WELCOME TO GODSTARTER

  • Why don’t Christian writers license their work with Creative Commons? May 7, 2009
  •  Why don’t Christian writers license their work with Creative Commons?

    May 7, 2009


    Alright, non-technical, semi-religious post. If all you care about is technical stuff, skip reading this.

    So I’ve had this nagging feeling every time I read a Christian book (other than the Bible), something that the author intended to inspire, impart knowledge, hold accountability and so forth, of why would the author want me to pay to hear this? I don’t understand why a Christian author, intentionally writing a book meant for a Christian audience, licenses his/her work in such a way that the book will only reach people who spend an amount set by the publisher and/or author, instead of a broader audience.

    Now, let me set something straight. I haven’t written a book, I don’t know the entire negotiation process that goes on between the publisher and author. What kind of deals are brokered? I don’t know. Is there a secret ritual or rite of passage that occurs before given the go-ahead to write a book? I don’t know.

    So where does that leave me? Empty speculation and argumentation about something I don’t fully understand the entire workings of. Welcome to the internet.

    Let’s pretend you’re an author.

    You have an awesome idea, inspiration touched you and you feel compelled to share that inspiration with the world. So, what better way than a book right? I mean, people still read nowadays right?

    So you write, you write during your free time about something you’re passionate about, and (assuming you’re writing a Christian book, which is what this post is about) you want to share it with as many Christians as possible. So you sign on with a publisher to distribute, print and market the book. Let’s say your book ends up costing $14.95, which seems in line with where book prices for this sort of book are.

    Now comes the hard decision. Will you as the author sacrifice your original intent to spread the word of your book to as many people as possible by having a barrier to (readership) entry of $14.95?

    Because that’s what I feel like Christian authors are doing. Maybe they aren’t aware there is an alternative?

    Take, for example, Shane Claiborne‘s book: The Irresistible Revolution . This is a book that, while it has its faults, I think would be beneficial for all Christians to read, so why the cost of $10.19 (on Amazon) for something that should be a work of service to the Christian community? Shane has a very anti-consumerist message in a lot of his books, so why even charge for the book at all? (I understand charging for a hard copy of the book because of printing fees, etc, but why not just post it free online as a PDF?) I know that Shane is not a professional, full-time author, so the money is not going to support him. Is the money going to charity? Great! There is still a win-win situation for both parties: licensing the book under Creative Commons .

    There a few different licenses to choose from. Shane could go with

    Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives for the license, which would mean he would be attributed as author of the work, someone else could not sell it and no derivatives could be made of it. However, it could be freely distributed and copied, which is exactly the point of writing a Christian book to me.

    This doesn’t preclude making money (if so desired, for charity or supporting the author) from the book. Creative Commons allows for dual-licensing a work, so Shane could enter into a revenue generating license (i.e., with Zondervan, the current publisher of Irresistible Revolution), while preserving the disseminating power of a CC license. This of course assumes Zondervan would be up for that idea, I hope they would.

    It’s not like it hasn’t been done. Look at authors like Cory Doctorow , whose novels are both published by Tor and released with CC license on his website, to encourage sharing of his works. Take “ Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town” for example, I purchased a copy at Barnes & Nobles (for ~$10 I think), but the entire book is also available to anyone who wants to download it from Doctorow’s site.

    The point is, writing a book meant to be widespread can be assisted by licensing under Creative Commons. And, since one of the points of being a Christian author is to reach a large Christian audience with your message, I have to ask, why don’t more Christian authors release their books under CC licenses and then dual-license with another license? Did we focus on the wrong goal of writing a book for Christian audiences (by a Christian), that is, making money?

    Shouldn’t we be focusing on the message and not the monetary gain?

    NOTE : If you leave a comment, give me a day or so to reply to you, I normally think about the comment for a while before responding, I haven’t forgotten about your comment.

    tags: author , books , christianity ,

    creative commons , licensing , shane claiborne

    posted in books, christianity , creative commons, licensing , shane claiborne by Lee

    21 Comments to "Why don’t Christian writers license their work with Creative Commons?"

    1. Narg wrote:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, because it isn’t about the message, it’s about the money or control, it always has been, it always will be.

    Link | May 7th, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    2. Twirrim wrote:

    They’d have to make it non-derivative so that the content of their material could be taken out of context and converted to spread a message that they don’t intend, and non-commercial to ensure others don’t make profit from your works (surely a sensible precaution when a giants share of your income comes from your book sales.)

    The Christian publishing industry has been notoriously conservative in it’s approach to life, I wouldn’t be surprised to find they actively refuse to publish books licensed on a dual-license model leaving authors with little choice but to tow the line.

    I’m more surprised that Christian musicians don’t chose Creative Commons with those non-commercial and non-derivative options. I’m told CCLI isn’t a particularly large source of income, even for the larger artists that have their music used on a regular basis.

    Link | May 7th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    3. Donald wrote:

    Christian writers and artists are not under any spiritual compunction to distribute their work for free or at a reduced rate. In fact, the opposite is the case. Jesus said, “Those who work deserve their pay.” (Luke 10:7)

    The idea that Christian authors should give away the fruit of their creative labors out of altruistic motives is probably misguided. Many Christian authors, like Rick Warren and Karen Kingsbury have charities and channel many millions into feeding the hungry and similar projects. They could not help others if they were giving books away for free.

