Place Small Catechism in the Public Domain

I’m setting up a method of posting some overtures on our website; I hope to have a method of accessing them shortly. For now I’ve posted two overtures for your comment.

These can be submitted to your district conventions, or with minor modifications can be submitted by your church or circuit forums to the synodical convention in 2013.

Please submit other overtures that you would like to see publicized to others to me by clicking here.


This overture was prepared to be submitted to one District. If you want to submit it to your district, change the text in the resolved to indicate your district.

 

TO DIRECT CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE TO PUT THE 1986 TRANSLATION OF LUTHER’S SMALL CATECHISM INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN

WHEREAS, the text of Luther’s Small Catechism is the primary teaching tool of the Lutheran Church; and

WHEREAS, the text is intended to be used in the home and church, and spread abroad as freely as possible; and

WHEREAS, the Scriptures themselves encourage us to write the text of the catechism on our doors and walls (Deuteronomy 6:6ff, see Luther’s Preface to the Large Catechism, 141); and

WHEREAS, wherever the catechism is read, studied, printed, sung, written, posted, repeated and learned, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of faith and love; and

WHEREAS, the congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in love for one another and the unity of the Spirit have a common translation of the Small Catechism (1986); and

WHEREAS, the copyright limitations placed on the 1986 translation of Luther’s Small Catechism limit its distribution (for example, on the Internet, church websites, catechism study books and worksheets, audio recordings, posters and artwork, etc.); therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the congregations of the (your District) memorialize the Synod in convention to direct the Board of Directors of Concordia Publishing House to place the 1986 translation of Luther’s Small Catechism into the public domain.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Place Small Catechism in the Public Domain — 36 Comments

  1. Great idea. The older one (which is PD) is getting harder to read! Maybe they should look up the licence ESV uses for public use – they maintain their right to print it and sell, but they make the text freely available, which allows the Word of God to be open to as many people as possible.

  2. Just thinking out loud here. I don’t know that moving it into the public domain is wise. What might be better (and again, this needs to be looked into), but moving it to Creative Commons and withholding some (but not all) rights might achieve what the resolution wants without opening CPH (and the Synod) up to rampant abuse.

    Also, we’ll have to brush up on the differences between 1986 and 1991 and whether or not that’s something that needs to be addressed for the purposes of this resolution.

    I do agree that we’re kinda shooting ourselves in the foot the way that things stand currently, so I agree with a move toward greater ability to share and use (that’s why we have an “official” version, right? so we can use and share it?) but that the copyright might be doing us more harm than good. So let’s look into the Creative Commons option as a way to have the best of both worlds: reserving some rights to protect outside abuse and making it easier for us to use and share.

    I look forward to the discussion on this (not just my suggestion, but the discussion as a whole).

  3. Further to above –

    http://www.crossway.org/rights-permissions/esv/

    (I’m just choosing that as I know they commercially sell, are a non profit org, and yet allow the full text to be available for free in open source bible packages, internet websites, etc)

    So you can use it if you want, you just have to attribute, and not sell.

    From a Creative Commons perspective, this would be like attribution-share alike-no derivatives – or something of the kind. Possibly also non-commercial – that way you protect your right to still commercially own and sell the product, but allow the text online and others to share alike.

  4. Creative Commons is the best answer. Besides getting it out there, it will also establish some (small) good will with the Creative Commons community. In the marketplace of ideas/churches/what-have-you, we’ll look more like a church body who “gets it”. I don’t mean “gets it” to imply that we care for the world’s acceptance or care about looking modern but in the world of marketing and press announcements (sigh…), I think a mainline-ish (as they would view the generic term “Lutheran”) church making the church’s documents Creative Commons would get some attention where as a public domain release would get none.

    If I recall correctly, the Issues, etc. cancellation was covered on slashdot.org and received a decent reaction (an audience of largely unbelievers). There are people in the communities interested in Creative Commons that would have some interest in this.

  5. This is something that I have argued for some time with certain persons at CPH, in private and in public, and with no success. When a fellow-Lutheran from these shores (UK), a specialist in copyright law, suggested the Creative Commons approach, the discussion got pretty ugly pretty quickly. There’s also been this explanation on Cyberbrethren.

    I have a fundamental problem with the suggestion that the Catechism, or even a translation thereof, is someone’s intellectual property.

    Perhaps they would listen to a district resolution? I hope so, but I won’t be holding my breath.

  6. The Missouri Synod must retain ownership, but can allow free use subject to strict terms; otherwise it will undergo spurious editions and corruptions.

  7. Sorry, but I simply don’t understand the purpose of the overture. From Paul McCain:

    “Did you know that Concordia Publishing House grants permission for a wide range of use of the SC text in the parish and classroom and for personal use? Please see this copyright notice contained on our web site. Note that “reproduction in whole or in part for noncommercial personal, congregational, or classroom use” is permitted! What’s not permitted is copying and pasting the text all over the Internet, or producing resources for distribution beyond the parish one is called to serve. But that’s no biggie, since we provide the entire Small Catechism text online, which is easily linked to from any blog site, forum or web site…And here’s that copyright notice:

    Copyright notice:
    From Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. Other than reproduction in whole or in part for noncommercial personal, congregational, or classroom use, no part of this material may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Concordia invites you to place links to this site on your Web site and other social networks. To obtain permission for other uses, please contact Concordia Publishing House at 800-325-0191 or e-mail us at [email protected].”

    Does that not meet the needs articulated in the oveture?

