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Royalties and Bible Versions

By Gary F. Zeolla


The following correspondence was prompted by the items listed at Bible Versions Controversy. The e-mailers’ comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

> I understand your time demands and certainly don't want to take them up. Believe me I know about time, even though I have an abundance of it right now.<

Yes, I have been very busy right now. That is why there has been a delay in my responding. My apologies. But interestingly, the reason I have been busy relates to the main point of your e-mail. I will explain at the appropriate place.

> I recently came upon a Bible Program via the Internet that really gathered my interest and I wanted to share it. I'm financially pressed so I was looking for something free and I certainly don't feel right disregarding the intentions of timed shareware programs. So I found one though. But not just a Bible search engine, but much more. The more I look into the program the more I'm interested in it. Very good it seems. Several strong things about this program speak out to me:

1. The basic version is freeware, but not limited really, just with less scholarly features.

2. It's very expandable, you can add just about anything, and even has an authoring program for multimedia and commentary additions.

3. Most importantly though the man is a believer of strength and dignity it seems. It means a lot to me that he offers 50% off to those in economically troubled countries. He also has some kind of program for churches getting a cheaper copy I think too. I certainly don't think America when compared to the rest of the world needs any hand outs. So all in all I'm very impressed.

4. Also, it's the best bible program I've ever seen, available in probably thirty or so different versions (mainly other languages). That is awesome to me. This program helps fulfill the great commission in a way that many others don't.

So anyway, here is the programs URL: http://www.theophilos.sk

Also the search engine is amazingly fast.<

It sounds interesting. I would also refer you to the Online Bible. Though not free, it is very inexpensive but an information packed program. It is available from the first companies listed on the following page on my site: Christian Books and Software Sites.

> Now here is my problem. I read KJV, and I like it. I have few problems reading it and it's favorable. I have gripes with other translations, but NKJV was probably instrumental in my life in bringing me to a love of the Word. So I shouldn't speak up against it I imagine... :) <

If you can understand the KJV then go ahead and read it. And I would agree you "shouldn't speak up against" the NKJV. It is a very worthwhile translation.

> The version thing is a mess though. KJV is also historical. That's a plus to me. And if you set the word in your heart with appropriate meanings and definitions you can easily reinterpret if needed. That's not the problem though.. Just background... :)

Now this program Theophilos is good to me. I like it and I like his cause. Here's the problem [quoting from the Theophilos web site]:

NIV and others... "When will you have the New International Version for your program?" Great percentage of mail we get contains similar question. Let me explain the circumstances.

NIV, NASB, NKJV and other popular translations are copyrighted by their copyright holders. These are usually publishing houses, Bible societies or other organizations. For developers this means that to use any of these texts in software for further distribution they need to acquire permission. Furthermore, these organizations require royalty fees or other licensing fees to be paid for each distributed copy of the text.

We have applied for permissions to use many of these texts twice, but to this day we haven't been successful. One of the reasons is the fact that our program is in the shareware/freeware category of software which is regarded as second class by some. Please keep in mind that commercial software is backed by large software companies which is not the case here.

I should receive some response to my latest request from the addressees soon. I think that no answer is also an answer. I will keep you informed on these pages so come back regularly.

Now my first reaction on that is just anger. Just a lot of anger... :) I don't know the facts behind such decisions and I cannot judge on this matter. But I feel very inclined to find out. It seems to me that the greatest priority of any true Christian would be the furthering of the Gospel, not profit, and freeware is profit for Him. That is priceless.

If this is the case then I am very upset with these organizations that hold these copyrights. They must maintain their business and it's certainly right to ask for return on fair service... However, when we're talking about putting a price on God's word for people who cannot afford it, and over the Internet, which is perhaps the greatest means to communicate now, it saddens me.

Perhaps like a fool, but my heart with prayer could so easily give away rights so freely to any valid participant in the Gospel message. At the cost of my own business I would laugh. It simply irrelevant to me. I doubt that these organizations would be greatly pressed by this matter though. The Gospel has always been represented by sacrifice, if you can't sacrifice then don't accept the sacrifice (perhaps harsh). The Great Commission is of the utmost importance though. Please I'd be encouraged to receive your feedback and I'm going to look into why this has happened if possible from the NKJV people... If I can track some down. God Bless.