    I have to say as a writer and publisher that Creative Commons (CC) is only for the unsophisticated when it come to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). It is a publishing black hole. CC licensing devalues any IPR that may exist, both because it shouts “my work has no value” and because it erodes the market.

    Dual-licensing? It’s not a practical business decision. Zondervan, for example, is owned by NewsCorp and Rupert Murdoch will not want to squander his marketing capital trying to sell a book that is available elsewhere for free.

    You ask, “every time I read a Christian book… something that the author intended to inspire, impart knowledge, hold accountability and so forth…why would the author want me to pay to hear this?”

    My reply to this is that you may not value what you are reading, so you are unwilling to pay. However, there are people who do value inspirational fiction and nonfiction, and Evangelical Christian books sell at a rate of about $2.3 billion per year. That’s about 20% of the overall consumer book market.

    Every author has a passion to get his work published and to get high enough sales to free him or her to write more, and to pursue other interests. Christian writers are no different than any other writers when it comes to that goal, and they should not be singled out as candidates to work for lower income or for free just because they are writing inspirational books.

    After all, J.K. Rowling says she was inspired by Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling has inspired others. Does that mean King and Rowling books should be free to all just because they have inspired others? Do you think you could convince these authors to make their works available through a CC license? Probably not.

    Link | May 17th, 2009 at 9:55 am

    4. Lee wrote:

    @Donald,

    (See inline comments, your statements start with “>” for clarity)

    > Christian writers and artists are not under any spiritual compunction to distribute their work for free or at a reduced rate. In fact, the opposite is the case. Jesus said, “Those who work deserve their pay.” (Luke 10:7)

    I do agree with this statement, I believe that Christian authors

    that make a living solely from their writing should be paid.

    > The idea that Christian authors should give away the fruit of their creative labors out of altruistic motives is probably misguided. Many Christian authors, like Rick Warren and Karen Kingsbury have charities and channel many millions into feeding the hungry and similar projects. They could not help others if they were giving books away for free.

    Setting aside the idea that a perfect Christian society should have the responsibility of charity support falling on the shoulders of *ALL* Christians, not just Christian “super-stars”, I still contend that Christian Authors should at least consider providing their works free of charge. Consider James 4:17 (NASB), “Therefore, to the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”. I am not professing that giving away all Christian writings is necessarily the right thing to do, but should it not be considered for certain writings? That’s part of the reason I brought up Shane Claiborne as an example, a writer that I think should definitely consider Creative Commons for his books. Right now, I do not see any consideration of this (Creative Commons) alternative.

    > I have to say as a writer and publisher that Creative Commons (CC) is only for the unsophisticated when it come to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). It is a publishing black hole. CC licensing devalues any IPR that may exist, both because it shouts “my work has no value” and because it erodes the market.

    Again, I contend that rather than saying “my work has no value”, A Creative Commons licensed work has the ability to say “my work has higher value than just money to me, it has the value of the ability to be widespread. To me, this spiritual gain at the cost of monetary gain is more important”.

    > Dual-licensing? It’s not a practical business decision. Zondervan, for example, is owned by NewsCorp and Rupert Murdoch will not want to squander his marketing capital trying to sell a book that is available elsewhere for free.

    > You ask, “every time I read a Christian book… something that the author intended to inspire, impart knowledge, hold accountability and so forth…why would the author want me to pay to hear this?”

    > My reply to this is that you may not value what you are reading, so you are unwilling to pay. However, there are people who do value inspirational fiction and nonfiction, and Evangelical Christian books sell at a rate of about $2.3 billion per year. That’s about 20% of the overall consumer book market.

    Please don’t misunderstand me, I was not trying to say that I didn’t value the writing that I was reading, I value it very much, what I was saying was that perhaps by lowering the barrier to readership entry, more readers would give reading the book a shot, since they are out no money if they didn’t care for it. Case-in-point, I bought the Cory Doctorow book knowing full-well his works were available CC-licensed for free online. I did so out of my desire to support him as an author. I think making the jump to “If all Christian books were licensed with CC, the authors would

    never be paid” is running down a slippery slope. (Note: I am not saying this last statement is your argument, simply making a statement)

    Better yet, what if an author challenged the reader of his or her book to take the money that

    would be spent on the title and donate it to a charity, does this also seem implausible?

    > Every author has a passion to get his work published and to get high enough sales to free him or her to write more, and to pursue other interests. Christian writers are no different than any other writers when it comes to that goal, and they should not be singled out as candidates to work for lower income or for free just because they are writing inspirational books.

    The reason I was singling our Christian authors in particular was purely from a spiritual standpoint, I fully expect any non-Christian author not to embrace Creative Commons, what is it to them if 1 more person can read their book for free? For Christian authors however, I was arguing that the spiritual gain outweighs the worldly gain, and that should be where our focus is in the first place.

    > After all, J.K. Rowling says she was inspired by Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling has inspired others. Does that mean King and Rowling books should be free to all just because they have inspired others? Do you think you could convince these authors to make their works available through a CC license? Probably not.

