Copyright, licenses and sermons

Nancy at DanceLessons wrote today about the need of small congregations who use the sermon manuscripts of ministers with permission and attribution. Good for her. These churches — many of whom I have in mind when I write this blog — have a need. So do published preachers, the a big reason for getting those sermons out is to promote an idea, a congregation, or the preacher.

The best reason to use an existing licensing scheme is because preacher and re-user would have a common understanding of the rights conveyed. This would probably help promote fair sermon sharing on both sides.

I think the best license is the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa) license, though others might no be so demanding of the Share Alike component. OK: that would be two, easy to conceive options.

Here’s what the by-nc-sa means, from the Creative Commons site (link to descriptions of others licenses):

“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd [nd is No Derivatives — Ed.] license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

Choose by-nc-sa license

Some current Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist by-nc-sa content licensers follow — so feel free to make mutually-shared derivative works!

  1. Making Chutney
  2. Pearlbear’s Blog (assuming we can share her with the UCC for the time being)
  3. Facilitating Paradox
  4. Harbor Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Muskegon, Michigan
  5. Five sermons from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa, Ontario
  6. First Unitarian Society, Madison, Wisconsin

Four points.

  1. I think the option to make derivative works is important since few published sermons are good-to-go as-is, and this leaves open the permission to make a recording of the service, or even translations.
  2. This license allows the author to retain those rights you would need to sell the work to a commercial entity. That should quell those “I could make a million dollars off this sermon” fantasies, and keep you from feeling the chump if a commercial publisher takes your works and runs with it. (Which also seems unlikely.)
  3. There are multiple versions — via evolution — of each license so go read the original if you’re really going to use a licensed resource. I know this undercuts my simplicity argument, and I hope all who license thus will upgrade to the 2.5 version.
  4. Also, I think some of what I’ve written would benefit from a more permissive license and other things I’m reserving rights, so I’m thinking of a scheme of two or three licenses for this site. If you want to use something one here, email me and I’ll work on that item’s license.
Categorized as Open, Preaching

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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