In Christ,

Okay, let me see if I can relate my thoughts in this matter. Producing a Bible version is a lot of work. First, one must have the appropriate background to the Biblical languages. This generally requires much expense in terms of going to seminary. Then one must have the appropriate reference tools, hardcopy and/ or software, while doing the translation. Then the translation itself will probably go through several stage of review, revision, etc. All of this can take years and much expense.

Add to the above that most versions today are produced by committees (even the KJV was for that matter) and it could cost the company funding the project a lot of money for salaries. And the actual printing and distribution of hardcopy versions has added expenses. Of course, the latter is much less in software and on the Internet. But there is still the above mentioned expenses. Also, the developers of the software program itself also might need to be paid.

Now, legally and morally, I do believe someone has the right to make money from participating or underwriting such an endeavor. But, and this is where your concern comes in, just because someone has the right to do so, doesn't mean they have to do so. Paul gives us the example of one who gave up his right to live off of his preaching when it would help to further the spread of the Gospel. Or, at the very least, those involved could keep their salaries/ royalties to a bare minimum to enable the version to be produced and distributed as cheaply as possible.

Of course, all the above assumes the motive behind the production of the Bible version is the spread of God's Word. If the motive is in fact, profit, then, of course, the producers will try to make as much money as possible from all their work.

You are correct above when you say, "The version thing is a mess though." This is in part due to the proliferation of versions in recent decades. And in many cases, it is my opinion the main reason so many versions are being produced is the desire to make money.

Moreover, it bothers me too how "stingy" some Bible publishers seem to be in giving copyright permission for their versions. Thomas Nelson seems to be particularly stingy in this regard. As far as I know, there is only one Internet based Bible search engine with the NKJV. It's the Bible Search Engine.

The NKJV is not on others because Thomas Nelson will not grant the permission or their royalty requirements are too steep. So although I like the NKJV itself, I do have problems with the company who holds the copyright.

And, as you point out, the same situation occurs with software programs. Unless rather substantial royalties are paid to the publishers, the version is not allowed to be used. Or if they are on the CD ROM, they are "locked" and require a special purchase for the "unlocking" code. This is why freeware Bible programs or inexpensive ones like the Online Bible generally have "older" versions one them. Versions like the KJV for which the copyrights are long since expired and are now in the public domain.

Now, the above is not true of all new Bible versions. A case in point is Jay Green's Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV) and Modern King James version (MKJV). I know for a fact Mr. Green is not in it for the money. He just turned 80 years old and has never made much money off of his decades of work involved in Bible translation and the publishing of quality Christian books. Moreover, both his versions are available on the Online Bible and on the Internet.

Moreover, the question must be asked as to why would someone produce yet another English version with so many already available. As indicated, one reason could simply be money. If this is the case, then of course the company would charge substantial royalties for the sue of their version.

The legitimate reason to produce a Bible version would be if one thinks their version would be somehow "unique" or better serve the Christian community than ones currently available.

For instance, the LITV is the only modern-day English translation that can truly be said to be a "literal" translation. It is even more literal than the KJV. Only The Darby Bible (DBY) and Young's Literal Translation (YLT) compare to the LITV in terms of literalness. However, DBY and YLT were both produced in the late 1800's and are filled with archaic words.

Now, to my involvement here. The reason I have been so busy lately is I have been in the planning stages of producing my own Bible version. It will be called the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT). In the initial stage it will be an updating of the DBY in the OT and YLT in the NT. Then in subsequent stages a detailed comparison will be made between the updated DBY/ YLT and the original language texts.

Why am I embarking on this project? First and foremost, because I believe God has called me to do so. Various circumstances have occurred, which I won't go into details on, that lead me to believe this is the next logical step in my ministry.

Secondly, I do believe the ALT will be an "unique" version in many ways. It will be somewhat like the LITV in that it will be a very literal translation. But there will be many features to it not to be found in Green's excellent version. These will be describe on the "ALT: Unique Features" page when it goes public.

My plans are currently for the ALT to undergo six stages of production. When stage one is completed, I will go "public" with it by posting it on my site. God-willing, this will be in early 1999. An announcement will be made on DTL's What's New page when it is posted.

One point I struggled with was whether I should copyright the text or simply release it directly into the public domain. I decided to copyright for reasons I will explain on the "ALT: FAQ" page that I will post with the version.

As for how I will handle copyright permission/ royalties, I am not really sure right now. I simply have not thought that far ahead. I have already granted freely to one software program for it to be included in once the ALT goes public. It will be in the freeware Bible Search Utility (BSU) available for download from Compass Distributors.

