On Sharing My Stuff

People often ask me if they can have or share my stuff. Here are my thoughts on this:

OK, a rather vague title admittedly. And it may not appeal to very many folks, but it is one way for me to offer an explanation about something, so I don’t have to keep repeating myself. So indulge me please in this brief explanatory piece.

The gist of this is what I do when folks want to share my stuff, or to get copies of my stuff. In terms of the thousands of articles I have penned over the decades, what is on my website is in a sense something that becomes public domain. That is, anyone can copy it and share it and use it.

And this of course happens all the time. Hopefully when others do this they give proper credit and acknowledgements when they do! Some people will ask for my permission first before they use my stuff, while others will just grab it and run with it.

But what I mainly want to discuss here is when I get requests to get a copy of a PowerPoint slide show I have presented somewhere. In the past I have usually said, “Sure” and let them have it. That in part is because God’s truth should be freely available, and readily shared.

But for a few reasons, I have been a bit less keen about freely sharing of late – or of granting permission for others to just run with my PP talks. Let me offer some of my reasons for this. While the general principle of freely sharing God’s truth still holds, there is a bit more to it than this.

That is, we are in fact talking about intellectual property rights and related matters here. So it depends on what is wanted to be used from my talks. If I simply have a bunch of Bible verses in my PP talks, that would be one thing. Although even there, sometimes it is the fruit of years of Bible study. Indeed there is much more of course involved when someone gives a public presentation.

The simple truth is, my public talks, like my written articles, books, interviews, and so on, are really the cumulative result of over 50 years of reading, thinking, researching, studying and writing on a whole range of issues. They did not appear out of nowhere. They do not come out of the blue. They are the end result of a lifetime of careful and detailed thought, prayer and study.

So they are in a sense very much the fruit of my own hard labours over the years. And we know Scripture speaks about the labourer being worthy of his hire. I am not really talking about money here of course. I speak, write and do stuff all the time for the Kingdom without any financial reimbursement. But what I am talking about here is how fellow believers use my stuff, or should use my stuff.

Sadly on one extreme, I know of folks who have asked for my large PP talks (often 100 or more slides), which I gave them, and then they went off and used it as their own! They basically just deleted my name and put their name on it! There is a level of dishonesty here and unethical behaviour I must say. It certainly is not very Christlike! Not that this happens too often, but Christians of all people should know better.

By the way, this has even happened with some of my written stuff over the years. I might spend weeks in writing a detailed paper on something, and others will ask for a copy. Then I learn that some of them have passed it off as their own. Again, they simply remove my name and add their own name. This is just intellectual theft, to say the least.

Then there is the issue of how people share stuff on the social media. Often it is hard to know where something originates, but a good rule of thumb is to give credit where it is due, when and where possible, and not just pass stuff on as if you were the one who created it. But that matter I have discussed elsewhere, eg.: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/07/12/on-internet-etiquette/

And one could speak of a related issue on this – when I have taught at some Bible colleges and the like for a while. Sometimes they will eventually video my talks or lectures, and use them, so I am no longer invited back. Presumably each new semester’s worth of students are still paying the school their fees, but they no longer have me as a live and in person – and paid – lecturer! I am not sure how ethical – and legal – that is as well! (I once had to confront one Bible college about this, and they ended up giving me a small payout!)

But even for those who are very well-intentioned, there may be a case for saying no to just passing on my talks as they seek to go around speaking on the issue. As any teacher knows, the teacher always learns far more than the students as they prepare their lectures, talks, etc.

We learn the most as we prepare our own lessons or put together our own sermons or talks. Simply using other people’s stuff is hardly much of a learning experience. Sure, we can share bits and pieces with one another when and where appropriate, but those who want to go public and speak and teach on various things are advised to create their own material, and not just borrow someone else’s.

Moreover, my slide shows are really just vehicles for my own presentation. That is, the slides offer an outline to what I want to share, and I speak TO those slides. The slides by themselves would be rather bare and even misleading if my running commentary was divorced from them.

Often I have quotes and the like in my slides, so people can see what I am referring to. But whatever is in the slides, I do use them as a bare outline, and it is my oral presentation that goes along with the visual presentation that makes for a complete talk.

So if someone else takes my slides and uses them in his or her own public talks, they will not have the same background, expertise, or additional knowledge to go with it. And if they do have all this, then they do not need my slide show, as they would/should have their own!

Finally, if I present a slide show in public, often there is a question and answer session afterwards. I am quite happy to do these, as they further help in the learning experience. But if someone who is a bit more green simply shares my PP talks, they may be in a less promising place if asked to later do a Q&A.

So there are various reasons why it may not be wise for me to just hand over entire slide shows which are the product of years of thought, reading and study. In a sense this IS my intellectual property and for others to just grab it and pass it off as their own is not right. Using my material as if they are experts on the issue when they may not be can be a real worry.

This is why I have become less keen to just hand out my PP talks to anyone who asks for them. Sure, if people just want it for the content, for home use, because they could not get it all down as they took notes, that is one thing. That is OK. But if they want to take my talks and go out and speak on the same issues, then it may not be so wise for them to just recycle what I have put together.