    No, I don’t think those books should be free. Both of those authors are full-time authors, and are not writing Christian works. I would not try to convince them otherwise.

    Thank you for the well-thought out comment, I appreciate the feedback.

    Link | May 18th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    5. Legit wrote:

    @Donald — you make good points on the power of publishing firms. Unfortunately I feel like some of your points about how publishing firms do business and the attributes that they inherently impart upon authors (as the inverse to your statements: “I have to say as a writer and publisher that Creative Commons (CC) is only for the unsophisticated when it come to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). It is a publishing black hole. CC licensing devalues any IPR that may exist, both because it shouts “my work has no value” and because it erodes the market.”) is similar to the arguments made by professional journalists working through journalist organizations (for instance the late Rocky Mountain News). These arguments can be further explored on a blog by Kirk Mastin: http://lofihistyle.com/2009/05/the-future-of-journalism-in-the-age-of-youtube/

    Granted that is more in reference to Journalism than to the Book industry, and so perhaps to understand the current role of publishing firms (such as Zondervan) we can look at other industries as well, for instance, the music industry. Within the music industry the big headliner has been Radiohead, who removed themselves from their record company to make large amounts of money by distributing their album for a variable price via their website (quite literally “devalueing” their album in price, but not in quality). Or you can look at Deepspace5 (deepspace5.com) who recently released an album separate from a record company as a means similar to a “bakesale”. Deepspace5 also happens to be a Christian coalition of several rap/hip-hop artists. Also you can look at “The Cross Movement” that after noticing the profit driven motives of Christian record labels started their own label as a means to not be driven by profits but by ministry goals.

    So by looking at other industries (journalism, and music) I feel that your argument that to licence a work with CC only results in devaluing the work is flawed. What a publishing firm adds to a work is not power in a copyright, but power in the distribution and marketing. Perhaps the hardest for an author to attain independent from a publishing firm is the marketing, because distribution simply requires a website. This however is completely irrelevant when talking about a work being copyrighted versus CC; instead, the power of distribution and marketing is simply an argument of business logistics and whether a monetary profit is desirable.

    Lastly I totally agree with your argument about the Christian right to deserve their pay for their work. However in a specifically Christian context I feel that the way that Paul performed his ministry speaks loads to the issue (Paul ministered for free, but made a living making tents)

    So that I won’t distort his words:

    1 Corinthians 9 (NIV):

    ” 1Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

    3This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]? 6Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?

    7Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

    But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 13Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

    15But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. 16Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.

    19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

    25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

    Yes as Christians we can charge for our own ministry, as a way to make a living, but there is also a powerful argument for not charging for that ministry.

    The argument that all of the profits of a book goes to a ministry is simply an argument of a displacement of funds. If the work of an author can truly help people to change their lives for the better then by distributing it for free you are essentially distributing its profits as a ministry anyways. To first sell the book in a printed (or unprinted) form and then take the profits and give it to a separate ministry is simply to take the money of those that bought the book remove a charge for the printing of the book (and marketing) and move funds from one person to another. In a logical sense it is like trying to sort a list of 1’s and 0’s by first changing all 1’s into x’s (no real work is being done).

    It seems much more logistically simple to distribute the book for free and let people donate money themselves, then the publisher or the author can serve a ministry by paying for the marketing and printing themselves so that the book can be free to all.

    Anyway, you raise some good points and points that do carry weight but I think that ultimately in a specifically Christian context the original argument of this blog post still stands. I am not trying to argue against you I am simply trying to propose the other side.

    Lastly, no author no matter how educated, how accomplished, or how powerful can ever hope to or think that they have accomplished a work with more insight or more truth than God’s word.

    Link | May 18th, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    6. Donald wrote:

    Thank you for the good dialog offered by Lee and Legit. Good points by both.

    I would stick by the view of Jesus (Luke 10:7) that pay for spiritual or inspirational work is the norm and to be encouraged. It does not make a difference whether the work is full or part-time.

    I have worked with scores of fledgling Christian writers over the years, and each aspired to be a full-time writer. Giving away part-time profits (small though they tend to be) would have dashed their hopes since more time would be needed at a regular job to augment what could have been made on books. Every writer I have ever known craves time to write, so book sales are good and a regular job is usually an anchor.

    Importantly, Jesus spoke about how people should use their “talents” (a parable and a metaphor!) in Mat 25:14-29. The master gave money to three people. Two of them invested and profited, the third buried the money. A Christian author using Creative Commons licensing is like the one burying the money, making no profit. If you read Mat 25:26 you will note that Jesus called such people “wicked.” This is a very apt story for Christian authors; they are to use their “talents” and a blessing comes when profit is multiplied.

    I respect your quote from 1 Corinthians 9, Legit, but it is an important hermeneutical principle that Paul learned from Jesus, not the other way around. The same should be true of believers today.

    There is no “powerful argument” from the life of Paul in this regard. Why? Because Paul himself uses that entire passage to argue that payment for services was a “right.” For his own reasons, Paul decided not to participate in that right, but his volunteerism does not give him the high moral ground in any sense.

    From the passage it is clear that Paul knew the teaching of Jesus on the matter, but decided on his own to go against that teaching. That was his choice, I suppose, but the opposite of what Jesus taught. Christian authors are free to give away their work if they wish, but it is certainly not an obligation, or even desirable, as Lee suggests it is, at least from a biblcial point of view.

