Unfair Use Alleged

Religious groups fight Internet copyright abuses.
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Like Napster patrons who downloaded music without paying for it, those who spread unauthorized versions of religious texts via the Internet face determined opposition from the groups that hold the copyrights.

The Philadelphia Church of God (PCG), a splinter group, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to order that the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) release control of the book Mystery of the Ages. The WCG, which joined the National Association of Evangelicals in 1997, has repudiated the teachings of that book. It has been trying to prevent the PCG from selling the book, written by the late WCG founder, Herbert W. Armstrong.

The PCG, based in Edmond, Oklahoma, has aggressively promoted Mystery of the Ages via a television program and has taken orders for it on a Web site. PCG has also offered a copyright version of another Armstrong book, The United States and Britain in Prophecy. That book advances the theory of British Israelism, identifying Great Britain and the United States as home to people who traced their lineage to the so-called lost tribes of Israel. The current WCG leadership has rejected British Israelism as unbiblical.

In a different matter, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, mother church of the Christian Science movement, is spending $50 million over five years to build a library for the published and unpublished writings of founder Mary Baker Eddy. The library is part of a strategy to extend the church's control of Eddy's writings. (Current copyright law will extend protection for 45 years if the unpublished Eddy items are placed in the library.)

The action follows the church's legal effort to halt the retail sale of two volumes of "collecteana" by and about Eddy that have been ...

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