domain. Certainly there can be no copyright on the original Hebrew and Greek words only on comparatively recent translations.

    • demas Says:

      Hi Robin!

      Interestingly, the KJV is still in copyright in the UK. But your point is true – there are public domain versions (the two most important being the AV and the WEB (World English Bible).

      The TNIV isn’t a public domain version, though.

      Another interesting fact is that although you are correct that the original Greek and Hebrew are in the public domain, critical compiled texts can and do have copyright claims over them. The German Bible Society currently asserts copyright over the NA27/UBS4 NT critical text.

      Russell

      • Joel Says:

        Interestingly, the KJV is still in copyright in the UK.

        Very interesting.

        Just out of curiosity: Does this impact the copyrightability of derivative works (RSV, NRSV, etc.) in the UK?

        And relatedly, I’ve often wondered about the copyrightability of a translation that claims that it is offering the only valid translation of the Hebrew/Greek words. If the original words are in public domain, and if there’s only one translation of them, what is there to copyright?

  2. Robin Edgar Says:

    My understanding of copyright law is that the copyright in *anything* expires 50 years after the death of its author, so I do not understand how the King James bible could still be under copyright in England unless perhaps it is under Crown Copyright or something. This brings up the question about very literal word-for-word translation of the original Hebrew and Greek words such as those in interlinear Bibles. I don’t see how such translations can be subject to copyright protection. Maybe they are not. I once had an NIV Study Bible and found it very useful for the background and commentary it provided. The funniest part of it was that the commentary did not always follow a literal interpretation of the Bible even though the NIV editors clearly were of a fundamentalist mind-set from what I could see.

  3. demas Says:

    You’re pretty close – most countries are now 70 years from the death of the author, though. The AV was under perpetual Crown Copyright in the UK, but as I understand it is now covered under transitional arrangments in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 Sch 1 s13(1) and will go into the public domain in 2038 (50 years after 1988).

    This of course only applies in the UK!

  4. demas Says:

    Just out of curiosity: Does this impact the copyrightability of derivative works (RSV, NRSV, etc.) in the UK?

    That’s a fascinating question—I don’t know the answer.

    The RSV, NRSV etc all trace their lineage back through the Victorian era Revised Version, which was an official translation and revision, so the Crown as copyright owner certainly ‘licensed’ the revision.

    On the other hand, this isn’t copyright as we know it—it’s an ancient version of it based not on statute but on royal prerogative and originally focussed on controlling printers. It may not extend to derivative works.

    And relatedly, I’ve often wondered about the copyrightability of a translation that claims that it is offering the only valid translation of the Hebrew/Greek words. If the original words are in public domain, and if there’s only one translation of them, what is there to copyright?

    In some jurisdictions, if there is only one or a limited number of ways of expressing something then that expression is not copyrightable. As well, in some jurisdictions such a translation would not be seen to have the required ‘originality’ to be copyrightable. It would be decided on a case by case and jurisdiction by jurisdiction basis, though, so it’s hard to generalise.

  5. Ned Maslyn Says:

    nice web site! My partner and i am supporting it!! Will certainly come back again – taking you rss feeds also,

  6. Ben Steinke Says:

    If they’re going to discontinue the 1984 NIV and the TNIV, then there should be no problem with them placing these in the public domain. If nobody is making money from these translations, then I can’t understand the logic in not discontinuing their copyrights.


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