Daily Prayer Permission Denied

Augsburg Fortress has denied me permission to publish my Order of
Daily Prayer online (here and here) due to copyright issues.  I am not surprised, but I
am disappointed. 

My Order of Daily Prayer is an amended form of Responsive Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship.
It incorporates each Sunday’s prayer of the day, and prayers for
commemorations and festivals (when appropriate).  It also references
the church calendar of commemorations and festivals.  All of this
material is copyrighted by Augsburg Fortress and the ELCA, and subject
to restriction.  I’ve been posting it online for about six months or
so, without permission.

I have been granted permission to continue posting the daily
lectionary (which is copyrighted by the Consultation on Common Texts).
The CCT has a much more broad licensing policy, as does the National
Council of Churches, who holds the copyright to the NRSV translation of
the Bible.

From the email I received in response to my request:

for contacting us, and thanks also for your patience in waiting for a
reply. Online postings of copyrighted material are a new and often
problematic area of publishing. The ease with which material may be
copied from one source and pasted into another document without prior
permission or proper attribution is the largest of the problems, though
not the only one. Another problem your request poses is the ease with
which copyrighted material may be edited by an outside source and
presented as though it is material original to the copyright holder, or
that the amended material is done with the willing approval of the
original rights holder. Finally, the ease with which material is copied
via Internet posting makes it all too likely that the rights holder
will lose control of its intellectual property. For all of these
reasons, your request to use Responsive Prayer online is problematic
for us.

We appreciate that you are trying to bring to your readers an
edifying and spiritually satisfying form of daily prayer with a
Lutheran perspective. However, due to the problems mentioned above, and
also due to the confusion that is all too likely to be caused by your
changes to our material, and your readership’s likely conclusion that
your changes are sanctioned by the ELCA, we ask that you refrain from
posting material from Evangelical Lutheran Worship on your site either
in its altered form or as it appears in ELW. We feel it is best at this
time to reserve the right to post that material at either Augsburg
Fortress sites (such as sundaysandseasons.com) or through sites
controlled by the ELCA itself in order to best monitor and control how
the material from our sources is presented to the church at large.

What do I think about this?  I disagree that anyone would "likely
come to the conclusion that" the material on my blog is "sanctioned by
the ELCA" – there’s not an ELCA logo on my blog, and my
Fine Print Disclaimer page makes clear what this blog is about.  But
as I wrote above, I am not surprised that Augsburg Fortress would want
to exercise its right to control its own intellectual property.  Even
though the material I was posting is quite, dare I say, simple and
brief – Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, a litany, a few collects for
the time of day, and collects for Sundays, festivals and commemorations
– it is copyrighted.  The production, publication and sale of
such material is how Augsburg Fortress stays in business.  Augsburg
Fortress does not receive financial support from the ELCA or its
constituent congregations.

[Note: The Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church has no restrictive copyright.  It is in the public domain.]

In terms of sheer volume, the material I was posting was not very
significant.  But volume is not the point.  What if someone wanted to
post the far more substantive Eucharistic Prayers for each Holy
Communion setting online, or the copyrighted Confession of Sins or
Prayers of Intercession from Sundays and Seasons that change
each season?  Why not hymns?  Granting permission for free, online
publication of my simple Order of Daily Prayer begets a slippery slope
that becomes more and more problematic for the Publishing House.
Again, those who produce and publish this material need to be
compensated for their work.  Posting this material for free online does
not allow for that.

But . . . as was stated in my previous post on this topic – Liturgy and Copyrights – and in the comments on
that post, to what extent should liturgical material be available under
much fewer restrictions to be used and shared by the whole church (and not just the church’s formal 501(c)(3) expressions)?
How do we, in the church, encourage liturgical approaches to prayer if
the liturgical material is costly and its use is restricted?

There’s a Napster vs. the Music Industry analogy to be made here.
Consumers wanted to share music online, the Music Industry resisted.
Napster found a way to do it, the Music Industry shut them down, and
then Apple figured out a way to make money by selling music online and
distributing it via iTunes and playing music on iPods.  Eventually, a
compromise was found that allowed music to be distributed via the
internet, in a way that compensated the Music Industry. 

I’m doubtful that the market exists for downloadable Daily Prayer @
$.99 a pop.  But at the the intersection of internet and spirituality –
a sprawling interchange of websites, email services, free and
subscription-only content – do our Main Line churches (and their
publishing houses) have a place?  Augsburg Fortress has made various
online services available to congregations – Akaloo and Here We Stand Confirmation – which in turn grant access to their members to a variety of online resources.  The ELCA website has some prayer and spirituality resources available.  But is this enough?

In the scope of things, my little Daily Prayer page is/was
incredibly small – 10 or 20 visitors a day.  Those visitors will find
other places for online prayer resources – and perhaps they’ll purchase
their own copy of Evangelical Lutheran Worship,
which includes the daily lectionary, church calendar, Responsive
Prayer, and various other resources suitable for a personal discipline
of daily prayer. 

