Copywrongs

You know what is worse than Christians flagrantly disregarding copyright and intellectual property laws* (you know the whole “Thou shall not steal” bit of the Bible)… Christians flagrantly disregarding copyright for the purpose of bad commercial parody.

Making money by stealing other people’s intellectual property is much worse than just stealing their intellectual property for yourself. Making money by stealing someone’s material for second rate parody “Jesus Junk” is somewhere down the bottom. Here’s a story that made my stomach churn.

Jesus Junk - a really bad shirt

Trademark attorney Michael G. Atkins of Seattle said legal parodies of commercial trademarks are protected under the First Amendment, but such religious products generally don’t fall into that category.

“You could take Microsoft and change their logo around to make fun of Microsoft, and that would be legal,” he said. “But I can’t use the Microsoft logo to promote my Christian theme because there’s no real connection there. That’s illegal.”

Here’s what one of the creators and purveyors of Jesus Junk had to say for himself (as reported in the USA Today story)… Kerusso is the company responsible for producing a bunch of terrible shirts.

Kinnett views the commercial spoofs — which only make up 15% or so of Kerusso’s merchandise — as modern-day parables.

“If Jesus were here today would he make parody T-shirts? I doubt it,” Kinnett said. “But in his day, he did use parables. He used things that were common and recognized in everyday life to make a point or say something with a deeper meaning.”

* I still think Christian copyright holders should not “hold” their “rights” for the sake of the kingdom – but if they don’t then the end users have to respect that decision (and the law).

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the pastor of City South Presbyterian Church, a church in Brisbane, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus. If you'd like to support his writing financially you can do that by giving to his church.

7 thoughts on “Copywrongs”

  1. I think christian clothing should be phased out altogether. Shirts etc advertising your particular church are fine, but where's the value in wearing 'god is my hero' on your chest? Think it would shut down a conversation before it even began.

    Similarly, ornaments, trinkets, stationary, posters of kittens with balls of wool and inspirational verses…

    1. Why is it ok to advertise your specific church (which is arguably less important than the fact you're a Christian) and not the fact you're a Christian?

  2. I don't really understand the problem here.

    "“But I can’t use the Microsoft logo to promote my Christian theme because there’s no real connection there. That’s illegal.”"

    Since when? Weird Al parodies heaps of songs, and the parodies often have nothing to do with the original thing. In fact, I'd say most parodies you see/hear around the place have no connection with the original item… except the fact it's being parodied.

  3. I used to wear shirts with Christian messages on, until one day I was wearing one at uni that said 'The Truth will set you free' on the back, and I heard someone say to someone else 'no it won't, it might get you locked up'.
    I stopped wearing them to uni after that, and stopped buying them altogether. Except for one, that says 'You will know they are Christians by their t-shirts'. And i'll only wear that when I know there are only other Christians around.

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