The BibleTrans License

(This is not yet a license document. When we have a suitable legal document, it will be posted here. Meanwhile, here is an idea what we are thinking about...)

There are four intellectual property (IP) components to be considered: the SOFTWARE, the DATABASE, the GRAMMAR, and the resulting Bible TRANSLATION.

The BibleTrans SOFTWARE is a computer program or collection of programs, which when applied to the DATABASE using a particular GRAMMAR, generates a TRANSLATION in a particular human-readable (natural) language. The SOFTWARE is the work of one or more computer programmers, and runs on one or more types of computer.

The BibleTrans DATABASE is a semantic representation of the Bible derived from the original Greek and Hebrew texts, and coded in such a way that it can be used by the SOFTWARE with an appropriate GRAMMAR to generates a TRANSLATION. The SOFTWARE may also be used to facilitate the preparation of the DATABASE from the Greek and Hebrew texts. This preparation is a massive effort taking years and possibly involving many people, comparable to the total labor in preparing a Bible translation by traditional manual methods.

The language GRAMMAR is a set of lexical and structural rules keyed to the form of the DATABASE and describing how the SOFTWARE should generate a TRANSLATION from that DATABASE into that language. Each language into which the Bible is to be translated will require its own GRAMMAR, specific to the grammatical rules of that language or dialect, and prepared by a trained linguist familiar with that language. The preparation of a GRAMMAR is similar to what the linguist would do as a part of translation by traditional manual methods.

The Bible TRANSLATION is a text document intended to be read by people in their own native language, with the goal that it accurately represents the meaning of the original Greek and Hebrew texts. Substantial additional manual effort will normally be required to prepare a TRANSLATION before it is ready to be printed for use by ordinary people.

Each IP component is labor-intensive, requiring many man-years of skilled work in its initial preparation and even more in the correction of errors discovered afterwards. However, the same SOFTWARE and DATABASE can be shared in the production of many TRANSLATIONS, and thus while initially a greater total effort, it represents a small fraction of the labor required for each TRANSLATION.

The beneficiaries of Bible translation throughout history have not generally been able to fully compensate the labors of the translators; it is an altruistic effort normally paid for by donations. Using the BibleTrans SOFTWARE and DATABASE to prepare a TRANSLATION will not significantly alter the economics of Bible translation except by reducing the total cost and time of making TRANSLATIONS into many languages, and thus reducing the time and cost of individual TRANSLATIONS insofar as they share the technology with other translation projects.

The purpose and goal of this license is to facilitate and promote the use of the BibleTrans computer technology for reducing the total cost of making Bible translations, without laying any unnecessary economic or legal burden on those people donating their labor and funds to that goal.

The Gnu Public License (GPL) seems to be a good starting point, but the GPL has serious economic and practical problems, which make it inappropriate for BibleTrans. We want the translation team investing a lot of work in their particular language to feel ownership in it and to be able to charge for their printed Bibles whatever they believe to be a fair price, without any other compulsion than they would feel if they prepared the translation by hand. On the other hand, we want to encourage people to collaborate in developing the database that every translator can benefit from, without feeling that somebody will be making unfair use of their hard work. Is there a balance between these two goals? We think so.