Thursday, March 4, 2010

Malcolm Redfellow learns something new every day ...

Thursday, 4th March, 2010: The Word of God is Copyright

It was published in 1611, and four centuries on is still copyrighted.

A letter in the current issue of The Times Literary Supplement:
Bible copyright

Sir, -There has been some discussion recently in the TLS about copyright and the internet. On March 3, Cinnamon Press published my novel Livingstone's Funeral. In an early section, set c1880, an Anglican missionary to southern Africa is challenged by chiefs to prove the power of the new religion by making rain. He responds with a service which features a reading from 1 Kings 18, describing the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The passage is quoted from the Authorized Version.

It turns out to be very expensive to quote from the AV, in which the royal family holds a perpetual copyright. The Authorized Version was (in Joan Bridgman's words) "mostly cribbed" from William Tyndale's Bible of 1537. Tyndale was burnt at the stake for putting the Bible into the hands of any Englishmen who could read. An act of royal plagiarism, followed by an act of perpetual copyright. Is this what is meant by the title "Defender of the Faith"?

A minor consequence is that my novel is forced into anachronism, as my publishers use an alternative translation. Meanwhile, there are currently 300,000 internet sites from which the Authorized Version may be downloaded.

Quinta Terra da Vela, rua do Rigueirinho 19, Carapinheira, 2640-308 Mafra, Portugal.
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