The German Bible Society has rather belatedly commented on my post Original Bible text cannot be copyrighted, US copyright attorney says, by posting a link to what the call A German Bible Society Statement on the copyright situation for the Greek New Testament. In fact this page is a very general one about copyright, in English, with no specific mention of the Greek New Testament. But I was amazed to see what they are claiming copyright for:
Please note that translations of the Bible and original text editions published by the German Bible Society are likewise subject to copyright. Permission is thus also required for the use of verses/passages from our Bible translations (e.g. Luther, Good News Bible) and the original text editions (Hebrew, Greek, Latin).
So, it seems that the GBS is claiming as “our Bible translations” and asserting its own copyright for Luther’s 16th century translation into German, and for the Good News Bible which is in fact copyrighted by the American Bible Society – formally a separate organisation. These claims are entirely baseless at least in British and American law, probably also in German law.
The German Bible Society needs to realise that they cannot claim copyright for anything and everything that they publish, but only (as I understand the law in general terms) for works which are subject to copyright and whose copyright has been assigned to them. Until they are able to demonstrate a proper understanding of this basic principle they can hardly expect any of their copyright claims to be taken seriously.
I continue to hold that the Bible, in the original text and in translation, is the property of the Christian public in general and not of any one society which tries to assert claims over it. I accept the need for proper remuneration of editors, translators and publishers. But I do not accept that unsupportable claims like those of the German Bible Society are a proper way of ensuring this; rather they become a means of restricting the freedom of the word of God.