Copy It Right

How would you feel if you wrote a book, recorded a song, or produced a movie and someone duplicated and distributed copies of your work without permission? I’ve seen Christian artists and ministers respond differently to this. Some don’t mind because they see it as a way to get the gospel out to more people. I like what Mike Bickle says regarding his sermon notes he makes available publicly, “If you’re going to copy it, copy it right.”

On the other hand, a friend of mine was recently threatened with legal action by a ministry in response to him posting on YouTube a 18-second clip of theirs included in a video produced by another minister. I can relate to this ministry being protective of their videos made public. Certainly I wouldn’t like it if someone posted one of me preaching if it was edited in such a way that my intended message was distorted (so-called “watchdog ministries” are notorious for doing this). However, legal action should only be considered as a last resort. 1 Corinthians 6 discourages us from suing the brethren.

Occasionally people have posted my work on YouTube without permission. Usually I won’t make an issue about it if they use short snippets. There is a legal term called “Fair Use” which allows journalists to use portions of copyrighted work for news broadcasts, critiques, and reviews. However, I’m not in favor of people reposting my work in its entirety especially if it’s meant to make a mockery of it.

At the beginning of 2007, I uploaded a video of a minister I know giving a prophetic word for the year at a conference. Twelve months later, I deleted the video simply because it was no longer 2007. Later I discovered someone had copied my video and reposted it on YouTube with inserted comments questioning why it was no longer online. I contacted this person explaining why and asked him to remove the video. This person got defensive claiming this minister was a false prophet and threatened to write negative things against me. Since I couldn’t reason with this person, I contacted YouTube and got them to remove the unauthorized video. 

Also in 2007 I released the controversial video “Tokin’ the Ghost” featuring John Crowder (later removed at my own volition). Since then, “Tokin’ the Ghost” had been reposted in its entirety by a few individuals. I contacted each one asking them to remove it from their YouTube accounts. Most of them refused to cooperate. Once again, I contacted YouTube to get those recopied videos taken off the Internet.

Another time I posted a portion of Andrew Wommack’s TV program “The Gospel Truth” in which he interviewed historian David Barton about homosexuals in the military. David shared eye opening information that I felt needed to be heard by more Christians. Although I didn’t receive complaints from either Andrew or David, I eventually chose to remove that video from my YouTube account plus a few featuring other ministers. Romans 15:20 tells us not to “build on another man’s foundation.” I believe men of God should share more on what the Lord has revealed to them personally instead of always echoing what other ministers say.

Romans 13 talks about obeying the laws of the land and giving honor to whom honor is due. That would include copyright laws. One ridiculous defense made by King James Only advocates is their favorite translation isn’t copyrighted. Of course, it wouldn’t be copyrighted. Copyright laws didn’t come into existence until 1710 with the Statute of Anne in the UK, 99 years after the release of the King James Version. 

Nowadays, all modern translations of the Bible have a copyright notice. Permission to use those translations in church bulletins, articles, and salable media has been granted by the publishers with certain stipulations. For those of you thinking “God’s word should never be copyrighted”, it should be pointed out the books in the Bible gives credit to the individuals God used to write down and proclaim His word.

Whether it’s a song, book, or movie; Christian musicians, writers, and producers should be properly represented and compensated. 

“For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’” - 1 Timothy 5:18

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