An American foundation and some Japanese translators both say they own the Scriptures.

It is no longer rare for an evangelical organization to end up in court. But it is still rare for two such organizations to end up in court against each other. That is where things stand in a long-lived legal battle pitting the La Habra, California-based Lockman Foundation against the mission organization TEAM (the Evangelical Alliance Mission) and its Japanese affiliates.

The current focus in this complex, multifaceted legal dispute is over ownership of the copyright for the New Japanese Bible. Both Lockman and TEAM’s Japanese affiliate, TEAM/Domei, assert that they rightfully own the copyright. The issue is to be addressed by a Japanese court in the coming months.

The Main Dispute

The Lockman Foundation is best known for the Amplified Bible in the 1950s and the New American Standard Bible translation (NASB), completed in 1970. Lock-man began a relationship with TEAM in 1959 when TEAM missionary-publisher Ken McVety agreed to oversee Lock-man’s translation work in Asia. Lock-man would provide the money, and it licensed TEAM-related Word of Life Press as publisher.

The partnership led to the publication of the Japanese Amplified New Testament in 1962 and the New Japanese Bible in 1970.

Relationships began to sour, however, in the mideighties.

In 1986, McVety and the five Japanese translators were officially registered by Japanese authorities as owning the New Japanese Bible copyright, says TEAM/Domei field chairman Douglas Heck. He adds that the translators placed their ownership claim in a trust held by TEAM/Domei.

Lockman alleges that it was not informed of that move, and it holds that McVety and the translators had no authority to take that ...

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