    The teaching of Jesus is normative, not the teaching of Paul. Paul’s reasons for departing from the teaching of Jesus were unique and certainly do not apply to all Christians.

    Lee, I think you are right in that Christian Authors should at least consider providing their works free of charge. I will take that one step further–that is, virtually all Christian authors already give away their books. I know many authors who will send you a free copy if you express a genuine need. However, Creative Commons does not impart any special sanctification, and I would advise a Christian writer to avoid it. It is lose-lose on many levels.

    Finally, let me suggest “displacement of funds,” as you call Legit, is a good thing, not a bad thing. A Creative Commons book has almost no chance of gaining a high readership. There are many reasons for this, but I will name one, the economic principle of scarcity. The more scarce something is, the higher its value. Creative Commons and free distribution strips away that valuable aspect.

    However, a properly marketed book can sell thousands or even millions of copies. The revenue can be spent on all sorts of projects, from caring for the author’s family to reaching out in ways far beyond the scope of a book. For example, the book itself could be useless to someone in Africa who cannot read English, but profits from a book could be spent treating AIDS there in the name of Christ.

    We seem to be in full agreement on at least one point, and that is God’s Word has a power beyond words. It is the core book, and all other Christian books are derivative in one sense or the other. Rather than trying to penalize Christian authors, perhaps we should all be distributing more Bibles. Christian books go out of print every day, but the Word of God abides forever.

    Link | May 18th, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    7. Legit wrote:

    @Donald — Thanks for the feedback, I do agree with you on several points but I’m afraid you may have misunderstood what I was getting at, so I’ll try to refine my point with more personal commentary and less reference.

    My main point with Paul’s teaching is not to say that he set the norm, but to show that as Christians we have an option to not accept payment for our ministry work. Paul chose to accept no payment for his ministry so as not to burden those churches that he ministered to (perhaps more important in the early church than it is in the US). However, as you said, he did say that there is nothing wrong with making a living that way. My main point was simply to point out the options that we as Christians have (I don’t believe that God would see it as sin to not accept payment for spreading his word, or ministering to others about him).

    In reference to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-29 I believe the spiritual implication would be that by spreading Gods word we are sowing his seed (Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’) this ministering grows that spiritual wealth. By distributing a work under a CC license the ministering that that work may do is able to spread in a different manner than a purely copyrighted book might. By not accepting payment for ministerial work I do not believe God would call us wicked (should I stop volunteering?).

    I think the main point that Lee (and I agree with it) is trying to make (correct me if I am wrong) is that there are options available to an author on how to license a book. Economically this has many impacts, the author can donate the time they took to write the book and not get paid for it, they can distribute the book totally for free, or they can give the profits to a charity, or they can make a living (or supplement their income) with that work. An author can dual license a book and do several of these things. The point is that if an authors main purpose is to get the word out about a topic through a book then perhaps CC licensing (or dual licensing) is an option they should consider.

    Personally I believe that the value of a work of an author, or artist is made of more than just the economic scale of how it is distributed (or its scarcity, the bible is not very scarce) but is impacted also by its quality and the universal nature of its message. To see the value of a work simply from an economical perspective severely miscalculates the value of many works of art, literature, or music (read Chapter 44 in Charles Colson’s book “How Now Shall We Live?” for a bit of a discussion of this). As an editor (Donald) I’m sure you understand my point here.

    Once again thanks for the discussion, I believe it is a healthy one. I hope I’ve cleared up what my opinion on the matter is.

    Link | May 19th, 2009 at 8:42 am

    8. Donald wrote:

    @Legit — This has been a refreshingly positive exchange of views and I appreciate that. I understand what you are saying and agree with much of it.

    We agree, for example, that Christian authors do have the freedom to offer their work for free either by putting it in the public domain or by granting some Creative Commons license. If Christian writers wish to volunteer their services in this way, it is up to them.

    As a publishing professional, I think only the poorest quality of Christian material would be made available through a Creative Commons license, but it is an option for all writers. Creative Commons does not guarantee all-important distribution, and it takes time and money for any book to get viability. But the choice is up to the author.

    I will continue to respectfully disagree with Lee’s premise of “Shouldn’t we be focusing on the message and not the monetary gain?” Message and monetary gain are not mutually exclusive according to Jesus in Luke 10 and elsewhere. Christian writers should not be singled out to work for free or nearly free, part-time or full-time, just because of the message they share.

    In the near future I will be discussing the pros and cons of Creative Commons for Christian authors on my web site, and this discussion has enlightened me about various views that are held. Thank you for that.

    Link | May 19th, 2009 at 11:34 am

    9. Lee wrote:

    @Donald,

    > As a publishing professional, I think only the poorest quality of Christian material would be made available through a Creative Commons license, but it is an option for all writers. Creative Commons does not guarantee all-important distribution, and it takes time and money for any book to get viability. But the choice is up to the author.

    Why? What makes you think that only the poorest quality of Christian material would be made available with CC? Making money from Christian writing and making the writings available with Creative Commons are not mutually exclusive. No, Creative Commons does not guarantee the all-important distribution, however it can be a significant aid to it, on the other hand, having a publishing company does not necessarily guarantee the distribution either.

