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
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
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
[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.