But how is and how will the church provide tools for prayer and
spirituality apart from a bound book or limited-use licenses?  Do we
not help our cause by offering these materials for free – a la
AOL’s free distribution of software throughout the 1990s – so as to get
prayer and scripture into the hands, onto the computer screens, onto
the blogs, and into the PDAs of our people?  A lot of the "spirituality" stuff that’s out there is a bunch of
junk, but what we have in our (restricted use, copyrighted) liturgies
is good.  Too bad we can’t get the good stuff out there for more to
see, more to use, more to pray.

In the coming days the Daily Prayer material will come down from my blog and be
replaced with a simpler page offering only the Daily Lectionary. 

Finally, in your comments please do not blast Augsburg Fortress’
decision.  Be critical, if you like, but be constructive and
respectful.  I’ll remove any comments that go too far.  Augsburg
Fortress is a very good ministry doing some very good work under some
challenging conditions.  I know, because I used to work there.


Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

8 thoughts on “Daily Prayer Permission Denied

  1. Heartfelt and sincere are these comments and as always you navigated the political, economic, theological and practical dynamics involved in this decision all in the same post. Amazing!
    I know how much this discipline meant to you and I know you’ll find a meaningful way to continue practicing prayer. Let us pray…

  2. I am sure you are disappointed by their decision, as you should be. I wish they had chosen otherwise.
    Why not simply write your own? You have a clear sense of what you want to do and the direction you want to go. Truth is, you are already more than half way there.

  3. As a lawyer I can look at the Fortress response and know they are saying what they have to say, because not everyone is you. I agree with LP in theory- you are well on the way to your own resource, however, when do your own words sound too much like others. This is what keeps lawyers busy. All argument aside, I think LP is right- if you have the time, you could generate your own work, or could potentially work in tandem with other like minded people as long as everyone agrees it is in the public domain. Sorry you got this news- but not surprised.

  4. Two things
    1) Augsburg/Fortress allows some linking to their content. http://www.augsburgfortress.org/rss/default.jsp
    I have been using this for some time at my lectionary blog unlikelyconversation.blogspot.com and have appreciated their RSS feed of the lectionary (not readings just the lectionary index) for each week.
    the ELCA has a daily reading feed available http://www.elca.org/scriptLib/CO/bible/tbrBibleView.asp
    2) The ELCA has a wealth to share; the best (and most challenging) part of finding that wealth is looking far and wide among Lutherans to get to it. If Augsburg won’t share content in the newest media it will be passed over as people in the church start to find, and as LP says, create our own.
    You’ve got a real opportunity here to add to the real creative wealth of the ELCA.

  5. I am very disappointed. It was a good Lutheran resource for those of us who are from English speaking churches outside the US. But I can perhaps understand ELCA’s stand on this. If I were them, I would have just gotten you on board 🙂

  6. LawAndGospel says —
    “As a lawyer I can look at the Fortress response and know they are saying what they have to say, because not everyone is you.”
    No, they’re saying what they have to say assuming they want to continue to opt into the system of “ownership” of ideas set up in US (and, increasingly, international) law.
    But there is nothing that says the Church must or even should opt into this system. We are meant to be a community that holds all things in common, yet Augsburg Fortress will not share with other Christians these words? (Most of which, I’ll add, are merely translations of words passed down over centuries of pious usage?)
    The idea that liturgy is “property” is a nonsense in Christian terms. The saints who first set down these words, which were passed on to them through oral usage back to the apostles in many cases, did not zealously protect this “property”, because they knew it didn’t belong to them. Why does Augsburg Fortress think that now that they have inherited this stream from the saints and added in things one hopes were inspired by the Holy Spirit’s direction, that they suddenly “own” this “property”?
    I’ve written elsewhere, in some posts Chris has linked to, that I understand publishing houses need some limited monopoly on the hymnals and other works they publish, in order to stay viable. So 20 or 25 year exclusive publishing of the whole hymnal makes sense, so ELCA congregations will buy from them alone.
    But there is no reason to squash creative use of parts of the daily liturgies as Chris has done here. I’m quite disappointed in their decision.

  7. Incidentally, I would second LutherPunk’s recommendation. You might look at the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. It’s in the public domain, by conscious choice of the Episcopal Church, so it can be freely adapted and reposted. It’s also a bit more connected to the traditions of the wider Western Church than ELW, to be honest.

  8. Napster vs. the Music Industry isn’t the best analogy because the Napster people were just plain wrong in that case. You need to look at this more in a Linux vs. Microsoft Windows way. Linux has broken the near monopoly of Windows by being free and, more importantly(!), freely modifiable.
    LP is right, you should write your own liturgical material. Reinvent or retranslate where you need to. Borrow ideas from the best sources available. Rejoice when someone else borrows from you. Liturgy wants to be free.
    I, as one member of the ELCA, sanction your work.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: