What Major Bible Translations Are Copyright Free?

Insofar as the copyright laws in the United States are concerned, there are two categories:


  • Protected Works


  • Public Domain


Protected works


Protected works1 refer to creative and intellectual creations that are safeguarded by intellectual property laws. These laws vary by country, but in general, they aim to provide creators with exclusive rights to their creations for a certain period. The primary types of protected works include:


  1. Copyrighted Works: This category covers original literary, artistic, and intellectual creations fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Examples include books, music, paintings, sculptures, software, and other creative works. Copyright grants the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, display, and perform their work.
  2. Trademarks: Trademarks protect symbols, names, and slogans used to identify and distinguish goods or services in the marketplace. They help consumers recognize and associate products with a particular brand.
  3. Patents: Patents protect inventions and grant inventors exclusive rights to make, use, and sell their inventions for a limited period. This exclusivity encourages innovation by providing inventors with the opportunity to recoup their investment.
  4. Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are confidential and valuable information, such as formulas, processes, or customer lists, that give a business a competitive advantage. Unlike patents, trade secrets are not publicly disclosed and have no set expiration date, as long as they remain secret.
  5. Industrial Designs: Industrial designs protect the visual design of objects that are not purely utilitarian but have an aesthetic or ornamental aspect. This includes the shape, surface, or ornamentation of a product.
  6. Rights of Publicity and Privacy: These rights protect an individual's right to control the commercial use of their name, image, likeness, or personal information.


It's important to note that the specific laws and regulations governing intellectual property vary by jurisdiction. The protection afforded to creators and inventors aims to strike a balance between encouraging innovation and creativity and ensuring that the public benefits from the dissemination of knowledge and ideas.


Public Domain


The public domain refers to a space where intellectual property rights, such as copyrights, patents, and trademarks, no longer apply to a particular work or invention. Once a work or invention enters the public domain, it is free for use by the public without the need for permission or payment. This means that anyone can use, reproduce, modify, and distribute the work without legal restrictions. Such works or inventions dated before 1923 are generally considered to be past their copyright expiration date and categorized at public domain2


Works or inventions may enter the public domain through various means, including:


  1. Expiration of Copyright: Copyright protection is not indefinite. Once the copyright term expires, the work automatically enters the public domain. The length of copyright protection varies by jurisdiction and the type of work but is typically for a limited period, after which the work becomes freely accessible to the public.
  2. Voluntary Dedication: The creator or rights holder of a work may choose to waive their rights and dedicate the work to the public domain. This is often done through a public domain dedication or a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.
  3. Failure to Renew: In some countries, copyright holders are required to renew their copyright after a certain period. If they fail to do so, the work may fall into the public domain.
  4. Lack of Eligibility for Protection: Some works may not be eligible for intellectual property protection in the first place, and they are considered part of the public domain from the outset.
  5. Government Works: Works created by government employees as part of their official duties are often automatically placed in the public domain.


Public domain works play a crucial role in the dissemination of knowledge and culture, as they can be freely used by anyone for various purposes. However, it's essential to verify the copyright status and relevant laws in your jurisdiction, as the duration of copyright and rules for entering the public domain can vary internationally.


Bible Versions That Are Public Domain In The United States


  1. American Standard 1901 (ASV)4

  2. Bible in Basic English (BBE)9

  3. Biblia Sacra Vulgata (VULGATE)10

  4. Darby English Bible (DARBY)10

  5. Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)10

  6. King James Version (KJV)10

  7. Open English Bible (OEB)11

  8. Reina-Valera Antigua (RVA)10

  9. Septuagint in American English 20125

  10. Webster's Bible (WBT)6

  11. World English Bible (WEB)7

  12. Young's Literal Translation (YLT)8


The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is one of the most well-known versions that is generally considered to be in the public domain. It was first published in 1611, and its copyright has long since expired. As a result, the text is freely available for public use and can be reproduced without permission3.


Other older translations, such as the Douay-Rheims Bible, the American Standard Version (ASV), and the World English Bible (WEB), may also be in the public domain, depending on the specific edition and the copyright laws in your jurisdiction.


However, it's important to note that modern translations and specific editions of older translations may still be under copyright protection. Translations like the New International Version (NIV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and others are typically protected by copyright. Always check the copyright information associated with a specific edition or translation to ensure compliance with the law.


Additionally, some organizations may release certain editions of the Bible with open licenses, allowing for more permissive use. For example, the World English Bible is an open-licensed modern English translation. Always review the terms and conditions associated with each version to understand the permissions and restrictions that apply.




1 https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html

2 https://guides.library.oregonstate.edu/copyright/publicdomain

3 https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/16377/what-major-translations-of-the-bible-are-in-the-public-domain

4 http://www.bible-discovery.com/bible-license-asv.php

5 https://ebible.org/eng-lxx2012/copyright.htm

6 https://sacred-texts.com/bib/wbs/index.htm

7 https://worldenglish.bible/

8 https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Youngs-Literal-Translation-YLT-Bible/

9 https://www.biblestudytools.com/bbe/

10 https://support.biblegateway.com/hc/en-us/articles/360001403507-What-Bibles-on-Bible-Gateway-are-in-the-public-domain-

11 https://openenglishbible.org/