Understanding copyright of personal greek translation work?

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Tim Evans
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Understanding copyright of personal greek translation work?

Post by Tim Evans » January 8th, 2016, 11:17 pm

What copyright issues, if any, are tied in to publishing your own translation of greek text. If for example you print your own translation of parts of the bible in your own works, but your translation is based on NA or UBS, does that create a problem?

I have noticed that this site creates a free version that it states is relatively unencumbered:

http://www.freebibleversion.org/info.html

Whereas this version states it is relying on public domain text to avoid copyright issues (and refers to broken URL to explain why):

http://openenglishbible.org

I also wonder what would happen if, for example, you translated based on public domain text, but amend the greek based on scholarly advances, (i.e. essentially wescott+hort plus information fro UBS/NA apparatus?)

Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Shirley Rollinson » January 10th, 2016, 9:15 pm

The KJV (Authorized Version) is not copyrighted.
And at first glance it's closer to the Greek than the free Bible version (I only glanced at the beginning of Matthew's Gospel "X was the father of . . " rather than X begat . . "

Tim Evans
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Tim Evans » January 10th, 2016, 9:24 pm

While being an aside to my question about the copyright issue. The first thing I tried reading in the FBV (Free bible version) was John 1:1, and I was put off by the very first verse, and didn't go much further than that. It translates it as:
"In the beginning the word already was."
I didn't like so much that it inserted "already". It seems like a interpretation rather than a translation. Im not sure what adding it helps? (If John meant "already" he could have used something like ηδη yes?)

That said, I'm not put off using this translation completely, I imagine I would like to reference it to see how other "modern" translations are putting things into English.

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 12th, 2016, 9:26 am

The lack of a freely licensed, high-quality English translation drives me nuts, I could really use one for parallel aligned syntax trees, and other people could use them to produce other high-quality resources for people using original languages. If anyone knows of a good one, please do let me know.

I've heard different opinions on your copyright question, and I'm not sure that the answer has been clearly determined in court. I wonder if anyone has sued for copyright infringement in such a case? If copyright of critical editions extends to to translations, I bet the German Bible society would let people produce translations with few or no restrictions. Asking and getting explicit permission is often easier than legal research. If they said that their copyright on the Greek text taints translations, I would strongly consider using the Nestle 1904 text, which is quite close to the current Nestle-Aland text and is in the public domain, or perhaps using the SBLGNT.

Some things cannot be copyrighted, including:
works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources
A critical edition of an ancient text definitely has some similarity to "lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources". But the original manuscripts did not have punctuation, paragraph markings, headers, the particular method of describing variants in the critical apparatus, etc. These could be considered creative elements, and I don't know whether there is good legal precedent to tell us which of these would be considered valid copyright claims. Your translation would presumably have different punctuation, headers, paragraph markings, etc., so if these were considered creative elements, would any of them survive in the translation?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » January 12th, 2016, 1:29 pm

I agree with Jonathan, he has several good points.

1. The copyright status of a critical text is a bit ambiguous, it probably hasn't been determined in court, especially for translations.
2. Why not just ask from copyright holders?
3. SBLGNT copyright holder could be more translation-friendly (see http://sblgnt.com/license/). Their purpose was to create a text which was more free to use than NA.
4. The apparatus and headers are certainly under copyright.

What is presumed to be under copyright in the critical text itself is the collection of critical decisions, i.e. where the text differs from other texts. But here is the problem of the nature of a critical edition of any ancient text. Naturally where a part of the text, larger part than just a few sentences, follows some known ancient manuscript, it can't be under copyright. You can just copy from the manuscript text which is under public domain. But each reading in our critical NT texts is in some manuscript. How they can be copyrighted? Only the collection of the textual decisions, as far as they can't be reproduced mechanically using some algorithm or strict set of rules, can be under copyright. But the whole thing is uncertain legally because the copyright laws weren't made for this kind of situation.

The purpose of a modern critical text creates an ironical situation. The purpose is to find the "original" text, but if the critical text is actually the same as the original, it couldn't be under copyright. But because we don't have an autograph or a manuscript which represents exactly the original, a critical text can be under copyright as a unique non-copied work. As much as the copyright holders claim a critical text corresponding to the "original" they should renounce the copyright. For example in the UBS edition the A in the apparatus mean they are certain about originality (as far as I remember). If someone else copies their text in those places they shouldn't be able to sue the one who copied if they are intellectually honest. But what would happen if someone actually took the text of A certainty and e.g. made his own decisions only about the rest? I don't know, and nobody else can know either. You can either try or just ask of the copyright holders.

One possibility would be to take several modern critical editions (practically speaking NA, SBLGNT and NIV base text, maybe older WH and NA), copy what is common to them and make your own decisions about the rest (or just follow WH or older NA). I think it would be legally impossible to sue you because if it would be possible, some edition would already had violated the other's copyright, and I don't believe that's the case. Here we have to remember that the work behind the textual decisions can't be copyrighted, only the outcome which is the text itself. Therefore you can just copy the part (at least a large part) of the critical text which is identical to some other text. But this is speculation, IANAL and you're recommended to contact the copyright holders anyway.

Differences between SBLGNT and the Greek text reconstructed from NIV published as A Reader’s Greek New Testament: 616
Differences between SBLGNT and WH: 879
Differences between the Greek text reconstructed from NIV and NA/UBS: 231
(Data found in http://sblgnt.com/about/introduction/)

You can see that you have to make relatively few decisions to make a unique work which doesn't violate copyrights. And this is for the Greek text only; in translation you don't have to show all Greek critical decisions. (On the other hand the base text of NIV is made in a different way - the number above tells how many times a decision is visible in the translation).

