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KJV copyright

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2021 3:22 pm
by Timothy
Please, does anyone have the ability to explain how the KJV Bible can be copyrighted in the UK, and public domain in the USA at the same time?

Are users in the US just in effect legally stealing it?

Thank you for reading this...

Re: KJV copyright

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2021 3:51 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Timothy,

To split hairs a bit, the King James Bible is not subject to copyright in the UK, however because of Letters Patent issued by the Crown, only the Queen's Printer may print, publish and distribute the KJV Bible within the UK and its Overseas Territories. The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 recognises this unique arrangement in section 171 which says, in part:
171 Rights and privileges under other enactments or the common law.

(1) Nothing in this Part affects—

(a) any right or privilege of any person under any enactment (except where the enactment is expressly repealed, amended or modified by this Act);

(b) any right or privilege of the Crown subsisting otherwise than under an enactment;

(c) any right or privilege of either House of Parliament;

(d) the right of the Crown or any person deriving title from the Crown to sell, use or otherwise deal with articles forfeited under the laws relating to customs and excise;

(e) the operation of any rule of equity relating to breaches of trust or confidence.

(2) Subject to those savings, no copyright or right in the nature of copyright shall subsist otherwise than by virtue of this Part or some other enactment in that behalf.
Obviously, since the American colonies decided to reject the influence of the British Crown in 1783, they don't feel the need to respect any Royal Perogative.

More on the subject here.

Re: KJV copyright

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2021 4:23 pm
by Timothy
Hi AndyJ thank you,

What is the difference between copyright/ and Letters Patent issued by the Crown?

Sorry AndyJ, I think you've mistaken me for an intelligent person.

I know you said you were splitting hairs, It seems to me they are as good as stealing it,
and I don't think they would, so am still feeling there's something missing from the story.

Maybe though they are "stealing" it ("stealing" my word, poss not literal).

It seems, (in my mind), regardless of political disputes, ownership is ownership.

Re: KJV copyright

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:25 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Timothy,

Copyright can get very complicated, and so I don't blame you for being confused. Let's look at the issue as if Letters Patent and Copyright were in fact the same thing. Copyright is a territorial right created by statute and each nation has slightly different laws which govern how copyright works within their country. There are international treaties and agreements which set out broad areas where the laws are largely equivalent in all countries, but it still remains a sovreign issue. So as an example, here in the UK the standard length of copyrightr protection is the lifetime of the author plus a further 70 years after his death. This mean that the works of an author like Arthur Conan Doyle who died in 1930 are now out of copyright, and anyone can freely exploit all of the Sherlock holmes stories if they wish. However in the USA they previously operated a different system whereby copyright only came into being when a work such as a book or photograph was registered with the Library of Congress, and then the copyright could last for up to 56 years. As you can see, with this old system the length of copyright in the USA depended on when a book etc was published. Although the USA changed over to the same system as apllies in the UK (and most of Europe) in 1976, they brought in a lot of complicated transitional rules about what should happen to books and music etc which had been published under the old systen and were still in copyright. This resulted in the last ten of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories still being in copyright in the USA today, when they are not in the UK or anywhere else in the world.

That's a long-winded way of saying that different countries have their own way of treating copyright, even for works produced by authors of other nationalities. That's a bit like taking your car to the USA and having to drive on the right hand side of the road because that's what their law says, even though your car is equipped to drive on the left.

So it isn't stealing (or indeed the legal term which is copyright infringement) for publishers in the USA to produce the KJV bible in accordance with their laws.

And going back to the matter of the difference between copyright and Letters Patent, you can see that if copyright law applied to the KJV bible, it would be out of copyright now, since all of its authors died centuries ago. However as the creation of the Bible was ordered by King James I he invoked his Royal Perogative to say that it could only be printed by the person he authorised to do so. He put this decree in the form that we refer to as Letters Patent, and because the decree had no end date, technically it still applies today, just as theoretically the Magna Carta still applies today.

Re: KJV copyright

Posted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 12:04 pm
by Timothy
Hi AndyJ, thank you again,

You're right it is complicated, I understand what you have said.