German Court: Jesus Doesn't Deserve Copyright Protection

from the holy-shit dept

The initial copyright on a work is supposed to be bestowed upon the person who added that creative element that made it subject to copyright. For example, if you were to dictate a new novel, you should still get the copyright, rather than the stenographer who took down your words. But perhaps that gets a little trickier from a legal standpoint, when the "dictator" is supposedly Jesus. That leads us to a case recently decided in Germany that found that a woman, who directly claimed not to be the author of a book, gets to retain the copyright over those words... because she claimed the actual author was Jesus. As you can imagine, that raises some slightly unusual copyright questions. Via Adrian Rodriguez:

A verdict released by the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt (OLG) on Wednesday decided for a US claimant called the Foundation for Inner Peace. It sued a German foundation for copyright infringement after they published passages of text from a book called A Course in Miracles. The German foundation took passages from the book and justified their actions on the reasoning that Schucman herself claimed not to be the author or the messages, and that the text was a result of the dictations she received from Jesus.
The "author" in question, Helen Schucman, an American psychology professor, is on the record as stating that the texts she transcribed were authored not by her, but by Jesus in the form of ongoing dreams. Because I find it quite convenient to do so, I'd like to completely take Schucman at her word. She transcribed the work of Jesus. If we we do that, it's difficult to understand the German court's logic in this ruling. Copyright goes to the author of the words, which by Schucman's admission is not her. That should kind of be the end of the argument.

Except, the court decided that even if it takes her story as accurate, there would still be a legitimate copyright... for Schucman (and her heirs or assignees).
The court saw it as a breach of copyright law arguing that divine inspiration is legally attributable to their human recipient.
Yup, that's a governmental court ruling on the proper attribution of supernatural inspiration. As a result the self-proclaimed copier of Jesus' words gets the copyright. We've now got a case on the books in which a person who claims not to be the author of certain words gets copyright protection over those same non-authored words. Now can we admit copyright is getting silly?

Oh, and if you want to make this even more fun, it's worth noting that a lawsuit over the same copyright in the US had an opposite result, though for different reasons. The court in that case (wisely) avoided the question of who really was the "author" (in fact, tossing out that particular question). Instead, the US court chose to declare the work in the public domain after it was revealed that a version of the work had been distributed without a copyright notice prior to publication. While that wouldn't matter under today's copyright law, this happened just a few years before US copyright law automatically handed copyright to every creative work. Back then you needed to register, and without that registration, it put the work into the public domain here in the US.

Either way, have fun dealing with the question of: What would Jesus copyright?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 6:40pm

    Unauthorized copying: if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for the people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Analyst (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 6:42pm

    "The court saw it as a breach of copyright law arguing that divine inspiration is legally attributable to their human recipient."

    Then let Jesus come to court and sue for His rights.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Techanon, May 16th, 2014 @ 6:54pm

    What would Jesus copyright?


    I believe that if Jesus lived today, he would preach against the copyright cult.
    Then he would be arrested for massive copyright infringement and given a super harsh sentence.
    Then his 'disciples' would either become the founding fathers of the Pirate Party or Kopimism.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, May 16th, 2014 @ 6:56pm

    Re:

    Jesus did illegally copy loaves of bread and fish and thus grievously harmed the incomes of the baking and fishing industries. The MAFIAA companies only wish they could literally crucify those damn dirty pirates for the same "crime."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    CK20XX (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 7:01pm

    Re:

    Jesus was quite the rebel when he was around, wasn't he? He was even friendly with some prostitutes (not because he was interested in their services, natch) while the establishment wanted him dead and, I imagine, all evidence that he ever existed erased.

     

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  6.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 7:01pm

    Re:

    If I ever start a tracker, it's going to be called Loaves-n-Fishes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Michael Donnelly (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 7:27pm

    Oh, man, there's gotta be a Section 109 joke here, too. Just need a way to work Vernor v Autodesk in there and get some Biblical licensing.

    Go, go, copyright!

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 7:29pm

    Since Jesus spoke in Ancient Aramaic (or maybe Greek), then any translation of his words --or thoughts-- into a modern language would presumably be copyrightable. In much the same way that most relatively-recent versions of the Bible are under copyright.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 7:29pm

    Before anything else we gotta ask ourselves, WWJD.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 7:33pm

    If you seriously believe that you have been divinely inspired by Jesus, then you should not be claiming copyright. It's not your work, and beyond that, you should WANT people to copy it to spread the message.

