Frame on Intellectual Property

Yesterday I mentioned some books I’ve been enjoying by John Frame. I should also point out that Frame has a very useful website along with Vern Poythress. I really wish they would hire Challies or someone like that to give the site a facelift, but I really appreciate when theologians put so much useful material online.

A sample is Frame’s unusual take on the issue of intellectual property:

Now what kind of law is copyright law? The literature sometimes describes copyright violation as “stealing,” and that would put copyright law in the moral category. But that is not at all obvious. When a carpenter makes a table and sells it to me, I then become the owner of the table. I can make another table like it, if I have the skill to do so; indeed, I can sell the table and its “copies” to someone else, even at a profit if that is possible…Why does the law give privileges to publishers (“ownership rights” of publications which continue even following their sale) which it does not give to carpenters and others?

You have to love a theologian who takes on CCLI:

Surely it is not reasonable, when photocopy technology is at our disposal, for a church secretary or music director to have to spend half of his/her time locating copyright owners, writing letters, sending out checks, wondering how long it will all take before the church can sing a particular song, even when this process results only in tiny benefits for the copyright owner. Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc., has aided this process enormously, to be sure, and I would definitely recommend their service to churches that use hymn transparencies, etc…But CCLI charges annual fees which are too large for some churches. Further, in my view, CCLI’s own restrictions on the use of copyright materials are not always sufficient to allow reasonable use of technology. At present they do not permit the copying of music for instrumentalists and lead singers. And besides that, their literature is full of those threats about even inadvertent breaking of the law. Frankly I am getting tired of reading that stuff. A Christian organization (which CCLI claims to be) should seek the interests of the body of Christ, rather than the publishing industry. CCLI should be seeking to get the laws changed, rather than betting its own future on the maintenance of the status quo.


Lots of very useful material on the Frame-Poythress website.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada