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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm working on my black comedy involving static caravans lately. There are a couple of funerals in the opening chapters and part of the humor is the inappropriate passages which get read from the bible. Now I understand the bible isn't copyrighted, but I'm not sure about this? Is there a means of ensuring it's a legit thing to do?

Secondly, as part of the humor I occasionally reference popular culture - movies, actors etc. Can I name them? Or do  need to keep it ambiguous? For example, at one point I name Kate Beckinsale and comment on a character's enjoyment of the film Underworld - describing it, but only naming the actor. Then I mention that scene at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones steals the golden idol. I name the character, but not the film in that instance.

I'm not publishing this initially, it's going to be my second attempt at getting a trad-pub deal, partly as I suspect they have more experience over what you can and can't do regarding this. However failing that, I will eventually publish it myself. So can anyone save me some legwork and tell, or link me to an explanation of the rules regarding the bible and popular culture?

Thanks in advance!
 

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martyns said:
I'm working on my black comedy involving static caravans lately. There are a couple of funerals in the opening chapters and part of the humor is the inappropriate passages which get read from the bible. Now I understand the bible isn't copyrighted, but I'm not sure about this? Is there a means of ensuring it's a legit thing to do?

Secondly, as part of the humor I occasionally reference popular culture - movies, actors etc. Can I name them? Or do need to keep it ambiguous? For example, at one point I name Kate Beckinsale and comment on a character's enjoyment of the film Underworld - describing it, but only naming the actor. Then I mention that scene at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones steals the golden idol. I name the character, but not the film in that instance.

I'm not publishing this initially, it's going to be my second attempt at getting a trad-pub deal, partly as I suspect they have more experience over what you can and can't do regarding this. However failing that, I will eventually publish it myself. So can anyone save me some legwork and tell, or link me to an explanation of the rules regarding the bible and popular culture?

Thanks in advance!
This sounds excellent! On the Bible, technically new translations would be in copyright (ie, to the translator, in the same way I hold the copyright to my Casanova translation but there's nothing to stop anyone doing their own translation from the original French), but I'm pretty sure it's inimical to the whole evangelical mission thing to interfere with people quoting the Bible. If you're at all worried just go for the King James version, which is the best anyway.

And yeah, references are fine. As people usually say at this point, be careful about song lyrics though!

(not an IP lawyer, but I did extensive work on a range of IP magazines in the recent past)
 
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I've used Bible Scriptures in some of my books and the legal thing to do is to find the copyright page in the Bible you're taking the quote(s) from and there should be language there showing you how to show credit for their translation in which you then include on your own copyright page. Example,

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

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You may avoid cluttering up your copyright page with credit to a Bible translator by using the WEB, no not the internet, but the public domain translation, the World English Bible. The translation is at times a little ropey, but it is one of the few translations freely available on the internet that is public domain throughout the world. Do not use the King James Version if you are selling you book in the UK as it is under Crown Copyright, despite being 400 years old. Hymns are songs, so using those lyrics causing the same grief as any other song unless you can source an out of copyright edition of an out of copyright hymn.
 
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The bible itself is long out of copyright, but actual translations are not and they do need to be cited properly.

Check out BibleGateway: https://www.biblegateway.com

It has a rather insane number of translations available including their copyright info (for the US) and how to cite each specific one.

Also, you may have to deal with oddities, as noted by Mercia. KJV is public domain in the US, but not the UK.
 

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Mercia McMahon said:
You may avoid cluttering up your copyright page with credit to a Bible translator by using the WEB, no not the internet, but the public domain translation, the World English Bible. The translation is at times a little ropey, but it is one of the few translations freely available on the internet that is public domain throughout the world.
Probably best to go straight to the source and use the American Standard Version (from 1900, 1901) which is in the public domain.

The World English Bible is a bit tricky, copyright-wise. It is based on the ASV, but if they've made substantive work in making a new version, that new version could be copyrightable. If it's copyrightable, it's protected by copyright. In some jurisdictions, there is no clause in copyright law that allows you to release a work protected by copyright into the public domain. Even the author cannot do it.

