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Intellectual Property

South Africa

Copyright on Religious works

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Copyright on religious works has been a hot topic for discussion over the years. Some argue that one has no right to claim copyright on religious works such as the Christian Bible where the content has been created hundreds of years ago. It is, however, important to note that the message isn’t copyrighted, but the interpretation and compilation are. As such the translation is copyright protected even though it is done on a religious work.

The specific edition of the Bible can thus be copyright protected and should one quote a verse directly, it will be necessary to cite the specific edition. If several quotes are to be used in a work from one Bible edition, the author will have to get permission from the publisher for the usage of such. It should also be noted that by granting copyright on religious works, the freedom of religion is not affected. The publisher and authors, translators, and other contributing parties simply get the right to compensation and acknowledgement for their works.

The religion stays unaffected. The right to access the information is thus not restricted. Some works have been written hundreds of years ago and are thus public domain, but the commentaries and translations of such works may be recent enough to still be protected under copyright laws on religious works. Fair use of quotes is allowed regarding copyright on religious works in the sense that one may quote from the original works for the purpose of commenting or delivering criticism, but one cannot extensively quote from a religious source without getting the permission from the publisher.

A person may argue that a religious god inspired the work in the specific religion and therefore there cannot be copyright in such religious works. It is, however, not the original writings which are protected, but rather the creative input by the editors of the publishing house where decisions must have been made regarding the interpretation and compilation of the works.

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