I have already granted permission for the ALT to be used in the BSU as Reese Currie, the developer of the BSU, also developed the software program used to automatically update a list of archaic words in DBY and YLT. This proved to be a real time-saver for me. But I will hold off granting permission for use of the ALT elsewhere until it is in a more finished state. Reese will periodically update the ALT text in the BSU as it is updated on my site.

How I will handle permission requests beyond that I have not even thought of yet. It will be a long time before the ALT is actually finished. I will leave it in God's hands until then. One thing though is certain, I most definitely am not embarking on this project as a moneymaking scheme. If someday I make money from it, so be it. But that is not my initial motivation.

So, to get back to your main point: in my opinion, it is legitimate for someone to make money off of the work they do on a Bible version or for a company to collect royalties for the use of their version. But making money should not be the primary motivation for producing a Bible version. If it is, then there is a problem. Moreover, it is also legitimate for someone to give up their "right" to profit if they feel taking money is hindering the spread of the Gospel. But that is an individual decision between the person and God.

And finally, unless you object, I would like to post the above on my site. It would make a good preview for when the ALT goes public next year.

Note: I decided to compromise on the ALT. The full text of the ALT is posted on this Web site at ALT: Main Page. So anyone with an Internet connection can freely access it. But it is also for sale in hardcopy and eBook formats. See Analytical-Literal Translation Preview. See Supporting this Ministry for more in this regard.


>Sure that's fine, post it.<

Thank you for the permission.

> It's good to hear that your mind is grounded in sacrifice and labor not worldly gain. Unfortunately you confirmed my expectations. It's very upsetting to think that a "Christian" organization that holds so much authority and power in our daily lives, through their translations, is often persuaded by things of lesser value. I hope that they have true intentions.

Nevertheless it's interesting to me that you're going to update a version. I will pray for you regularly for your success and that God will grant you anointing in this version. You're lucky being able to spend that much time in the Word - it's a tremendous blessing. God Bless though.

In Christ,

I am looking forward to it. Thank you for the prayers. They are much appreciated. And God bless you too.

After receiving the first e-mail above, I wrote to Reese Currie, the developer of the above mentioned Bible Search Utility. Below is our short correspondence (edited somewhat for inclusion here). Again, my comments are in red and Reese's are in black.


Wait till you see an "E-mail Exchanges" I will be posting. It concerns a topic that really comes close to home for both of us. Someone was asking about the problems some Bible software and Internet based Bible apps were having with getting copyright permission for using version like the NIV and NKJV. He felt putting a "price" on the Word of God by making developers pay royalties was wrong.

>Hi Gary! …

Well, if the developer is going to develop Bible software for money, I guess he really should contribute back to the source of the Bibles he's using. Personally, as you know, I have a problem with charging for Bible software, even. Then again, my software will never be full featured, if only because I can't spend all my time working on it because I need to work to support myself.<

But if someone were to actually pay you to produce your BSU, or if you were to charge for it, then aybe you could work at your secular job less and spend more time on the BSU. But then, it would no longer be a freeware product. And there’s the struggle.

>Actually, the whole means and method of Bible production today is wrong because the churches will not take responsibility for translating, publishing and distribution of God's word, leaving it in the hands mainly of profiteers like Nelson and Zondervan. It is an abdication of an historic responsibility, and it lets the profiteers fleece the flock.

But you know, most of our churches now would not translate the Bible accurately in any case. Most churches are unbelieving today or have faulty doctrinal biases they need to twist verses to support. I think the NRSV [New Revised Standard Version] is the only translation really sponsored directly by churches today (the NCC), and I don't think it is acceptably accurate.

Your friend,

I agree with you completely, especially on the last point. I give my opinion on the NRSV, along with the original RSV, in my article Two NCC Bible Versions.


I was reading your "Royalties and Bible Versions" web page, and you said: "As far as I know, there is only one Internet based Bible search engine with the NKJV. It's the Bible Search Engine." The NKJV is also available at this site:


There's a wealth of various biblical reference sources at this site, including the NKJV, concordances, commentaries, dictionaries, etc.. <

Thank you for the info. I will check it out.

>Also, you mentioned, "Moreover, it bothers me too how 'stingy' some Bible publishers seem to be in giving copyright permission for their versions. Thomas Nelson seems to be particularly stingy in this regard."