People might say "I release this into the public domain" but that's not valid in all jurisdictions. That's why open source software is often released with a license rather than simply said to be released into the public domain. Even if such a statement is valid in your country, you'd have to be sure it's valid in every country your book is made available in on Amazon and other sites.

The last thing you want is the heirs re-asserting the copyright of a work the deceased author had "released" into the public domain.
 

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Something similar--

I'm using a poem from the Icelandic Sagas in my WIP. I'm putting it in the original Old Norse, which I presume is out of copyright. To get around using the translation, I'm having a character just interior-dialogue explain what the poem is about.

Does that seem legit?
 

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miaarden said:
Something similar--

I'm using a poem from the Icelandic Sagas in my WIP. I'm putting it in the original Old Norse, which I presume is out of copyright. To get around using the translation, I'm having a character just interior-dialogue explain what the poem is about.

Does that seem legit?
Yes it does.
I have used sections of the vulgate instead of the KJV.
Latin's pretty dead, and thanks (irony) to Vatican 2 not even in use by the RCs.
 

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I love that there are people so presumptuous that they copyrighted translations of the apparent Word of God.

Then again, even the more 'classical' translations pick and choose their words so as to alter the entire meaning so hard they're more like a gritty reboot than a 'translation'. EX: does God want you to kill cockroaches or village wisewomen*? There's something thou shalt not suffer to live, but King James apparently wanted to make sure no one in a given village knew what medicine did.

*no, seriously that's what that word people 'translate' (and by 'translate', I mean substitute letters until they can say God told them to kill smart old ladies) to 'witch' means.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Mercia McMahon said:
You may avoid cluttering up your copyright page with credit to a Bible translator by using the WEB, no not the internet, but the public domain translation, the World English Bible. The translation is at times a little ropey, but it is one of the few translations freely available on the internet that is public domain throughout the world. Do not use the King James Version if you are selling you book in the UK as it is under Crown Copyright, despite being 400 years old. Hymns are songs, so using those lyrics causing the same grief as any other song unless you can source an out of copyright edition of an out of copyright hymn.
This sounds like a great idea. I'll have to check this out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Dan C. Rinnert said:
Probably best to go straight to the source and use the American Standard Version (from 1900, 1901) which is in the public domain.

The World English Bible is a bit tricky, copyright-wise. It is based on the ASV, but if they've made substantive work in making a new version, that new version could be copyrightable. If it's copyrightable, it's protected by copyright. In some jurisdictions, there is no clause in copyright law that allows you to release a work protected by copyright into the public domain. Even the author cannot do it.

People might say "I release this into the public domain" but that's not valid in all jurisdictions. That's why open source software is often released with a license rather than simply said to be released into the public domain. Even if such a statement is valid in your country, you'd have to be sure it's valid in every country your book is made available in on Amazon and other sites.

The last thing you want is the heirs re-asserting the copyright of a work the deceased author had "released" into the public domain.
Is the American Standard version available online somewhere?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Rick Gualtieri said:
God owns the copyright for the Bible.

Fortunately for you, though, all the best lawyers are in that other place.

:D :D :D :D (extra smileys to ward off the beatings)
Haha! Could I quote the bible and claim the copyright holder had given me permission? Might be tricky arguing the case, seeing as all of my books and WIP's bar one, are either atheist or feature atheist characters. The other one is a story about how the devil tricked humanity into worshipping him instead of god :p
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
miaarden said:
Something similar--

I'm using a poem from the Icelandic Sagas in my WIP. I'm putting it in the original Old Norse, which I presume is out of copyright. To get around using the translation, I'm having a character just interior-dialogue explain what the poem is about.

Does that seem legit?
That's a pretty cool idea, though it wouldn't work for me. I can't see the priest giving a sermon in Latin! Though, due to a mix up - he DOES try to get everyone to sing a long-forgotten obscure hymn in latin - it doesn't go well! :(
 

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Biblegateway has most popular versions on it.  Just enter the passage you want, select your translation, and it's there.

I would definitely list the translation and edition the you use in your own copyright/acknowledgements page. Not only for copyright reasons, but also because translations do differ, and some of us who know one version fairly well might like to look it up if the version you use has a different rendering to what we are used to.
 
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