    I have to disagree with the statement “.. it takes time and money for any book to get viability.”, I think in the age of internet connectivity, there is a smaller need for money to gain viability. Personal websites, word-of-mouth, blogs, instant messaging, etc all greatly enhance any kind of distribution, while costing the author nothing but the time required to write such things (and not even the author’s time in most cases).

    > I will continue to respectfully disagree with Lee’s premise of “Shouldn’t we be focusing on the message and not the monetary gain?” Message and monetary gain are not mutually exclusive according to Jesus in Luke 10 and elsewhere. Christian writers should not be singled out to work for free or nearly free, part-time or full-time, just because of the message they share.

    As I said above, Creative Commons and monetary gain are not mutually exclusive. The King James version of the bible is available for free online, however, many people (myself included) have at one point purchased a copy from the publisher.

    Another benefit of removing the monetary gain of the author from the message is allowing people to focus on that message, rather than what the

    author’s words are. Take Rick Warren for example, some Christians I know have issue with how much money he has made on his books, charity donations or otherwise. Rather than take issue with his book by relating it to an author that some may or may not agree with, there is the ability to receive a Christian message without personal prejudice.

    I also don’t necessarily agree with all of your points about the multiplying-talents parable. I interpret your argument being that multiplying talents is only something that is fulfilled by monetary gain, rather than a spiritual gain. I believe that the multiplying of gifts can be fulfilled spiritually. I don’t agree that a Creative Commons author is akin to “burying the money” and “making no profit”. The profit is a spiritual one in the form of increased distribution ability.

    Again, thank you for the discussion. I’m looking forward to the argument on your site, please let me (and anyone else reading this blog post) know when it is posted.

    Link | May 19th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    10. Tricia Ward wrote:

    I really like your comments. My husband feels very similar about Christians who write worship songs… Why should churches have to pay (normally by the number in their congregation) to sing and glorify God. So much so he has set up a website http://www.christiansagainstcopyright.org It would be great if you take a look and leave feedback.

    Link | June 6th, 2009 at 7:36 am

    11. Philip Ward wrote:

    It seems to me that the argument has polarised into two camps.

    One wants Christians to give their work away for free, and another thinks that they should charge for their work.

    I would like to offer a third option.

    I believe that christians should release their work using a shareware model. Of course, physical copies should be charged for since each one has a unit cost, but digital copies should be available on the web with a license (probably CC) that allows free copying and usage providing full attribution is given.

    On the same website you then state that those who appreciate the work are obliged to pay for it if they can afford it.

    This way you satisfy scriptural principles.

    Firstly “the worker is worthy of his hire”. This verse is not a license to place a copyright barrier on your works. It is an instruction to those who benefit from your work to support your ministry.

    Secondly (as quoted by legit) “we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ”. Yes, you will get people using your works that do not pay, but they probably would not have paid anyway so it costs you nothing to let them have a digital copy of your work.

    I firmly believe that such a system would give more glory to God and authors and artists could still make a living. It would also free the church from an overly complicated and time-wasting copyright system.

    With regards to the value of works, the main value in a christian work is the impact of that work on peoples hearts. The monetary value to the author is tiny compared to this.

    I refer you to a column at questioncopyright.org where artist Nina Paley contends that a work has no value until it is shared.

    http://questioncopyright.org/why_artists_share

    Link | June 7th, 2009 at 2:37 am

    12. Faith wrote:

    This is a great discussion of a very important topic. Thanks to all of you for your insights. I do however lean towards Donald’s view. I just read a very interesting article about this subject that explains how David before he went to volunteer to slay Goliath (which we all agree was a spiritual deed), asked what would be done for the man who would kill the giant (in terms of material reward) and AFTER he heard that the man who slew the giant would receive riches, the king’s daughter in marriage, etc. he went and killed Goliath. He secured a “payment deal” first before going into the battle ring. Whether David would still have killed Goliath had the monay and other things not been promised, would call for me to speculate and I will avoid that. Surely killing the giant and setting his nation free should have been reward enough? I am most certain that it was but as is the nature of our God, He blesses us on all fronts. Spiritual obedience has material rewards as can be seen in Deuteronomy 28. I totally love the point raised by Donald that the money goes much further than the book can, and the example of AIDS in Africa. I live in Africa and that example hit home. We cannot say to a hungry brother , go and God bless you, we must give them food and if we only have enough for ourselves then we can be a blessing to no one. Let us try not to make our brothers and sisters feel guilty for doing what God said can and should be done, of course if one chooses another route, it is also alright but I agree that it does not give them any moral high groud.

    Link | June 19th, 2009 at 7:05 am

    13. Philip Ward wrote:

    Faith, I would like to be able to read the article you mention. Is it available on the web, or just in a magazine?

    Phil.

    Link | June 30th, 2009 at 5:24 am

    14. Steve Grove wrote:

    So… do you work? I mean, how do you pay for your internet to blog on (or cell phone, etc, etc). Just the fact that you are writing this online rules out the majority of people from reading this (in much of Asia and Africa and South America).