    On the other hand, it might not be a word-for-word transcription. If the message was paraphrased, it might count as a copyrightable derivative work.

    In any case, I would argue that divine messages should not be copyrightable for much the same reason that government works should not be copyrightable.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 7:49pm

    Well Jesus said...

    Does this mean that the next time some person, three stools down at the local watering hole, begins their reasoned argument with "Well Jesus said...", I can change my usual scathing response to "Sorry, everything Jesus said is under copyright, and you are not allowed to quote it?" Or am I misreading that?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 7:57pm

    Copyright unto Caesar that which is Caesar's; copyright unto God that which is God's.

     

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  13.  
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    Applesauce, May 16th, 2014 @ 7:59pm

    Life of the author plus...

    I also would have assumed that Schucman is telling the truth. Jesus is the author and Schucman is just a recent transcriber. However, copyright is for the life of the Author plus seventy years.

    Jesus died 1981 years ago, so regardless of when the writing was put in a fixed form, it seems reasonable to assume his copyrights expired 1911 years ago.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 8:03pm

    Re: Life of the author plus...

    Mere pesky details! Money talks, material extracted from the exhaust portal of a bull, walks.

     

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  15.  
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    Pixelation, May 16th, 2014 @ 8:11pm

    God Dammit!, Jesus deserves copy protection!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 8:13pm

    Errata

    From the article: While that wouldn't matter under today's copyright law, this happened just a few years before US copyright law automatically handed copyright to every creative work. Back then you needed to register, and without that registration, it put the work into the public domain here in the US.
    Actually, before the Copyright Act 1976 was altered in 1988, registration wasn't required to gain a copyright, only that a correctly formatted notice was affixed to the work in question. It was only if you wished to renew your work that you had to send a copy to the Library of Congress, along with the necessary fee.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 8:17pm

    What did He say?

    MATTHEW 10:8 (last part) freely all of you have received, freely give.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    any moose cow word, May 16th, 2014 @ 8:47pm

    Double take

    Helen Schucman was a psychology professor? Perhaps she should have been seeing a psychologist rather than teaching them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 8:55pm

    Wait, this woman is seriously claiming ownership over over the divine words of GOD? If that doesn't count as some kind of blasphemy then it darn well should be!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    G Thompson (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 10:24pm

    So a court has absolutely stated now that Jesus or any divine 'voices" are an actual myth, not based on reality or probable evidence and are best left in the realms of mystical magic land with the rest of the religious mumbo jumbo!


    EXCELLENT!

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Kronomex, May 16th, 2014 @ 11:36pm

    Re: Re:

    Thank you Mr. Wilson for the best out loud laugh I've had for for a couple of weeks.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 11:42pm

    Jesus Christ is real, the leaders and followers of the three major religions in the world will attest to it. Any historian worth his salt would agree. It is the only reason I am here...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 12:26am

    This story is either humour or trolling.

    All that the court has done is reaffirm the common notion that the transliteration of dreams (whether divinely inspired or otherwise) into written form is copyrightable.

    Many of the above commenters did not notice that this suit was not brought by the author (Ms Schucman), but by the publisher that she assigned copyright to. The copyright notice
    http://acim.org/AboutFIP/copyright.html
    acknowledges fair use, and that some of the work is in the public domain.

    Either this article and/or the lawyers involved appear incompetent and/or misleading.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 12:58am

    Re: Life of the author plus...

    Jesus died 1981 years ago, so regardless of when the writing was put in a fixed form, it seems reasonable to assume his copyrights expired 1911 years ago.

    Arguably, at the very least any works authored after his resurrection remain copyrighted by him.

    At least if they were written after Walt Disney's death. Go, don't tell it on the mountains.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 4:11am

    Read Revalations

    It has the strongest copyright warning you could get !

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 4:14am

    Re: Read Revalations

    "And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll"
    Revelation 22:19

     

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  27.  
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    jameshogg (profile), May 17th, 2014 @ 6:39am

    God has a copyright over the holy book and a patent on the design of the universe. He created and invented each, respectively.

    So that means NO to King James translations/derivatives and NO to vaccines that interfere with his design of viruses.