  8. I have to agree with Rev. Paul T. McCain:

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2010/04/30/free-the-catechism-or-free-the-catechism-thoughts-on-accessibility-to-the-small-catechism/

    The Concordia Publishing House grants permission for a wide range of use of the SC text in the parish and classroom and for personal use? Please see this copyright notice contained on our web site:

    http://www.cph.org/t-topic-catechism.aspx

    Copyright notice:

    From Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. Other than reproduction in whole or in part for noncommercial personal, congregational, or classroom use, no part of this material may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Concordia invites you to place links to this site on your Web site and other social networks. To obtain permission for other uses, please contact Concordia Publishing House at 800-325-0191 or e-mail us at [email protected].

    From Luther’s Small Catechism © 1986 Concordia Publishing House, http://www.cph.org

    Please take the time to read all the links.

    This is a very unwise idea.

    IXOYC

  9. We need to resubmit a number of overtures that were not allowed to come to the floor by the Kieschnick administration, repealing a number of items that were passed in 2004. Please go back in your files and revist those issues.

  10. Leave it under copywright. The generous terms in the copywright notice are more than sufficient to allow for any resaonable use by congregations or honest persons desiring to use the material for study or legitimate use. The copywright exists (1) to prevent misuse by outside persons as needed, and (2) to create an atmosphere to allow for CPH to fund other projects of interest to our church.

    My feeling is that CPH appears to make gereous donations of its’ copywrighted material if a legitimate church use is shown (for example, I hear CPH made generous donations of material such as cover design and the like for the French hymnal that draws heavily from LSB). We have to trust the leaders at CPH to make these decisions of what to charge and what to donate for it’s material in order it to continue to survive as an ongoing self sustaining entity.

  11. If we spoke German, the copyright would have expired long ago.

    The Small Catechism isn’t long. How hard would it be for someone to make their own translation and release that to the public domain? Anyone here speak German? Problem solved.

  12. Check the Project Wittenberg page, where Bob Smith and volunteers frequently make new translations from public domain sources, to get the Lutheran documents out there.

  13. I say we cut CPH some slack on this one. In the past few years, they have turned out some wonderful resources that many of us use daily. In order to continue, they need to be self-sufficient and profitable, and protection of intellectual property rights is critical for any organization that wants to survive in the publishing business.

    Has CPH ever sued anyone for copyright infringement on the 1986 Small Catechism? It is kind of hard to imagine a scenario where they would, so long as the Catechism is being used for the religious purpose it was intended. If anyone ever feels the wrath of CPH on this issue, it almost certainly won’t be a faithful pastor or layperson working to educate the members of our churches.

    And if CPH ever does bring an unjust lawsuit against a faithful congregation or individual for copyright abuse, then we in the Lutheran blogosphere will have plenty to be upset about, and as CPH’s loyal customers, the threat of a boycott would be a serious one.

    But it is self-defeating for Lutherans to pick a fight with an organization that is doing so much good work for the church over a matter of principle that seems to have harmed no one.

  14. I think the concern, Mr. Jamison, and one with which we would all agree, is that a pastor or congregation that was violating copyright law, what you call copyright abuse, would not be a faithful pastor or congregation, whether sued by CPH or not.

    Anyway, as stated several times above, CPH allows such liberal permissive use that no one need violate the copyright.

  15. Also, if it becomes a part of the public domain, anyone could modify the translation however they want and use their modified version for whatever purpose they want. I don’t think THAT is such a good idea, either.

  16. Good point, Pr. Kirchner: the church should strive to operate within the letter of the law regardless of the risk of punishment. Perhaps CPH could provide a more extensive set of guidelines (including examples) outlining their ideas of fair use of the catechism text.

  17. “…the church should strive to operate within the letter of the law regardless of the risk of punishment.”

    Well yes, since to violate copyright is to steal.

    How much more of an extensive list of guidelines is needed? See posts #6, #11, #12.

  18. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/1670/pg1670.html

    Luther’s Little Instruction Book:
    The Small Catechism of Martin Luther

    Translation by Robert E. Smith From the German text, printed in:
    Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church.
    St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, pp. 538-559.

    Note: This version of the Small Catechism is under continuous revision. Please check your source for this file from time to time to obtain updated versions of this text.

    Fort Wayne, Indiana: Project Wittenberg, 2004

  19. CPH will not give permission to use the Catechism with Explanations publicly. I used to access it on the LCMS website and when I discussed with individuals on-line I would send them there to read for themselves. This was often very helpful and saved a lot of time.

    Now it is no longer available there and in other places because of copy-right. It seems unfathomable to me that such a thing can be copy-righted.

    I also sent a lot of Catechisms with Explanations to Africa and they were supposed to be there in August, but I have not yet heard that they actually arrived.

  20. I’ve been very clear that I am looking for the Explanations, have I not Pr. Kirchner?

    In terms of “intellectual property”, these things were written eons ago and have been passed down in German for centuries. Just because it is now in English it is someone’s “intellectual property”. There may be in the US “copy-right” which is not the same thing as “intellectual property.”

    There is not enough “creative” input in the English version for having morally any “intellectual” rights in my books. In Europe there are different definitions for such things and when there is not sufficient creativity involved, there is no “intellectual” property.

  21. You err, Brigitte.

    The “explanations” to Luther’s Small Catechism were not written eons ago and have not been passed down in German for centuries. What has been passed down, The Small Catechism, is readily available in its 1986 translation, as I’ve stated, for your non-commercial use, etc.

    Yes, the explanation is intellectual property, it belongs to someone else, it is copyrighted, and CPH holds the copyright- CPH owns the rights to it.

  22. I’ve looked at Stump, previously. He is too ancient. He has things like prohibitions of duels. And it’s all “thee’s” and “thou’s”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.