Why Free?

How We License Our Videos and Resources

All of our resources are licensed as Public Domain or CC-0 (even though you may see the CC-BY-SA label on some of them), which you can read about here. This means that you do not have to ask us for permission to:

  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.
 

"We did not use this right." —Paul

Meet my friend Acacio from Equatorial Guinea.

He had a brilliant mind, rich with cultural and linguistic knowledge of his mother tongue Fang. He would have mastered the biblical languages, but when he was in seminary they weren't offered anywhere in the country. He died longing to know Hebrew.

We agree with the Copenhagen Alliance that the global Church needs free biblical resources unencumbered by “all rights reserved” copyright. The Word of God and the languages it was written in were given to us, so let us in turn give them away to others! We believe that just as someone should not have to pay to hear or read the gospel in their own language, they should not have to pay to read the gospel in the original language. Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt 10:8). Paul did not charge money for people to have access to or copy his letters, nor did he feel comfortable making a living as a “peddler of God’s word” (2 Corinthians 2:17) or even being perceived as someone who thought “that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim 6:5).

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:7, “Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?” He went on to write: “I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.” 

While Paul recognized the freedom in Christ to make a living wage as a laborer for the gospel, he personally renounced that right: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:11-12).

Famine and Vulnerability

For most of the global Church it is impossible to learn the biblical languages because the required resources for learning and study are in English, locked up by copyrights, and expensive. Ignorance of the biblical languages can lead to theological famine, and leaves the church vulnerable to heresies, false teaching, harmful trends, spiritual immaturity, and a general carelessness in interpreting the Word. Without access to the sources, the church will remain subject to the whims and opinions of men, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). Without the languages, church leaders will always be second-handers, depending on commentaries, questionable YouTube videos, and whatever preachers they happen to see on TV. Christians in the developing world are sincere and eager to learn and grow, but many of us in the rich, walled garden of the West have been hesitant to let go of its resources and share them sacrificially, even if it hurts our pride or pocket book. Others have simply not thought strategically how they can follow Paul’s model and give away as much as possible. Most are merely unaware of the need, the problem, and the best way to solve it.

A Way Forward

We are convinced that if we want to be radically generous with our God-given resources and exponentially equip the entire global Church with the biblical languages, all the content we generate must…

  • be released under one of the following licenses: CC-0/Public Domain, CC-BY, or CC-BY-SA. This grants the irrevocable freedom to access, revise, translate, repurpose, redistribute, publish, and use the resources without hindrance, remuneration, or the need for custom licenses.
  • be publicly accessible.
  • be stored in a format and in a place that supports conversion into other formats to facilitate maximum distribution. (To see how we’re doing this, go to this page on how to download our resources for use offline.)

Is There Such a Thing As "Intellectual Property"?

We believe that the idea of “intellectual property” is not found in the Bible or in natural law. Some of the greatest Christian thinkers of our time have challenged the idea of “intellectual property” here and here (also read a secular perspective here). As Owens writes in his book The Dorean Principle:

A biblical view of natural law delegitimizes the entire notion of intellectual property…. the relatively recent advent of copyright regulations demonstrates their nature as purely human inventions.⁠ If they were instead codifications of a divine principle, one would expect such statutes to appear earlier in human history. Additionally, while most relevant laws protect material property to perpetuity, the copyright protection offered by governments is—in all but a few circumstances—temporary. This constitutes an implicit concession that “intellectual property” is not property in the truest sense. The fact that some of these protections last for twenty years and some longer than a lifetime testify to the arbitrary nature of intellectual property law. With material property, a violation of the eighth commandment (thou shalt not steal) results in direct loss for another individual. With intellectual property, undesired copying and use of a published work may only be counted as a loss when estimating the potential of an idea to garner profit. In the words of Thomas Jefferson:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.⁠

Just as Christians are called to resist any government who would contradict God’s word and redefine something like marriage, we must resist the unbiblical category of “intellectual property” and the notion and practice of “copyrighting.” This may mean that some Christians will lose money and even become poor, but those are exactly the kind of people who will enter the kingdom of heaven (Luke 6:20).

In summary, this is what we know:

  • Copyright law did not exist for all of human history until 1710.
  • The idea of intellectual property or copyright law is nowhere to be found in the Bible.
  • Scripture itself was never copyrighted by its authors or Author. If this had been important to God, he would have revealed its importance and providentially guided human governments to enact copyright laws long before Scripture began to circulate.
  • To our knowledge, no one has ever written a full, robust biblical defense of intellectual property and copyright law. Until that happens, it must be assumed that no biblical defense exists. Christians throughout history have written thousands of defenses of just about all minutiae you can imagine, but never about this, which makes it suspect. We sincerely would love to see someone undertake this task if they are serious about showing that copyright is a biblical principle. 
  • Copyright hinders rather than helps the growth of the Church, the spread of the gospel, and Bible translation (see The Christian Commons for examples of this).
  • If you want an idea to remain solely in your possession, God has already provided a perfect way to do that: never tell anyone about it. Keep it a secret.

The “Copyright, All Rights Reserved” model fails to distinguish the Church from the world by means of radical generosity that reflects the gospel. So we encourage others who are involved in creating biblical resources and training materials to follow a new paradigm and publish everything as Public Domain, Creative Commons, or some other Open Access license that has been adapted to their country. Even secular nations like Switzerland are now requiring all grant-funded academic research to be published as Open Access. And we believe it would be tragic if the Church failed to be as generous as secular institutions. Even Elon Musk has generously given away his “intellectual property:” you can watch the video below to hear his philosophy on the issue, which resonates with our own. We believe this is the pathway to incredible joy.

But Isn't the Worker Worthy of Payment?

The issue we are talking about is not whether a worker is worthy of his food. We are all in agreement that you should not muzzle an ox while it treads the grain. That’s obvious. We all need to eat and pay the bills. Of course ministers of the gospel should have enough to eat and feed their children. But what we are interested in is how we can honor Jesus’ command in Matthew 10:8 to give freely, while at the same time being able to pay the bills. One of the key issues to understand is that the worker is worthy to receive wages from the Lord of the harvest. That’s totally different from charging the harvest itself money for our labor. So the biblical principle in Matthew 10 is that our living should be provided for by God, through his people freely supporting gospel ministry out of obligation and gratitude to God, not out of a sense of obligation to us. We just trust the Lord of the harvest to provide for us, and do our work. We must not say, “Maybe the Lord of the harvest won’t pay me my wages and provide the food I need, so I will now charge people for the ministry work I do for Him.” Even worse, we should not say, “The Lord of the harvest isn’t giving me a high enough paycheck, so let me take the money he gives me and also require payment of the people he sent me to bless.” Gospel ministry should be supported, not sold. Which means that biblical language instruction should be supported, not sold. 

Explore Further

For more robust and lengthy rationale behind what we’ve said so far, please read this free book by Conley Owens: The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity. Also make sure to read this important article and The Christian Commons by Tim Jore.

The Christian Commons book cover

Both are 100% free. For those who want a shorter treatment of this issue, we’ve compiled one in this document. You can also listen to Andrew’s summary of the article on his podcast.

Also, don’t miss the three-part podcast series below that Andrew has done regarding the dorean principle and all things related to the commercialization of Christianity:

Its leaders give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on Yahweh and say, “Is not Yahweh in our midst? No disaster shall come upon us.” —Micah 3:11