Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How God Views Copyrights, Intellectual Property, and Artistic Compensation

Article By Helena Lehman of
The Pillar of Enoch Ministry

Originally Published on February 21st, 2007
Revised and Expanded on February 6th, 2013

Over the past six millennia, our heavenly Father Yahweh, His Preincarnate Son Yahshua, and the Holy Spirit have worked together to choose and call gifted men and women to become artists, musicians, singers, craftsmen, teachers, judges, prophets and prophetesses in order to minister to, and provide for God’s people. Many of these gifted people were wholeheartedly acknowledged and respected during their lifetimes, and were given a responsibility to share their gifts with others, and to teach others how to excel at them also. 

Over the millennia, a few powerful spokesmen and women who were witnesses for the Living God were also eventually recognized for their genuine calling to serve Yahweh, and records were kept of how each of them faithfully carried out their walk with Yahweh. As a result, their names and messages to God’s children were carefully recorded and preserved, and passed down from generation to generation. Today, when we refer to the sacred, inspired texts that they left behind, we refer to book names, chapter numbers, and verse numbers, so that people can look up the pertinent passages on their own.

Most conscientious pastors and Bible scholars would not think of quoting from a passage of the Bible without naming the book it came from. In fact, not only do they quote from these books that are often named after the prophets who wrote them, but they often expound on the virtues, life-experiences, and troubles of the prophets who were inspired to write these texts, as well as the other characters populating the pages of their Holy-Spirit inspired work. Those who love the Bible therefore know the names and characters of many of the prophets and great men and women of God described within it, and they in turn learn much from the trials and tribulations each one of these great people of God suffered, and rose above.

Ever since Christ died on the Cross, and rose from the dead for our sins, many millions more have been filled with the Holy Spirit, and thereby called to write, draw, sing, play music, or dance for God’s Glory. Once the spiritual worth of their contributions have been tried, tested, and proven to be legitimate by the very words of the Bible they work to support, many of these saints have been recognized for their contributions to the Body of Christ, which is the True Church. But very few are appropriately compensated for their time and effort, and very few ever ask for it. Though their willingness to work without recognition is a blessed virtue, they are often horribly taken advantage of because of it. The sad truth is that it often doesn’t pay to be virtuous, even in the Church - where it should be highly valued!

Though no saint is ever to be held in as high esteem as the Word of God, the contributions of our modern day disciples, musicians, artists, prophets, and teachers are rarely given the honor that they deserve. In fact, there is this shameful attitude among many pastors, ministry leaders, intellectuals and scholars that the people who give these contributions to benefit Christ’s Body are not important as individuals, or don’t need to be acknowledged as artists with remuneration of some kind. As a result, many of these saints suffer from intellectual and artistic rape - especially in the case of writers like me. Very often, a believer’s written ideas are used and disseminated within the Church by others without giving them credit. Even worse, the plagiarizer often takes the credit for the insights that should have been attributed to the original author.

How can this attitude be condoned by anyone in the True Church who knows the teachings of the Bible, and the Book of 1 Enoch, which praise the good works, and real faith of the great people of God? The reason is simple. Satan loves hurting people in the Body of Christ, especially those who serve Yahweh with their whole hearts, minds, and spirits. For this reason, the Bible consistently shows that those who served God in the past often had to suffer enormous persecution during their lifetimes. Though usually blessed by God, and compensated for their sufferings, they nevertheless did have to suffer - sometimes to the point of martyrdom.

Now let me place this whole phenomenon in the context of working toward becoming a paid artist, as has been my case for many years. As an Art major in college, and before I knew Yahshua as my Messiah, I suffered at the hands of unscrupulous individuals who literally stole my ideas. Not only did actual drawings get stolen right out of my art portfolios when I was living in dormitories in college, and in the military, but I actually had a design I was working on stolen by a Jewish girl in one of my university design classes! I later ascertained how she did it. After she had deceitfully befriended me, she visited me while I was in my dorm room under the pretense of wanting to discuss our design class. Then, when I left the room to use the dorm bathroom for a few minutes, she stole my design. 

How she did it, I will never really know, though she probably either photographed the technical drawing in my design layout notebook, or took the paper beneath it, folded it, slipped it into her purse, and then rubbed it with pencil to make the lines I had drawn on it show. In either case, she worked hard to build the design I had made quickly, and turned it in to the teacher a couple of days before I had my own version ready to submit. When I turned my design in, and it was nearly identical to the other girl’s - only better made - my supposed “friend” claimed that I had stolen the idea from her! As a result, I received an F on that assignment and a D as a mid-term grade - even though I pleaded with the teacher to rescind that poor grade for weeks. 

Later, as a Christian dance performer who often witnessed to, and ministered to ladies that were in great spiritual need in my dance classes, I was occasionally questioned as to how I could justify charging a fee for teaching women how to dance. They reasoned that, since this art was meant to bless women with health, and was a free gift from God to me, it should be given away without cost. My usual response to these people was this: First of all, I spent a great deal of money and time taking classes from gifted teachers, which gave me the skill I needed to be in a position to teach one day. In addition, I considered it a privilege to give cash in exchange for learning from such gifted people, who certainly did not have to teach me if they chose not to teach!

Likewise, though I considered it a privilege and responsibility to teach others dance skills, it was also a privilege for them to learn dance skills and ethics from such a gifted teacher. They were learning a valuable skill that would serve them well throughout life, if they continued to utilize it for exercise and enjoyment. Furthermore, it was a full time job for me to maintain, and improve my skill as a dancer and teacher. I had to pay experts in dance to keep me informed of the newest dances and trends, and I needed funds to continue pursuing it at a professional level. I therefore had every right to expect financial remuneration. Ethically, I felt that they not only owed me monetary compensation of some kind, but also occasional recognition in social situations where the dance skills I taught them came into play. In other words, we all need to show our morality by honoring our most influential teachers, and showing them the highest respect by not stealing their ideas!