In my newest copy of the NKJV, the "Nelson's Student Bible" published 1996, the permissions given by Thomas Nelson is relatively the same as those given by the International Bible Society (publishers of the NIV), and I quote from Thomas Nelson:

The text of the New King James Version (NKJV) may be quoted or reprinted without prior written permission with the following qualifications:

(1) up to and including 1,000 verses may be quoted in printed form as long as the verses quoted amount to less than 50% of a complete book of the Bible and make up less than 50% of the total work in which they are quoted;(2) all NKJV quotations must conform accurately to the NKJV text.

Any use of the NKJV text must include a proper acknowledgment as follows:

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

However, when quotations from the NKJV text are used in church bulletins, orders of service, Sunday School lessons, church newsletters and similar works in the course or religious instruction or services at a place of worship or other religious assembly, the following notice may be used at the end of each quotation: 'NKJV.'

For quotation requests not covered by the above guidelines, write to Thomas Nelson Publishers, Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee 37214-1000.

Jonathan L.

I am aware of TN's policy in terms of quoting from the NKJV. But that is not what I referring to. My point was the difficulties software developers seem to be having in getting permission from TN to use the NKJV in their programs.

For instance, a few months back I purchased a handheld PC (H/PC) running Windows CE (WinCE). I have been trying to get a Bible program for use on it. Right now, only two such programs are available: the CEBible and the PalmBible. Both of these are available with the KJV, NIV, or NASB. However, neither has the NKJV as an option.

I have e-mailed both companies asking them to come out with the NKJV. Both have told me they would like to and have been trying for some time to get permission from TN to use the NKJV. However, both have said they have had difficulties getting TN to reply to their requests. And when TN does finally get back to them, the royalties they are requesting have been too high to fit within the budget demands of their programs.

Now, the PalmBible did a few weeks ago say they thought they had things worked out with TN and would have the NKJV available by the end of the year. But here it is, almost Christmas and it's still not available. Meanwhile, they have already been able to add the NRSV to their program.

So for me it's been a little frustrating. I could just go ahead and get the one of the other versions. But, for reason I detail on my site, none of these I particularly care for. So the best I could do was to copy the entire contents of the LITV off of the Web after it was posted on Ministry of the Word's site. Jay Green said it was alright to do so as long as I included the copyright notice he requests when I quote from it.

So I now have the LITV on my little H/PC. But it's not in a regular Bible program format. I just saved each Bible book one-by-one as separate files in "Pocket Word." So I would still like to get a regular WinCE Bible program for it; but I'm still waiting. And the reason I'm getting from the two companies is the high royalties TN is asking. So that is the basis of my "stingy" comment.

I hope that clarifies matters.

> I was just doing some web browsing and ran into your page where you discuss royalties and Bible translations. Since that was written we've received and released our NKJV.<

I know. And I have already purchased and installed PalmBible with the NKJV: and it works great! Thank you very much.

> We really didn't have any trouble getting it. Royalties are better than the NIV and NASB and are right in line with other popular Bibles and reference works. The text took some time to get and also to process. But all-in-all it wasn't a bad experience.

Just thought you'd like the update.

Craig Rairdin
Laridian [publishers of PalmBible]


Thank you very much for the update. I must have gotten the wrong impression from one of your monthly e-mail newsletters. In any case, to set the record straight, unless you object, I would like to post the above as a follow-up to that discussion. It would probably be best if I include your full name and "president" indication. I will also include a link to the PalmBible site.

Speaking of which, I added links to your site from mine on the following pages: Bibles Online (under "Bible Software") and Computer Products (under "Handheld PC").

As you can see, I am really pleased you finally came out with PalmBible with my favorite Bible version on it. Thanks again.

>Sounds good. What we had some difficulty with was getting the files. Also they demanded a higher advance than some but still very reasonable for anyone who's serious about making money (that is, you don't have to sell an unreasonable number of units to break even so even though it might seem like a large out-of-pocket expense, you make it up once you start selling it).

Zondervan (NIV) is "worse" in that respect, though still not unreasonable if you're serious. The ask for a five-figure advance in order to make sure that the person making the request is serious. Again, it doesn't slow down the companies that have a plan and know what they're doing. It does affect the person who thinks it would be cool to publish the Bible electronically and fires up Visual Basic to write a program for him and his buddies.

I knew you knew the status of everything; just figured you hadn't visited that particular page for a while. I have the same problem on my personal site... still lots of mentions of Parsons Technology after two months of being out of there.


Thanks for the added info.

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