    My wife spent almost 2 years working full time hours to write her first novel. It is being very well received, and we have made many sacrifices in order for her to do this understanding that it is up to God to do with it what He wills – she is just obedient in the writing. It does not just happen like so many bloggers…

    You also assume you can only do one thing with any set of words. International rights on her non-fiction were signed off on so it could be offered as cheap as possible. While she may write a novel for income, she also does many forms of ministry for no charge. You can’t make a blanket statement for the whole shebang, where for one person they can give stuff away while others shouldn’t. You also have no idea what it takes to publish a book. You are asking several hundred people in one company to give up their livelihood, who do the printing, editing, marketing, shipping, sales, etc. not to mention the closure of every Christian bookstore (I assume they would be better off working for a secular company?).

    There is a place for free stuff, and a place to generate money. It is what you do with any money (or stuff) you make that makes a difference. Is there no place for a Christian book with Christian values to sit on the same shelf as a secular book promoting secular values?

    There is a free medium in blogs, and many authors do put “free” stuff here for those who don’t want to pay. You live in a materialistic and privileged society, and that is the only reason you can make your arguments. The world is much bigger than selling books in North America.

    Link | July 7th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    15. Philip Ward wrote:

    Steve’s comment appears to follow this reasoning.

    1. Those who work should be paid.

    2. Receiving money is not bad, in fact it is good.

    3. In order to receive money from creative works we need restrictive copyright.

    While I agree with points 1 and 2 I strongly disagree with point 3.

    I recommend you read http://questioncopyright.org/understanding_free_content

    Link | July 8th, 2009 at 3:50 am

    16. Lee wrote:

    @Steve Grove,

    See my inline replies below:

    > So… do you work? I mean, how do you pay for your internet to blog on (or cell phone, etc, etc). Just the fact that you are writing this online rules out the majority of people from reading this (in much of Asia and Africa and South America).

    Yes, I do work, I pay for my hosting using my money, I’m not sure what ruling out the majority of people from reading this (23.8% of the world has internet penetration according to http://internetworldstats.com/stats.htm ) has to do with my argument though.

    > My wife spent almost 2 years working full time hours to write her first novel. It is being very well received, and we have made many sacrifices in order for her to do this understanding that it is up to God to do with it what He wills – she is just obedient in the writing. It does not just happen like so many bloggers…

    It does not just happen like so many bloggers? I’m unsure what you’re trying to say with this statement.

    > You also assume you can only do one thing with any set of words. International rights on her non-fiction were signed off on so it could be offered as cheap as possible. While she may write a novel for income, she also does many forms of ministry for no charge.

    I don’t believe that I stated ‘you can only do one thing with any set of words’, I believe I mentioned dual-licensing works, which sounds like what your wife has done with her book with International rights (if I understood correctly).

    > You can’t make a blanket statement for the whole shebang, where for one person they can give stuff away while others shouldn’t.

    I wasn’t making a blanket statement for the whole shebang, notice that in my arguments I did not say “All Christian writers should give away all their work for free”, I said that they should investigate dual-licensing, maybe releasing *some* works away under a CC license.

    > You also have no idea what it takes to publish a book.

    You’re right, I haven’t published a book.

    > You are asking several hundred people in one company to give up their livelihood, who do the printing, editing, marketing, shipping, sales, etc. not to mention the closure of every Christian bookstore (I assume they would be better off working for a secular company?).

    No, I am not ‘asking several hundred people in one company to give up their livelihood’, in the article I give an example of a CC-licensed book that I bought a physical copy of. I tried to show that making money and CC-licensing are not mutually exclusive. This argument seems to be taking my discussion down a slippery slope. Furthermore, the snarky-seeming comment about Christian workers being better off working for a secular company is completely unnecessary.

    > There is a place for free stuff, and a place to generate money. It is what you do with any money (or stuff) you make that makes a difference. Is there no place for a Christian book with Christian values to sit on the same shelf as a secular book promoting secular values?

    Exactly. This is what I was promoting. I don’t want you to get the idea that I was “everything free and nothing paid for”. I simply think that for some books, ease of distribution can be aided by using a CC license.

    > There is a free medium in blogs, and many authors do put “free” stuff here for those who don’t want to pay. You live in a materialistic and privileged society, and that is the only reason you can make your arguments. The world is much bigger than selling books in North America.

    I’m not quite sure I understand how living in North America (and a materialistic and privileged society) is the only reason I can make these arguments. Again I sense a hostility in your discussion (I can’t say for sure since we’re using text rather than speech) that doesn’t add anything to this debate.

    Please feel free to reply to my comments, or clarify something I may have misunderstood.

    Link | July 8th, 2009 at 10:39 am

    17. Steve wrote:

    Lee, Let me start over.

    First, I am sorry – I don’t mean to be snarky or hostile. I do mean to get you to look closer at what and how you wrote what you did. Maybe if you were an author you would have been more careful in your choice of words. That is where the comment about blogging comes in. Most people go “blahhhh” all over the blog entry without much thought or time spent on how well they are saying what they want to say, or whether it even says anything. Novelists take much more time and effort, thinking about pretty much every word they use (100,000 of them in a standard novel).

