From CrossWire Bible Society
Revision as of 16:44, 4 April 2017 by David Haslam (talk | contribs) (Crown copyright, Letters Patent and the KJV: See also CrossWire KJV copyright.)

Jump to: navigation, search


The CrossWire Bible Society has developed a variety of tools that make it easy for people to develop Bible programs. Currently people are developing Bible software that is used on Windows, Linux, Mac, PDA's, phones and even the ability to look up Bible verses right from your Internet browser.

No matter how useful the tools are, or become, their true value lies in the texts on which they operate – the SWORD modules. These are simple files that contain the text of a variety of well known Bible translations and references. They can either be downloaded with a program's module Install Manager, or from They are also available on the SWORD CD.

The problem, however, is that most of the modern Bible translation modules can not be used because they are copyrighted and we cannot distribute them without permission.

We need your help as volunteers! To secure the permission of these copyright holders we need the help of every person using CrossWire's Bible programs and tools. You will find everything you need to be able to help right here!

Our Policy and Strategy

The CrossWire Bible Society would like to work with publishers and Bible societies to secure the right to distribute Bible translations for those that use SWORD software. For most Bible societies and publishers, their purpose is to distribute God's word for the benefit of others. That purpose is the same purpose we have. In light of this, the CrossWire Bible Society would like to offer our modules and tools for publishers and Bible societies to use. We will send an official letter to each Bible society and publisher offering to serve them with the tools we have. We hope that this will open up a dialog to be able to distribute their works for users of SWORD and others to use.

You may be asking where you fit into all of this? Well, you are the reason The SWORD Project, Bible societies and publishers were started. So if you sent a letter to a Bible society or publisher asking to be able to use their work with The SWORD Project's software, you would provide the basis for when we open a dialog with them. They will understand that many people support The SWORD Project's efforts, as well as their own (remember most publishers and Bible societies want to get God's word to people, that's you.) Thanks for your help!

How You Can Help!

  • Contact the Copyright Holder
    You can help by sending a letter to one or more of the copyright holders of a text we do not have, asking that they would grant CrossWire the right to distribute their work. Explaining how useful the SWORD Project is, etc. For more on writing a letter and example letters see below: Contacting Copyright Holders.
  • Research Copyright Information
    You can also help by doing research into what companies or organizations hold the copyrights on some of the texts we don't have and gathering/verifying other copyright information for modules that we do have. (You can browse a list of modules.) Note: Where CrossWire has been given permission to distribute, Troy Griffitts maintains the original correspondence granting permission. Find out what needs to be done to contact those copyright holders, their address, contact information and any other special instructions. E-mail those to, so we can put them up on this web site. We especially need help in respect to many of the foreign language modules. So we would appreciate the help of those that can speak many different languages.
  • Pray For Our Efforts
    One of the biggest ways you can help is by praying for CrossWire and our efforts in trying to get these companies, etc. to license their works for distribution. We want to be able to come to appropriate agreements with Bible societies and publishers to distribute their works.

Contacting Copyright Holders

Below are some guidelines to follow in corresponding and some example form letters you can use.

Guidelines to Follow in Corresponding with the Copyright Holders

  • Be friendly (remember you are a Christian, act like one)
  • Explain you use BibleTime, Xiphos, or The SWORD Program for Windows. These programs use SWORD modules. Tell them you wish to be able to use their work with that program. Emphasize that each of these projects are free software (Open Source), non-commercial and receive NO payment whatsoever.
  • Explain you would like to see them support The SWORD Project by either granting The CrossWire Bible Society the right to freely distribute their work or setup up a way to pay a small fee to be able to use their work. Make sure you indicate you would be willing to pay the small fee to be able to use their work.
  • Indicate you would be willing to answer any questions they have. If they contact you and you are unable to answer one of their questions, forward it to and someone will find an answer for you.
  • If you have sent a letter to a company or organization, e-mail Troy and let him know what you are doing, especially if you receive a reply from a company that he needs to be aware of! He wants to hear what people are doing to help and know that people are sending out letters.

Form Letters

Here are some form letters you can print and use.

If you come up with a really good letter that you sent to a company, would you mind sharing with everyone else? We can turn your letter into a form letter that others can use.