    Blasphringers SHALL BE PUNISUED. OBVIOUSLY.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    any moose cow word, May 17th, 2014 @ 6:51am

    Re:

    Jews clearly don't believe in Jesus or the new testament. And no, historians don't agree at all, there's not much evidence to go on. Even the follows can't agree much either, otherwise there wouldn't be thousands of sects, or islam for that matter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 7:07am

    He who is without copyright violation among you, let him be the first to throw a lawsuit,

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 10:01am

    "The court saw it as a breach of copyright law arguing that divine inspiration is legally attributable to their human recipient."

    In Germany they assume that one who hear voices in his head is the author of what the voices say. Kinda of sane and simple no?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    PRMan, May 17th, 2014 @ 10:12am

    Re:

    And since Jesus is immortal, that's going to be a long copyright term.

    Still, he was always into giving and sharing so I'm guessing he would have put everything into the public domain.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    PRMan, May 17th, 2014 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    From scholarship, it's pretty clear that Jesus spoke Aramaic (the salt/light passage rhymes in Aramaic) as well as Greek (the vines and branches passage is very clever in Greek only), as well as Hebrew (reading from the Isaiah scroll). This was not uncommon in Judea in his day.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    PRMan, May 17th, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Re: Life of the author plus...

    But he rose from the dead and he's still alive today. So that makes it a perpetual copyright.

     

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  34.  
    icon
    Urgelt (profile), May 17th, 2014 @ 11:25am

    What This Really Says...

    The German court ruling tells us that new works by a dead person can't be copyrighted by that dead person.

    Talk about a disincentive! Now *nobody* who is deceased will have a fiscal motive to create new works!

    Free market advocates, rebel! Get your protest signs! I've got mine right here:

    "DEAD PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, TOO!!"

    Heck, that's not a stretch. If corporations are people, *anyone* should qualify.

    Dogs, even. Dunno about hamsters.

    We'll meet up at the German embassy, and afterward go talk to dead presidents at Arlington and see what *they* think about Germans stripping away their rights. I bet we'll get an earful!

    I wonder where Ayn Rand is buried. I've got a great idea for a new book she could dictate to me. It's called "Atlas Mugged: The True Fictional Account of John Galt's Encounter with a More Ruthless Capitalist than Him." It'll be a hoot, trust me on this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Lurker Keith, May 17th, 2014 @ 12:11pm

    Separation of Church & State

    I'm not sure how it works in Germany, but had the ruling gone differently in the US, there'd be a problem regarding the Separation of Church & State doctrine.

    A Government is restricting access (that's what Copyright does) to a clearly acknowledged Religious text.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, May 17th, 2014 @ 12:12pm

    Copying's just all right with me. Copying's just all right, oh yeah...

     

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  37.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 17th, 2014 @ 12:19pm

    'You did WHAT?!'

    I imagine her dreams might be a little uncomfortable in the near future...

    'So I gave you all this wondrous knowledge, showed you all these amazing things, so you could write it down and share it with the world, and you instead turned around and sold it?!'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), May 17th, 2014 @ 2:37pm

    To be fair to the German court

    I think they just thought, "Do we give the copyright to an author nobody can currently prove the existence of, or to the person who tranfixed apparent author's words in tangible form?" and decided to go with the latter option.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 6:13pm

    Re:

    If that work really came from God I suspect God wouldn't want it to be under copyright. I also suspect he will choose a transcriber who feels the same way and this won't be an issue. He's God, I believe he can take care of himself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Arioch (profile), May 17th, 2014 @ 8:51pm

    I think she was more inspired by Ezekiel

    http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/ezek/23.html

    I wonder which sister she is?

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    David, May 18th, 2014 @ 3:45am

    Re: Re: Life of the author plus...

    He definitely forfeited eternal copyright on his prehumous works by descending into the realm of the dead.

    After reascension, he might keep tabs on any subsequent works.

    But given his stance towards the moneylenders in the temples, it's not that likely that he'll avail himself of the necessary legal advice.

    He'll probably insist that he does not need legal representation as he will be the one dealing out judgment over the living and the dead.

    But that's not going to fly.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    David, May 18th, 2014 @ 5:11am

    Re: Re: Read Revalations

    I don't think that this concerns unmodified copies.

     

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  43.  
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    richard40 (profile), May 18th, 2014 @ 10:40am

    This article is nonsense. If a singer says their voice is a gift from God, are you then going to claim that they cant claim copyright on their songs and records. The words did not exist until she wrote them, regardless of what inspired her do so. The only way this argument would apply would be if somebody tried to copyright bible quotes in a book they wrote, since in that case the words were already public domain before they wrote them again.

