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creative commons or copyright?


Last weekend (16-18 September 2011) was the 2011 creative commons global summit. I am far away from anything like having expertise in creative commons, but I am really taken by Mary St George’s comments suggesting that liturgical texts be made available using creative commons rather than copyright (see here and here).

I support and advocate that liturgical texts, the Lord’s Prayer, the scriptures, the Psalms are or ought to be owned in common, shared between us. I have real issues with, for example, the Roman Catholic Church requiring the use of a specific translation and then copyrighting that translation so that it cannot be made available in the variety of ways of our contemporary world. I have previously written here about the fiasco of our NZ Anglican copyright history where we lost control of our own texts and where the current situation is still not formally presented anywhere I know of.

Get with some good capitalist theory here, people. No one has produced a better quality New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa than Genesis. In comparison, the 1997 Harper San Francisco edition of the same book is, to put it very politely, just plain rubbish. You want to print the book – go ahead and print it. Not because we are fighting about who has the copyright. Not because “the Common Life Liturgical Commission has given Genesis permission to print this” – I’ll certainly still be purchasing from Genesis until I see something better (which I highly doubt!). Welcome to capitalism. Why wasn’t it online years ago?! I’ve got the TEC BCP on my iPod and iPad. Where is the NZ Prayer Book ap?!

You cannot pray the RC Office online – because of copyright! The RC office is online in an “unofficial” translation – but because it is not the accepted translation, those obligated to pray the office (ie. most of those who actually do pray it) cannot use the online version, as using it does not fulfil their obligation!

As I said, I’m certainly no expert on either copyright or creative commons, but I know that copyright has worked against us, not for us, and is contrary to the principles of liturgy. Texts, books, and articles about liturgy – sure, there may be a place for copyright in those cases. But that the NIV Bible is owned by Rupert Murdoch – should give anyone purchasing the NIV a moment to pause!

From Mary St George:

Creative Commons Licensing has several categories, and I think attribution and share alike would probably be the most appropriate. Users would be obliged to attribute the Prayer Book to our church (or at least those aspects of it that are not so derivative and traditional as to correctly belong in the public domain). Share alike means that anything re-used must also have a Creative Commons License. It cannot be reused in a document with a copyright. See more at http://www.creativecommons.org.nz and http://creativecommons.org which offer comprehensive information. There is a quick summary at http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons, and information in cartoon form here that offers a really good initial explanation.

Oh and yes, you guessed it: that ugly-as 1997 Harper San Francisco edition of the NZ Prayer Book – that’s owned by Rupert Murdoch too.

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16 thoughts on “creative commons or copyright?”

  1. “You cannot pray the RC Office online – because of copyright! The RC office is online in an “unofficial” translation – but because it is not the accepted translation, those obligated to pray the office (ie. most of those who actually do pray it) cannot use the online version, as using it does not fulfil their obligation!”

    Doesn’t fulfil their obligation? How come, Bosco? What does that actually mean? Does a book version make the office more holy somehow?

    1. Mike, the translation of the psalms approved by the Vatican is not the one used on the Universalis website. There’s discussion about this on other sites. Here is an example. You can also follow to my post about Grail in the “similar posts” at the end of this post. Blessings.

  2. I was annoyed to find this out a month or two ago. To be fair, though, it seems from your link that (a) there are other things not included in Universalis besides an approved translation (at least if I’m understanding things correctly) and (b) there is, according to one response, an online version of the American approved translation. I haven’t checked that link. But I would love to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the “official” format if I could find it online. The USCCB has the Bible (New American Bible) and the Catechism online ;on maybe I should start agitating for the Hours.

    1. Matt, to clarify for others – your comment is not about creative commons or the summit, your annoyance is about your recent discovery that the RC Daily Office is not formally online at Universalis. If you find out any more about the links, etc. as you suggest, it would be good to hear about it back here on this site. As you know, the Daily Office is a significant dimension to this site. Blessings.

  3. iBreviary pro terra sancta iPhone app appears to be the same translation as my 4 vol printed set. It also is very well laid out.

    I understood the TEC BCP to be in the public domain. Yes, these examples should be the norm.