Locked Modules

While our desire is that all texts be free and freely available, we respect that some copyright holders wish to charge for their work. To that end, we support 128-bit encryption to lock modules. Since CrossWire is a non-income organization, we do not provide a mechanism to collect monies for locked modules. However, CrossWire will host locked modules with instructions on how to provide payment for an unlock key.

FAQ about Locked Modules

Q: Why are some modules locked?
A: Some copyright owners have chosen to make their modules available for a fee.

Q: Is there anyway to unlock the modules by paying a fee?
A: Each locked module that we host has instructions on how to purchase an unlock code.

Q: I have a print version of a translation, can I have the unlock code for the electronic version of this translation?
A: There is no current law, at least in the United States, that allows an owner of a print version to also have the right to an electronic version of the same work. For example if you bought a copy of a novel in print, you could not go to one of the many e-book store sites and ask for the elctronic version of that same novel.

Q: I have purchased and lost a key to a locked module. Can you tell me what it is?
A: The SWORD Project does not sell or handle locked module keys. You should contact the module vendor for help in this matter.

Q: I have used another Bible Study program and have purchased the unlock code for a translation for that program, can I have the unlock code for The SWORD Project program?
A: The SWORD Project's agreement with the module vendor precludes this.


Please keep us informed, by sending us e-mail at

Next steps

For CrossWire to host a module, the text either must be in the Public Domain or the Copyright Holder must give written permission to CrossWire. For us to make the module, we require an e-text. It can be in whatever format that the Copyright Holder wishes to provide. We can provide assistance to copyright holders if they choose to make and/or host the module themselves.

Information on Copyrights

CrossWire respects Copyright and other Intellectual Property Rights.

As such, it discourages the creation, or conversion of resources into a format that is used by The Sword Project unless permission to do so has been obtained.

US Copyright Law

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 stands as current US Copyright Law.

Under US Copyright law, there is no differentiation between commercial, and non-commercial purposes. Unauthorized creation is a violation of the copyright act. Unauthorized distribution is a violation of the copyright act.

  • There is no "safe harbor" defense for creating unauthorized derivative works.
  • There is no "safe harbor" defense for unauthorized distribution of copyright material.

Public Domain

Generally speaking, in the United States, “Public Domain” can be assumed if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The material was originally published in English;
  • The material was distributed in the United States prior to 1923;

If those conditions are not met, then the only safe assumption one can make, is that the material is under copyright protection. Obtain permission for creating a resource prior to doing so.

For a more complete description of when a text is Public Domain see:

It is always sensible to make independent checks whether material on other websites is really public domain. From experience, we have found numerous sites that claim 'such and such' is public domain, even though in fact it is copyright. The same advice applies to content found within other software applications.

See also CopyFraud.

Fair Use Doctrine

In recent years, courts have greatly restricted what constitutes "Fair Use". US Statute Law does not specifically define "Fair Use".

When an organization claims "Fair Use", the courts typically apply a four prong test:

  • What is the purpose and character of the use/derivative work?
  • What is the nature (originality, creativity, etc.) of the original copyrighted work?
  • What portion of the copyrighted work is used?
  • What is the effect of the use/derivative work on the market of the original copyrighted work?

International Copyright Law

For further information on international copyright law, please refer to the following links:

Crown copyright, Letters Patent and the KJV

In the United Kingdom, the text of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible is protected by royal prerogative. "There is a small class of materials where the Crown claims the right to control reproduction outside normal copyright law due to Letters Patent issued under the royal prerogative. This material includes the King James Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer." See Crown copyright.

In most of the world, the Authorized Version has passed out of copyright and is freely reproduced. In the United Kingdom, the British Crown restricts production of the Authorized Version per transitional exemptions from the Copyright Act 1775 (which implemented this clause) in the Copyright, Designs and patents Act 1988 (Schedule I, section 13(1)), which expire in 2039. Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, HarperCollins and the Queen's Printers have the right to produce the Authorized Version. See King James Bible. See also CrossWire KJV copyright.

The Christian Commons

An excellent book with this title has been written by Timothy K Jore of Distant Shores Media. See [1]. This explores the history of copyright laws, the ethical foundation of copyright, the difficulties that "all rights reserved" causes to the task of the global church, and presents a well reasoned case for the voluntary use of a Creative Commons license for Christian discipleship resources. Of the various CC licenses now available, it shows how & why Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA is the most suitable option for achieving this purpose.