Most students saw the justice of this arrangement, and never questioned my right to be financially compensated, or be given some credit as their teacher. However, the idea of giving anyone compensation for sharing their gift did not always sit well with those students who saw art as a free-for-all. As a result, I later caught a few of my former dance students teaching dance, or performing dances in public using my own choreographies, and without giving me one word of credit as the choreographer. Indeed, they often showed no remorse whatsoever for their sins, and actually had the audacity to appear pleased by my discomfit!

Now, as a professional artist and author of books and articles, I am constantly seeing examples of supposed Christians and Messianics stealing my intellectual property, especially AFTER brushing me off as undeserving of their recognition. This has happened after I shared my work with them in hopes of some recognition and interview publicity on their radio or television shows. But what I received instead from several highly prominent Bible prophecy teachers was the cold shoulder! Later, to my great dismay, I witnessed several of these ministries that I had once supported financially presenting my ideas and theories on their shows for profit without giving me one ounce of credit! Instead, when they even gave credit, these deceitful workers usually named the sources I had named in my books and articles rather than mentioning me, even when using theories that only appeared in my books, and NOT directly in those other sources! 

Unfortunately for the intellectual and artistic rapists or plagiarizers out there that do this sort of thing constantly, this is a form of plagiarism that cannot in any way be seen as godly behavior! In fact, it can and should be viewed as a sin on many levels. First of all, plagiarism violates the Eighth and Ninth Commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, which are: “you shall not steal” and “you shall not bear false witness”. Secondly, it is a form of covetousness, which is a violation of the Tenth Commandment. Covetous people think that they have a right to take something that their neighbor - or in this case, teacher - has earned and worked hard to attain, without their permission and compensation for it. As such, intellectual rapists are thieves and liars because they take the credit for another person’s brilliance or wisdom without giving them the honor, recognition and possible financial remuneration that should be their due.

Because intellectual rape is often engaged in by decidedly unscrupulous individuals, there are copyright laws that have been put into place to offer some protection to gifted people like me, who have some valuable skills to offer mankind. In my case, it comes in the form of writing poetry, articles and books, and in creating drawings, graphic art, and web pages for God’s Glory. However, these copyright laws are poor protection in today’s world, where too many people want to benefit from other peoples knowledge without paying for it. In my own experience, it seems that this problem is no less widespread in the Church, where countless people share the teachings of others without giving them credit, especially pastors.

There are also problems with how copyrights are applied in the Church at times. One very pertinent example is the Bible. Every Bible in publication today outside of the King James Version is a copyrighted work because it was recently translated, and the scholars and publishers want compensation for their hard work for providing a good Bible translation in modern English. However, the Bible is the Word of God, and He alone is its hidden author and inspiration. God therefore technically owns the copyright on every Bible, regardless of the translator! Since this is the case, the copyright should simply be there so that no other publishing house will start marketing their Bible translation without permission. In this way, the scholars who created that translation of the Bible, and its publishers will receive the revenue and royalties that is their due.

However, when these same publishing houses claim it is unlawful to quote several lines or paragraphs of this pre-purchased Bible in books or essays - even after giving their version of the Bible full credit as the source, they have gone too far, and overextended the purpose of the original copyright. This inappropriate use of copyright can be viewed as true when applied to any book written by a Christian author who feels that God inspires their work, as in my case. Therefore, I have a right to charge people for my ideas when they buy my books, and I also have a right to ask them to give me credit as the source for my original ideas when teaching these concepts to others. I do not however, have a right to tell them how much of my work they can incorporate into their own, as long as I receive an equivalent amount of compensation OR RECOGNITION for it in the form of footnotes and bibliography references in written works, or verbal or written acknowledgements somewhere within video or audio works.

This is where Christ-like love, respect, and kindness need to come into play within the Body of Christ. It’s time for those who benefit from the teachings of spiritually gifted individuals to give their teachers compensation in the form of praise, recognition, and free-will offerings. Remember that, though many past prophets, apostles, and pastors worked for God without receiving a wage, others who loved God, and benefited from their wisdom always provided for them in some valuable way.

Ancient prophets and religious teachers were not always hated, envied, spitefully used, and often forced to live in poverty like so many gifted lovers of Christ are today because they don’t fit into any particular denomination. Many were deeply respected, and well-provided for by the righteous followers of Yahweh in the regions where they resided. The very people that directly benefited from, and appreciated their skills, repaid them for their services as prophets, teachers, artists, judges and arbitrators in disputes. This payment was made through free-will gifts of land and housing, as well as household goods such as food, oil, spices, livestock, precious gemstones and metals, and clothing.  

Today, however, since life is so much more complicated than it was back then, and world societies use money instead of the barter system to carry out transactions, pastors of physical churches and other types of ministries need to solicit financial support to survive. The Pillar of Enoch Ministry is no exception. It’s time for people within the True Church, as members of the Body of Christ, to give much more honor to every person that makes up that Body, especially the teachers, prophets, artists, musicians, dancers, and healers out there who give so much of themselves, but often receive very little in return for it.

This is where true Messianic and Christian love and kindness need to come into play within the Body of Christ. Rather than ask for and expect free handouts, it’s time for those who benefit from the teachings of spiritually gifted individuals, and that have the means, to give their artists and teachers compensation in the form of praise, recognition, and free-will offerings. 

God bless you all, and Maranatha!

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