Amazon, Kindle and Bible copyrights
The ever-strange Washington Times carries commentary on Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. Fred Reed raises the question about the problems of selling e-book content that is in the public domain. While it’s within Amazon’s business model to sell an “e” edition of a work published by a company, what happens when one charges for a work in the public domain?
From the article:
Kindle is close to being mass marketable. However, the economics seem hazardous for Amazon. The company makes money, legitimately enough, by selling physical books that are out of copyright. If you want your child to read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Amazon will sell you a copy. I don’t know what proportion of a bookseller’s income derives from the sale of books in the public domain, but it has to be considerable — the Bible, the classics and so on.
Reed glosses over the concept that the Bible is in the public domain. It is not. Particular translations of the Bible have copyrights applied to them. The (New) Revised Standard Version is held in copyright by the National Council of Churches. The English Standard Version is held by a division of Good News Publishers. The New American Bible by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Specific publishings of study Bibles are also held in copyright. My HarperCollins Study Bible is the NRSV. The Biblical text is copyright by the NCC and the support material held by HaperCollins, itself a holding of News Corporation.
In the US, only the King James Version is held in the public domain. For the UK, the King James Version is held in perpetual Crown Copyright and not public domain. I’m no copyright expert and won’t touch this one with a ten-foot pole.
So, don’t worry about Amazon raking in money based on Kindle “e” editions of the Bible. They will be paying out big bucks to the publishers and holding companies for the right to distribute particular translations and editions.