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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

CPH, Copyright, the Catechism, and the Church

[Note: the following was written by the Rev. Peter C. Bender  as a comment to "Difficulties of the LCMS Visited on LSB and CPH" in the ensuing discussion about CPH's copyright and its policies regarding the 1986 translation of the Small Catechism.  Fr. Bender is pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, Wisconsin and founder of the Concordia Catechetical Academy.  His response is reproduced here without editorial comment. - Ed.]

The official 1986 translation of Luther's Small Catechism by the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod ought to be public domain for all of our congregations to use without royalty fees being paid to CPH. That is my opinion. 

One of Luther's major concerns was that we, as congregations and pastors, adopt one form of the Small Catechism and stick with it year in and year out for the sake of teaching the faith and building a common language. It is destructive to synodical harmony when each congregation has its own translation or each entity of the synod has its own translation because the royalty fees of CPH are punitive. 

The Concordia Catechetical Academy of Peace Lutheran Church (an official auxiliary of our congregation) was formed to promote Luther's Small Catechism and faithful Lutheran Catechesis to the Church at large. While one could argue that the CCA produces catechetical materials "commercially" our use of the Small Catechism is NOT for profit. CPH was instituted to be of support to the congregations and pastors of the synod in preaching the Gospel and teaching the faith, but as everyone at CPH knows, it does cost money to produce materials. The "modest fee" that we are charged for use of the Small Catechism is 10% of the retail cost of whatever volume the Small Catechism appears in. Our catechumen edition retails for $18, so our fee per volume to CPH is $1.80. Our Catechist Edition (which has exactly the same amount of copyrighted material in it as the catechumen edition) retails for $40 per volume, so our fee per volume is $4.00. Since the copyrighted material in both volumes is the same, this means that Concordia Publishing House is "profiting" off of what I have written in the Catechist edition to the tune of $2.10. I would prefer not to be lectured about our "commercial use" of the Catechism. 

We are a congregation of the Synod. We produce catechetical materials to help the church. We give away catechetical materials to foreign Lutheran Church bodies and missions. We are not in this to "make money" commercially. We have been told that charging for use of our translation of the catechism is just the way business is done in the publishing business, yet it is only Concordia Publishing House that treats us this way. 
We have made use of the New King James Version in all of our materials since 1997. Thomas Nelson Publishers charges us nothing for the use of their translation as long as we follow their copyright guidelines, which we are more than happy to do. Thomas Nelson Publishers recognizes that such generous copyright permissions ONLY ENHANCES THE PURCHASE OF NKJV Bibles and materials. The same would be true for CPH when it comes to the Small Catechism and the liturgy and prayers in LSB. 

We, the Concordia Catechetical Academy, encourages our clients to purchase such things as Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, The Treasury of Daily Prayer, and the "Blue hardcover Catechism" from CPH (which contains the synodical explanation to the Small Catechism), and many other fine resources that CPH produces. 

There was a time, when the CCA first started its work, that we were not altogether certain that CPH would be producing the kind of fine confessional materials we have seen over the last ten to fifteen years. I am very grateful for the work that CPH has done in recent times. But the CCA is no threat to CPH, in fact, what we do only serves to support the confessional materials they publish.

The Small Catechism, Book of Concord, Liturgy and Prayers of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod belong to all of us. These works are very different from original works by authors where copyright protection and royalties are appropriate. But when it comes to the Catechism, the Lutheran Confessions, and the Liturgy it is my prayer that we would stop charging each other royalties for their use. We would all benefit. But most of all, the capacity to preach and teach the Gospel would be enhanced.