Apostle Paul Sues Publishers for Copyright Infringement

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 18, 2007

apostlepaul.jpgChristianity is big business. Recent films, such as the Passion of the Christ and the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe bring in hundreds of millions of dollars from the faithful. Christian radio stations likewise bring in hundreds of millions of dollars–most notably, Salem Communications earned nearly $200 million in revenue last year. But the largest slice of the $8 billion Christian retail industry belongs to publishing. And where there is money to be made, there are lawsuits to be filed.

In a modern day David-versus-Goliath, one man is challenging the increasingly lucrative Christian publishing industry.

Paul of Tarsus (known to his friends as “the Apostle”) believes he is entitled to significant percentage of all Bible sales (which total about $200 million a year).

“I wrote 13 books of the Bible. And I haven’t seen a single penny for my work. 13 out of 66 books entitles me to about 20% of the royalties,” claims Paul.

Executives at Zondervan (the first on the long list of companies that Paul is suing) disagree. “While Paul certainly wrote 13 books of the Bible, his total writings only account for 7% of the total page count of the Bible. Besides, there were no copyright laws when he wrote his epistles.”

The New International Version (NIV) has been the crown jewel of Zondervan’s growing publishing empire. With 2005 revenues totaled $160 million, Zondervan was a likely candidate for Paul of Tarsus’ first lawsuit.

“Look, I don’t want to be an ass. I just want what’s mine. I have nothing against Zondervan. I appreciate that they’ve been willing to distribute Bibles to people around the world for a healthy profit–I just want my share in that profit.”

Paul on Hard Times

Paul of Tarsus was once a well respected leader in Christendom. In recent years, his popularity has been on the decline. Concerns over his homophobic tendencies and his unJesuslike sentiments have cut into Paul’s primary source of income–public speaking. Living in a small studio apartment in Brooklyn, he is struggling to get by.

Says Paul, “I stand by what I wrote, but I would have worded things differently if I would have known that people were uptight about calling homosexuality a ‘perversion’ or suggesting that women ’submit’ to their husbands.”

Recent trends indicate that Paul has indeed fallen out of favor with Christians. Though still popular with fundamentalists and Calvinists, many Christians–especially young mainline and “emergent” Christians–find him out of fashion.

23 year old Cynthia Halberson agrees: “I don’t care what Paul wrote; I only read the red letters of the Bible–you know the stuff that Jesus said.”

Paul hopes a settlement will help him get back on his feet: “They’ve profited off of me for centuries. Now I just want them to return the favor.”

If he were to win his case with Zondervan, Paul would be awarded $18.2 million dollars. But that is just one of about a dozen publishing companies in his sights.

Publishers Worried

Paul has caused quite a scare in the Christian publishing industry. If Paul is successful, he could end up bankrupting the industry. Retail analyst Simon Anderton suggests that this could only be the begining. “If Paul of Tarsus wins his case, it will open up large, class-action lawsuits. There are many, many, writers who could come forward to follow in Paul’s footsteps. If Moses were to get involved–with his considerable contributions to the scriptures–it could be the end for many Christian publishing companies.”

Ironically, the largest contributor to Christianity–Jesus of Nazareth–isn’t likely to make a dime. Though his life and death are the subject of all of the New Testament writings, he never wrote anything himself.

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13 Responses to “Apostle Paul Sues Publishers for Copyright Infringement”

  1. Erik on December 18th, 2007 12:50 pm

    I hope Zondervan and Paul can reach a settlement out of court. Sure this is a concept taught in scripture but Zondervan might find it all too convenient that many of the verses in question were written by Paul.

  2. Michael on December 18th, 2007 3:48 pm

    This is great! It would be nice to see a radical Christian version of the Onion!

  3. Danny on December 18th, 2007 8:50 pm

    This is a great article!

  4. Jason Barr on December 18th, 2007 10:45 pm

    There’s already a satirical Christian news site - Lark News. It’s not specifically radical, but it’s often on target. And it’s generally quite humorous.

  5. Jonathan Brink on December 18th, 2007 10:45 pm

    It’s kind of sad but with all that money being made on the Bible it kind of makes you wonder what the motivation is for selling all those Bibles.

  6. joe troyer on December 18th, 2007 11:59 pm

    “Look, I don’t want to be an ass. I just want what’s mine.”

    that is the best line in the whole article. You think Paul will let me quote him?

  7. Jason Barr on December 19th, 2007 1:58 am

    Jonathan - especially when you consider that if you follow the trail of ownership to its highest level, Zondervan is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

    In fact quite a large chunk of the Christian publishing industry is done by subsidiary houses of major publishing companies, which are often tied to corporate conglomerates (if not conglomerates themselves).

  8. Michael Cline on December 19th, 2007 10:06 am

    I’m surprised Zondervan doesn’t fire back with “there have been so many recent dispute as to whether or not you really wrote any of these letters, Paul, that it is hard to conceived giving you any share of the profits. All our lawyers/researchers agree with the new scholarship, not the 1,5000 year traditional view.”

    The “falling out of Paul” is something I’ve been thinking a lot about. If we just go so hardcore into our “jesus-following” that we forget about Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ life,death, and ressurection, and what that means for us–we might as well call Raushenbusch back up and have him direct every move we make. No trinity, no atonement, just Jesus and us, building the Kingdom day by day.

    Uh oh.

  9. Jonathan Brink on December 19th, 2007 10:32 am

    Michael, here’s an interesting twist from Zondervan. Paul’s would have no basis in court because his work would essentially have come public domain by now. Copyright laws have limited lifetimes. And Zondervan’s NIV Bible is an interpretation of his words, not the words themselves, so the lawyers would easily win. Sorry Paul but you are out of luck.

  10. the Apostle Paul on December 19th, 2007 11:22 am

    Brother Jonathan,

    You are most certainly correct that copyright laws have limited lifetimes. However, I am hoping to set a new precedent. There is an assumption in copyright law that works enter public domain a certain number of years after somebody dies. But, I am not dead. I am hoping to take this to the supreme court.

  11. Jonathan Brink on December 20th, 2007 12:14 am

    You go Paul. I’m right behind you of the Supreme Court will listen. BTW, did you discover some kind of new resurrection or something?

  12. the Apostle Paul on December 20th, 2007 12:19 am

    Those who are alive in Christ never really die, Jonathan.

  13. Jonathan Brink on December 20th, 2007 11:52 am


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