    I am not sure why you picked on authors in your complaining in the midst of all your programming stuff. I was really surprised that I didn’t see anything pertaining to Jesus in your information (your photos on Flickr are amazing, by the way; and your code is way beyond me) or anywhere else. I assume you are not big into Church or the Gospel and that is why you see it as hypocritical for a Christian to make money off any element of the Gospel.

    I see that attitude in 2 passages. The first paragraph you wrote says:

    > So I’ve had this nagging feeling every time I read a Christian book (other than the Bible), something that the author intended to inspire, impart knowledge, hold accountability and so forth, of why would the author want me to pay to hear this? I don’t understand why a Christian author, intentionally writing a book meant for a Christian audience, licenses his/her work in such a way that the book will only reach people who spend an amount set by the publisher and/or author, instead of a broader audience.

    Every time? Really? Why do you continue to read Christian books if it makes you want to judge the authors for perceived selfish attitudes in pursuit of their ministry? Do you include people who write for the secular market (shouldn’t the Christian be paid by the Christian market so he could write for free to the secular market – the ones who need the Gospel?)? People write books not just to get a message across (though that will invariably be there) but because there is freedom in Christ to see beauty in life and art. Maybe the stuff you read is all dry and boring – try updating your book borrowing habits to some of the contemporary stuff that is pretty exciting.

    At the end you say:

    > Did we focus on the wrong goal of writing a book for Christian audiences (by a Christian), that is, making money? Shouldn’t we be focusing on the message and not the monetary gain?

    In spite of what you say about CC, etc you seem to be saying Christians shouldn’t be trying to make a living off of anything with a Christian message; that because it contains the Good News in whatever form we have to give it away. That is why I made the comments about Christian Bookstores (ever tried to run a business without making money? They are called charities!).

    You are simply wrong on this point. There are many places to hear and see the Gospel, for free and to pay. Look at the work of the Jesus Film project – phenomenal. But that is only one avenue and it doesn’t reach everyone. And what an individual author does is something worked out between them and God. What right do I have to say what you should or shouldn’t do with your open source stuff? Do you give the security stuff you develop at work away to Christians (which is what you are suggesting for authors) or does the fact you are under a contract prevent that? Do you really think it is the author that demands this? What you put forth here is an old issue that has already been discussed and debated and is, in essence, old news.

    Following Jesus does not just mean we walk around in life as beggars, giving everything away that pertains to the Gospel. It does mean that all our focus in life comes from the focus of the love of Jesus. If a person can work in a Christian industry like publishing, Great! For you to beak about that is also your freedom, but why would you complain and judge when you admittedly have no idea about the industry? Here’s another tip: Christians aren’t perfect. Sometimes we do make mistakes, and it sounds like you are one of the guys that like to point those things out.

    What you need to talk about is the industry, or “system” if you will (of which authors have little control) about licensing and contracts, etc. Do your research so you can do more than just say authors are bad. Then you can include the editors and marketing people and literary agents and sales teams in your opinions.

    If you feel guilty when you read a Christian book or a Christian CD or art that depicts pictures of Jesus or Christians that have price tags on them then leave those things alone. They are obviously not meant for you. Visit the 2nd hand stores where you can get much of that stuff for a buck or two. Find good blogs or forums that contain much of that content for free online.

    One last question: Why do you exclude the fact that you have to pay for most Bibles, when those words of all things should be free?

    Blessings in your pursuit of God.

    Link | July 16th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    18. Lee wrote:

    @Steve, see responses below:

    > First, I am sorry – I don’t mean to be snarky or hostile. I do mean to get you to look closer at what and how you wrote what you did. Maybe if you were an author you would have been more careful in your choice of words. That is where the comment about blogging comes in. Most people go “blahhhh” all over the blog entry without much thought or time spent on how well they are saying what they want to say, or whether it even says anything. Novelists take much more time and effort, thinking about pretty much every word they use (100,000 of them in a standard novel).

    First of all, you have no idea how long or how carefully I consider my choice in words, nor do you have any idea how much time of effort I put into thinking about this discussion. By presuming the amount of care I place in my words you are belittling my position in this discussion. Please give me the benefit of the doubt in this discourse.

    > I am not sure why you picked on authors in your complaining in the midst of all your programming stuff. I was really surprised that I didn’t see anything pertaining to Jesus in your information (your photos on Flickr are amazing, by the way; and your code is way beyond me) or anywhere else. I assume you are not big into Church or the Gospel and that is why you see it as hypocritical for a Christian to make money off any element of the Gospel.

    This is a bad assumption, I consider myself a strong Christian who is “big into Church and the Gospel”. I also never mentioned the word “hypocritical”, and I don’t see it as hypocritical for a Christian to make money working in a Christian industry. I had hoped that my Christian outlook was evident from the scriptural references earlier in the comment discussion.

    > Every time? Really? Why do you continue to read Christian books if it makes you want to judge the authors for perceived selfish attitudes in pursuit of their ministry? Do you include people who write for the secular market (shouldn’t the Christian be paid by the Christian market so he could write for free to the secular market – the ones who need the Gospel?)? People write books not just to get a message across (though that will invariably be there) but because there is freedom in Christ to see beauty in life and art. Maybe the stuff you read is all dry and boring – try updating your book borrowing habits to some of the contemporary stuff that is pretty exciting.

