This question establishes that most copyrighted translations have a fair use clause allowing for up to 500 verses to be used.

This question further clarifies that the 500 word limit is "reset" each week in the case of a pastor projecting verses onto a screen in a sermon.

Well, what about a program or app that makes available daily readings (always conforming to the fair use clause in a given day) but which, over the course of the year will show more than 500 verses total. Is it reset each day? This feels like a use of the translation in good faith, but I don't know how a lawyer representing a profit-seeking company would see it.

Depending on how the program is written, that could further by complicated if the program:

  1. stores the entire translation in a database, or
  2. allows users to access "daily readings" from days other than today

What do you think?

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    Honestly, I would ask a group of lawyers. We are a group of theologians, which sometimes looks like the same thing, so sorry about that.
    – user3961
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 21:25
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about legal issues.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 0:29
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    @curiousdannii Well, yes, but as they relate to Christianity and professionals employed by Churches. We allowed the other one so I think we should allow this, but if he wants a real answer from someone who should know, he should ask a lawyer and then self answer.
    – user3961
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 1:17
  • @fredsbend the second questions linked from this question does look like it might be offtopic too...
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 1:33
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    Agreed it is not on topic, but I can tell you the answer: You write the copyright owner and pay them to license the version to you. Bob Pritchett ([email protected]), owner of Logos Software would probably be an awesome resource for you, especially in this instance. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 9:44

3 Answers 3


This is a legal issue and you should address it to the Bible translation editors for their legal department to consider. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they already have guidelines drawn up for this scenario and are ready to answer you if you ask them.


While I agree with all that you should ask a lawyer, my understanding is that it is first about distribution, long before it is about display.

In order to have a program that displays a Bible translation, you must distribute the Bible translation with the program. Thus, simply distributing the content by way of a database is a violation, technically, even if not 'unlocked'. Even if this is done 'live' over the web, then the Web application is the limited to the same quota, without permission.

If this is only a Web application, perhaps you could get away with not distributing over 500 verses, but then you would be limited to 500 page views a day, followed by system errors.

As a programmer, the only legitimate way is to have distribution rights (redistribution license, or whatnot), and the only way to do that is through permission for the company.

Perhaps, if only one verse was transmitted per day, but to 500+ people (all the same verse for the day), it might be allowed. But, again, contact the publisher or sound legal counsel (who will tell you to contact them). Honestly, they are simply trying to cover expenses, but they are on the same team. Call them and try to work with them, with or without counsel.

  • That is, as a programmer, even to distribute a software library is subject to licensure. Some companies are very particular which files are redistributed, whether used or not. So, any inclusion is full inclusion. But, if it had my vote, it would probably be off-topic.
    – user16825
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 8:27

I was able to find this section of the fair use policy for Zondervan/HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson that explicitly excludes apps from the policy:

The Fair Use Guidelines do not apply to Phone Applications, other New Media Platforms (websites, etc.) or Gift Products.

  • Does that indicate allowed use, or disallowed use?
    – user16825
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 18:05
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    It means that there is no fair use at all for apps, i.e. it disallows use w/o permission. Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 21:45

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