     

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  44.  
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    richard40 (profile), May 18th, 2014 @ 10:45am

    In addition, the analogy to dictation is faulty, because in cases where that happens, the person saying the words and the person transcribing, will typically already have a copyright agreement, and in the case of ghostwriters, where authorship is a collaboration, the copyright is often shared, while in other cases where somebody interviews somebody else, and writes a book based on the interview, the interviewer can often get the entire copyright.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    BernardoVerda (profile), May 18th, 2014 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re:

    These days, wouldn't he choose some variety of Creative Commons license?

     

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  46.  
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    JCL (profile), May 18th, 2014 @ 1:32pm

    Logic Is Not The Master of the Law

    "Logic is not the master of the law, but its servant." Oliver Wendall Holmes, U.S. Supreme Court Justice

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    BernardoVerda (profile), May 18th, 2014 @ 1:33pm

    Re: What This Really Says...

    Re: "Atlas Mugged: The True Fictional Account of John Galt's Encounter with a More Ruthless Capitalist than Him."

    I'd read that (if it got decent reviews, I'd even buy a copy).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Michael W. Perry, May 18th, 2014 @ 2:56pm

    A reasonable decision

    It's actually a reasonable decision, since Jesus couldn't sign any relevant documents, either to get a copyright or pursue a violator. In legal terms he has no standing.

    It'd also open up a dreadful can of worms in other areas. Someone could claim to be channelling a new work by Mark Twain. If the court granted such a copyright, then it would have ruled, in essence, that Twain was the author, granting the channeler a right to sue for libel or slander anyone who claimed that Twain didn't write it.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, May 18th, 2014 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Logic Is Not The Master of the Law

    You can tell he wasn't a Vulcan.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Stephen, May 18th, 2014 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Re: Life of the author plus...

    When Christ died, the 70-year clock began ticking. Did it stop when He rose from the dead? Or is copyright law a force only Walt Himself can stop?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
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    Stephen, May 18th, 2014 @ 6:07pm

    Lord of Lords

    Jesus Christ is "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords." He is sovereign over this land.

    As such, His words would automatically enter into the public domain.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Stephen, May 18th, 2014 @ 6:12pm

    Re: What This Really Says...

    Free market advocates, rebel! Get your protest signs! I've got mine right here:

    "DEAD PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, TOO!!"


    If it's any consolation, Democrats have been protecting their voting rights for years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
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    submandave, May 19th, 2014 @ 9:30am

    Standing?

    While I certainly understand the publisher's interest in filing suit, I fail to understand why the correct legal action wasn't to dismiss it as lacking standing. The publisher makes no claim of copyright, so what standing do they have to file a suit on behalf of the author, who likewise makes no claim of copyright. Unless, of course, they are her executor and she is deemed incapable of representing herself or she is making no actual claim of authorship but asserting a right of control over the words of Jesus, a rather bold claim at that.

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, May 19th, 2014 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Lord of Lords

    He is indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords. i agree with that. But as far as being sovereign over this land, well, have you opened your eyes taken a look at this land lately?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
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    Pragmatic, May 20th, 2014 @ 6:10am

    What would Jesus copyright?

    Loaves & fishes, and license them to the Apostles! ;p

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, May 20th, 2014 @ 6:13am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Supply-side Jesus would certainly copyright the story of the loaves and fishes, AND patent "copying loaves & fishes by supernatural means" and license it to his apostles as part of a pyramid scheme.

    The real deal wouldn't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, May 20th, 2014 @ 6:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    He would certainly use a CC license of some kind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
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    Pragmatic, May 20th, 2014 @ 8:08am

    Re: What did He say?

    Which goes to prove that if Jesus joined a political party, it would be the Pirates!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, May 20th, 2014 @ 8:10am

    Re:

    What's a Blasphringer? 0.0

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Andy, Aug 25th, 2015 @ 1:33pm

    NO COPYRIGHT

    Should I believe that Jesus is copyrighted?
    Should I believe that God be copyrighted?

    Words connected with the Bible or without the Bible,
    copyright is a total lie.
    Anything you write, email, etc. is copyrighted?
    No, I strongly disapprove.

    God Bless

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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