    I admit, I should not have used the word “every”, because it doesn’t apply to every Christian book I’ve read. I will also point out that I do not think any less of Christian authors for the pursuit of their ministry; I don’t believe they are selfish and I do not presume to judge them. I think that you may have misinterpreted my argument as more judgmental than an urge to consider alternative licensing.

    No, I do not include people who write for the secular market, the whole point of the argument was discussing monetary vs. spiritual gain of Christian writings and their licensing.

    I feel like you are interpreting my argument an as ultimatum to Christian authors, when instead I was urging authors to weigh the benefits and risks of Creative Commons licensing as it relates to their message.

    I also don’t find the books that I read dry and boring, even if they were CC licensed, I would still buy them because I enjoy them and wish to support the author.

    > In spite of what you say about CC, etc you seem to be saying Christians shouldn’t be trying to make a living off of anything with a Christian message; that because it contains the Good News in whatever form we have to give it away. That is why I made the comments about Christian Bookstores (ever tried to run a business without making money? They are called charities!).

    I don’t recall making the argument that Christians shouldn’t be living off of anything with a Christian message. I also don’t recall arguing that “because it contains the Good News in whatever form we have to give it away”.

    > You are simply wrong on this point. There are many places to hear and see the Gospel, for free and to pay. Look at the work of the Jesus Film project – phenomenal. But that is only one avenue and it doesn’t reach everyone. And what an individual author does is something work ed out between them and God. What right do I have to say what you should or shouldn’t do with your open source stuff? Do you give the security stuff you develop at work away to Christians (which is what you are suggesting for authors) or does the fact you are under a contract prevent that? Do you really think it is the author that demands this? What you put forth here is an old issue that has already been discussed and debated and is, in essence, old news.

    I agree that what an individual author does is worked out between them and God, again I will reiterate that I was simply urging authors to consider an alternative they may not have though of previously, what they decide is up to them.

    You have the same right I have to suggest an alternative course of action with my ‘open source stuff’, that is, to make your opinion known, and to bring it to those to which you wish to have it considered.

    I do give away my security stuff. If you look on this site, every single piece of code I have released in available for free, under either a BSD or LGPL license. In addition, I publish source code to my github.com account available freely for anyone to take and use (Christians and non-Christians alike).

    I don’t feel like this is an old issue. Search for ‘Christian writer creative commons’ and you will see there is not a large amount of discussion about this topic online. Even if it were an old issue, the fact that this post has spawned such a heated debate about the validity of my argument is proof enough that this issue still has plenty of discussion left.

    > Following Jesus does not just mean we walk around in life as beggars, giving everything away that pertains to the Gospel. It does mean that all our focus in life comes from the focus of the love of Jesus. If a person can work in a Christian industry like publishing, Great! For you to beak about that is also your freedom, but why would you complain and judge when you admittedly have no idea about the industry? Here’s another tip: Christians aren’t perfect. Sometimes we do make mistakes, and it sounds like you are one of the guys that like to point those things out.

    Again, I think you misinterpret my post as an anti-Christian-worker post. I am in no way anti-Christian-business/worker/establishment. I do not presume to judge anyone in a Christian position, and I don’t even consider my post a complaint, there were no negative feelings during the writing of this post and I apologize if it seemed as such.

    I know full well that Christians aren’t perfect, being one myself. I certainly don’t consider myself someone who likes to “point those things out”. You are making the assumption that I feel like writers are making a “mistake”. I am not . I am disappointed that you think that I do.

    > What you need to talk about is the industry, or “system” if you will (of which authors have little control) about licensing and contracts, etc. Do your research so you can do more than just say authors are bad. Then you can include the editors and marketing people and literary agents and sales teams in your opinions.

    I have NEVER said “authors are bad”, and I am saddened that my discussion has been interpreted as such.

    > If you feel guilty when you read a Christian book or a Christian CD or art that depicts pictures of Jesus or Christians that have price tags on them then leave those things alone. They are obviously not meant for you. Visit the 2nd hand stores where you can get much of that stuff for a buck or two. Find good blogs or forums that contain much of that content for free online.

    I do not feel guilty with reading a Christian book, or listening to a Christian CD. I enjoy these things very much and delight in the fact that I can help support a Christian author/artist by my purchase of their work.

    > One last question: Why do you exclude the fact that you have to pay for most Bibles, when those words of all things should be free?

    I excluded that as I felt it was best saved for a separate discussion. If you would like to comment on that issue, feel free to.

    Link | July 17th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    19. Crimperman wrote:

    Some good discussion here and the whole licencing of Christian resources issue is something I am very interested in.

    So much so that I am looking to continue and widen this discussion with rgeards the formation of an online resource centre for Christian works under free(dom) licences.

    You can find out more here: http://m108.crimperman.org

    thanks

    Ryan (aka Crimperman)

    Link | March 9th, 2010 at 6:29 am

    20. Inking Stamp : wrote:

    Christian Books is the stuff i like coz i alway read the bible and i am a very religious person “”

    Link | October 31st, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    21. baidu wrote:

    Wow, such great comments and feedback, thank you so much. I am glad you find my posts and articles of interest and I hope you will continue to do so!

    Link | September 7th,

    No comments:

    Post a Comment