    1. Joel, I cannot comment on the iBreviary ap, as it is currently not working. I would be very interested if it makes available free the new authorised Grail translation of the psalter (that’s not advocating for it as a translation). TEC’s BCP is a good standard in allowing liturgical texts to be available. Blessings.

  4. Sorry, I realized shortly after posting that I had been completely off-topic :-/ I would have liked to add that if the Hours liturgical text were Creative Commons or some similar status (there are a lot of alternatives) I wouldn’t have such a complaint.

    There, that’s better 🙂

  5. I’m looking at a link provided in the conversation you link to: http://www.liturgyhours.org (which I just found out you link to on your site). This website appears to belong to an organization calling itself “Liturgy of the Hours Apostolate”. Apparently the site used to have links to the Liturgy of the Hours in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French as well as English, but now only has English. The English link redirects to a site called eBreviary.com (which is registered to the same individual, with an address in New York City). All documents on this site are PDFs; there is no actual web page containing the prayers. The documents are available no more than about six weeks ahead of time. The texts are very clearly copyrighted to ICEL, and the arrangement to eBreviary.com. Furthermore, some of the texts appear to be available only by subscription ($49.95 US per year to print PDFs for a prayer group, $29.95 for personal use only, with subsidized and free trial options – all by printing and mailing a form with a check). The site’s Terms Of Use very clearly state: “eBreviary and the licensors of its copyrighted texts own all intellectual property in the PDF Documents. The PDF Documents are licensed, not sold [!!!].” (I couldn’t even copy and paste that text from the Terms of Service, itself a PDF – they disabled text copying in the PDF.)

    All in all, an extraordinarily dissatisfying approach to a liturgy in which as a Catholic I ought to be able to freely (in all senses of the word) participate – on my own, no less. :-/

  6. How Padre, is one edition better than another, is the actual quality of the printing and/or the materials used to make the bound volume better?

    I guess my Collins edition is then out-of-date if you lot made authorized changes in 1997? I cannot even find a printing date in it, but I must have had it close to 20 years.

    1. Brother David, I think possibly by your “Collins” edition you are referring to the original print run. That would be the one most familiar here I suspect. I do not know what process was used to produce the Harper San Francisco one, but it looks more like a photocopy. The cover art is not that of the Archbishop, it is 2 inches thick, and there are no red rubrics or red colouring to the artwork. There are no ribbons. The Genesis edition is 1 &1/16th inch thick and has the artwork, colour, ribbons, quality paper.

      Yes there have been some changes authorised to feast days and rubrics. You can now, eg. use a Form for Ordering the Eucharist (p511) on Sundays. In your edition the baptism rite is pour water over them & then see if they believe anything – when I was a member of General Synod I set in motion an alteration to rubrics that allows a different order – we can now see whether anyone believes anything prior to baptising. Blessings.

  7. Thanks, Bosco, for raising the issue of Creative Commons Licensing. Even among the comments here, we have a lot of people expressing the idea that prayers should not be copyrighted, particularly where they are seen as the collective heritage of large numbers of faithful people. However, it is important to have an alternative, rather than to simply talk about what we don’t like.

    Creative Commons Licensing with an attribution license means that the creator of the work must be named in any copies. This is extremely useful for people who need to correctly attribute work for academic purposes, or to reproduce it. That basic information about who created the document should always be kept with it.

    The “share alike” option for CC Licensing means that nobody can re-use the work under a different license – it cannot be re-used in a copyrighted document, but it can be reused in another CC Licensed document with the same terms.

    I also think that those aspects of the Liturgy which are straight from scripture, or from the common traditions of liturgical Christianity and Judaism, should have their roots acknowledged – partly because they are derivative works, and partly because this would reinforce our awareness of the vast community of believers we are a part of which reaches across time and space.

  8. Australia’s AAPB is also subject to the normal copyright laws, which means reproduction by parishes (in any form) requires a licence. This is paid for annually.

    I think it stinks.

    Charging the community of faith to use the community of faith’s own creation? Madness.

    Like NZ, attempts to post Australia’s daily office have been met with stern rebuke and take-down orders.

    I think that creative commons licensing is a terrific solution to liturgical copyright issues.

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