And don't forget the NET translators' notes. One could create a high quality critical text based on its notes, similar to the base text of NIV.

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 12th, 2016, 2:44 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:3. SBLGNT copyright holder could be more translation-friendly (see http://sblgnt.com/license/). Their purpose was to create a text which was more free to use than NA.
It's actually not a very free license, which is why we decided to do the 1904 Nestle text morphology and syntax trees, and it's not terribly precise. I really wish they had done a Creative Commons license instead. Their license says nothing at all about translations, except in the context of a diglot, which is not allowed.

And the kind of restrictions in this license are sticky. I may not care about them because I am only thinking about distributing things freely online, but the minute someone wants to use the things I created to create something new and recover their printing costs, all these issues come up. And if someone creates something on the basis of what they created ...

Here are a few issues with the license:

1. You have to get written agreement, theoretically using paper mail send to SBL. In practice, this is often done informally by email with either Logos or SBL, but that's not what the license says.
If the SBLGNT constitutes less than 25 percent of the content of a larger print or electronic work, you may sell it as part of that work. If the SBLGNT will constitute more than 25 percent of the content of a larger print or electronic work that you wish to sell, you must secure written permission or secure a licensing agreement to do so prior to publication. All permissions and licensing requests should be addressed to:

Rights and Permissions Office
Society of Biblical Literature
825 Houston Mill Road, Suite 350
Atlanta, GA 30329 USA
2. Reporting sales numbers, even if the SBLGNT itself is given away for free - major software vendors like Accordance and BibleWorks consider this a deal breaker, and do not support SBLGNT because of that. I think one of their concerns is that this information might be made available to Logos. Note that this applies also to anything that is sold, including printed copies that cover the cost of printing, and this imposes a certain overhead. The manner in which results are to be reported is not stated.
If you give away the SBLGNT for use with a commercial product or sell a print or electronic work containing more than 500 verses from the SBLGNT, you must annually report the number of units sold, distributed, and/or downloaded to the Society of Biblical Literature’s Rights and Permissions Office.
3. Restrictions on diglots
The SBLGNT may not be used in a Greek-English diglot without a license, regardless of whether such work will be sold or given away. Diglots containing the SBLGNT and a language other than English may be produced for free distribution.
The term 'diglot' is not defined in the license, but the intent is apparently to reserve exclusive rights to Logos and SBL to prepare (or license) side-by-side diglots with SBLGNT and an English translation.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 12th, 2016, 3:18 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:One possibility would be to take several modern critical editions (practically speaking NA, SBLGNT and NIV base text, maybe older WH and NA), copy what is common to them and make your own decisions about the rest (or just follow WH or older NA).
That's not terribly different from what Eberhard Nestle did initially. He looked at Tischendorff, Westcott and Hort, and Weymouth, generally adopting the reading that 2 out of 3 preferred. Here it is in his own words, from the introduction of the 1929 printing of Nestle 1904:
Nestle 1904 wrote:The text is the resultant of a collatino of three of the principal recensions of the Greek New Testament which appeared in the latter half of the 19th century, viz. those of Tischendorf, editio octava 1869-72 (as reproduced in the 4th edition by Oskar von Gebhardt, 1898); of Westcott and Hort, 1881 (impressum of 1895); and of Bernhard Weiss, 1894-1900 (second edition 1902). The readings adopted in the text are those in which at least two of these editions agree. An exception to this rule has been made in St Mark i. 1; St John v. 3, 4 and vii. 53 -- viii. 11. These passages have been retained in the text, but they are placed in special marks.
Nestle 1904 wrote:The apparatus at the foot of each page indicates every variation of any importance in the resultant text above it, in words, spelling or punctuation, from (1) the Textus Receptus, and (2) the Greek Text which avowedly or inferentially underlies the English Revised Version of 1881.
Incidentally, one of the great things about the SBLGNT is that it broke the monopoly, you can now use a variety of Greek texts and still be taken seriously.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Tim Evans
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Tim Evans » January 12th, 2016, 7:40 pm

Knowing that the Nestle 1904 is unencumbered, I wonder how many people here would be interested in a public/wiki style project to update it based on modern scholarship?

I suspect some academic decisions are perhaps easier to make within a committee than with a wiki style system, however if there was a system flexible enough that catered for disagreement, perhaps it might be possible to crowdsource the work to ensure there is a proper free/unencumbered greek text from which people can work.

(i.e. Perhaps when there are multiple options that are difficult to agree upon, both versions can be retained in some form, i.e.
- "Export including disputed text in italics",
- "Export without disputed texts",
- "Export my version with my voted upon amendments",
- etc...)

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 13th, 2016, 11:39 am

Tim Evans wrote:Knowing that the Nestle 1904 is unencumbered, I wonder how many people here would be interested in a public/wiki style project to update it based on modern scholarship?
What kind of updates does it need, and why? Why not just use it as is? It's quite similar to the current NA 27, and done by an acknowledged scholar who kicked off that whole line of critical editions. Would we do any better in a Wiki?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Tim Evans
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Re: Understanding copyright of personal greek translation wo

Post by Tim Evans » January 17th, 2016, 10:02 pm

Does this mean you think there are no discoveries between 1904 and now that are relevant for todays bible translation work? (By relevant, I mean relevant in that they might affect how we produce the english text?)

If there have been discoveries that do affect the greek in a way that we would alter how we produce the english text, then wouldn't it be good to have an unencumbered greek version that can be freely used today, without limitations, for all forms of publishing and study?

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