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Licences and Foreign Rights

Many thanks for your interest in the Licences/Foreign Rights Department of the German Bible Society.

The publications of the German Bible Society are protected by copyright. If you wish to make use of passages of text or illustrations from them, you will require written permission from us.

Frequently Asked Questions on our Licensing Policy

This page serves to give background information on the role of the German Bible Society as the copyright holder of the original language editions of the Bible, e.g. the Greek New Testament in the two scholarly editions in worldwide use: the Greek New Testament (UBS edition) and Novum Testamentum Graece (Nestle-Aland edition).

How can the Word of God be copyright protected?

The copyright on the Greek New Testament is neither a copyright on the Word of God nor on the original Greek text of the New Testament. According to German and US copyright law, reproductions of ancient manuscripts cannot be subject to copyright.

However, the above-mentioned editions of the Greek New Testament published by the German Bible Society are not reproductions of ancient manuscripts, but collations of readings from ancient manuscripts put together by modern scholars. Thus, the copyright is not on an ancient text, but on a work that scholars produced in collecting the readings and in deciding which of the readings from thousands of manuscripts is to be regarded as the most original. Such collations are protected by copyright according to German and US copyright law (§ 103 US Copyright Act; §§ 2, Art. 1 No. 1, 3 German Copyright Act). Read more...

Is the German Bible Society a profit organization?

No, the German Bible Society is a German church foundation and as such a non-profit organization. According to German law the German Bible Society is not permitted to make any profit. In contrast, any money that the German Bible Society earns from its publishing work must be spent exclusively in accordance with the purpose of the foundation, which is biblical missionary work.

However, in order to produce high-quality Bible editions the German Bible Society acts as professional publisher. To ensure highly efficient work, the publishing branch of the German Bible Society is organized as a publishing house. This allows the generation of more resources for the biblical missionary work from the publishing activities.

How does the German Bible Society use the money that it earns from its publishing?

Any money that is earned from publishing goes into biblical missionary work, i.e. Bible translation, Bible distribution and Bible commitment. Here are some examples:

  • The German Bible Society is one of the major donors for the United Bible Societies (UBS). UBS runs hundreds of Bible translation and Bible distribution projects all over the world (see www.biblesociety.org)
  • The German Bible Society subsidizes the distribution of scholarly Bible editions in Third World countries with an annual grant of over US$300,000.
  • The German Bible Society continuously maintains and further develops the scholarly Bible editions and related material in numerous languages on behalf of the United Bible Societies.
  • The German Bible Society is currently producing a new Bible translation into German for a young target audience which is available free of charge on the internet (see the BasisBibel page).
  • The German Bible Society runs several Internet Bible portals giving free access to the text of the Bible in the original languages and to much further Bible-related material (e.g. see www.bibelwissenschaft.de)
  • The German Bible Society supports biblical missionary work in Germany by funding appropriate projects and financing Bible events and exhibitions.

Why does the German Bible Society not license the critical apparatus of its original language editions?

Since the original language editions are key editions of the German Bible Society’s publishing program and an integral part of German Bible Society’s corporate identity, they are handled with special attention and restrictions. The editors of these editions have chosen the German Bible Society as their publisher, because they have confidence in the high quality standards of GBS’s publishing work. For these reasons the Board of the German Bible Society has decided to limit the use of the original language text with critical apparatus to GBS products and co-productions with other publishers. This ensures that the German Bible Society can control and guarantee the high scholarly standard of the critical apparatus also with regard to the publishing process and results.

Why does the German Bible Society not license its original language editions for online use?

Since the original language editions are key editions of the German Bible Society’s publishing program and an integral part of German Bible Society’s corporate identity, they are handled with special attention and restrictions. The German Bible Society grants free access to its original language editions via the Bible portal www.bibelwissenschaft.de. Anybody can read, search and even copy Bible passages from this website. More powerful digital research options are available with several Bible software tools, e.g. the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible SESB (see www.sesb-online.com). Given the free online access and the powerful digital products available, the Board of the German Bible Society has decided not to license these editions for external online use.