My apologies if this seems like a rather unnecessary or irrelevant article. For many folks it likely is. But as I say, I often get requests from people to get a copy of my talks, often with a view to using them as they give public talks. So as to not have to provide them a lengthy rationale anew each time about my misgivings on this, that is why I discuss it here. OK? So, back to your business!

[1383 words]

13 Replies to “On Sharing My Stuff”

  1. I usually add your name separately to the cut/paste of everything I share of yours. My only concern is FB attacking attitude and attention this will bring. Certainly I’m not meaning to be masquerading as my own. One, I’m not that wordsworthy and like all posts I like to put a small unique bit of my words in to a post I share/comment on. Two, that’s called plagiarism. Thanks for your continued hard work via your blogs and posts Bill.
    Carmel Parker

  2. This, too, is an important article and needs to be said. Completely understand where you are coming from. God bless the outstanding work you do.

  3. Bill
    I completely understand your reasoning about PP and the problem around it. Good, loving and straight-backed!
    If any “borrow” your material within the walls of the Academy, it is sad, it is different in the small (prayer) group. The Bible speaks of wisdom and not just knowledge – this post testifies to the former

    Rolf Ö – Sweden

  4. I’m sorry to hear this has happened so much, Bill. Intellectual property theft is just that, theft, and it is shameful for Christians in particular – who should be well aware of this – to take your very hard work over the years and pass it off as their own. It is so very mean-spirited. In fact, it’s despicable.

    I have certainly sent on your articles because they are so very good – but made sure they knew who wrote them.

    Thank you indeed for your extraordinary contributions all this time.

    God bless and keep you – and I pray that your wife is recovering well.

  5. Bill, in today’s world, clarity is always welcome…and thank you for it.

    I DO often share the Culture Watch ‘link’ with some Christian brothers as you have so many informative articles, and when I do ‘cut and paste’ a portion, ‘Bill Muehlenberg – Culture Watch’ is always included.

    Needless to say, my trying to pass off any of your writings as mine would be automatically suspect by my friends. It would be like me showing up at a meeting wearing a ‘Rolex’ Watch, immediately the question would be, where did you get that knock off?

    But, I do believe that 99.9 % of your avid readers appreciate the years of learning and prayers that go into your articles/talks/etc and give you that deserved credit. However, thank you for your addressing this subject.

    Ron Adams

  6. You are right, the original author brings so much more than notes or presentation.

    As for reusing session/lecture videos, esp. where fees are involved, that is just wrong.

  7. I can understand wanting to use a few slides as for those who aren’t technological savvy they take a little time but this is wrong. We expect the world to act this way stealing from one another but for Christians to act this way is proof that we are very much OF the world!!

    I have heard Christians justify theft like this by saying “there are no copyrights in the kingdom!” This is just pure Communist MANURE!!! After all if what’s yours is mine too then why can’t I use it??? And it is just a small step from this to taking your name off and putting my name on. The accolades however … those are mine! After all the whole sharing thing only goes one way.

    Part of our problem is that we have become like the world in so many ways. We have adopted some ways of the world in order to win converts. But when you lay down with dogs don’t be surprised when you get up with fleas. When you adopt some ways of the world don’t be surprised when you adopt other ways too. We’ve become acclimated to the world so much the world has infected us IT is influencing us NOT the other way around. Part of the problem is that converts are having trouble with what happens when you leave sin. Sin in some areas is just like a drug and the converts are much like drug addicts. After a little time they start going through a withdrawal period where they miss the drug and the converts are much like drug addict and they miss the sins but they don’t want to go against God so they try to find a way to bring their sin into the church have the church bless it and endorse and promote it. This has gone on for DECADES back to the late 60’s at least. The church makes an excuse as to why THIS sin is not sin anymore why THIS worldly, or unworldly if you know what I mean, thing is now godly. That is how we become OF the world instead of IN the world. Converts are allowed to bring their former sins in to sooth their withdrawal jitters rather than force then to go through the WHOLE withdrawal process, helping them of course, thus we rob them of true conversation giving them instead a false conversation with a false salvation. We allow them to take Iron Pyrite instead of receiving Gold from God simply because it it is also shinny and is faster.

    We can’t accept any sin in the church but once we do we accept more and more. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Even justified sin is still sin. “It will bring in the young people” “It’ll make it easier for people to come to Christ if they are told they are wicked sinners” “Who are we to judge” “As long as his heart is right what does it matter who he is in bed with” “All sins are bad and we all sin so why spotlight this ONE sin of his” “I told a lie, he slept with another man. In the eyes of God it is the same so we really can’t forbid him to join us or ask him to stop. I know I’ll still lie so what if he still sleeps with men”. Excusing sin is why we went from Puritans being a group of Christians to being a group of far leftists!

    I do copy any quotes you put in your articles, with the quotes author, as I collect quotes. But mostly I get book titles from your articles. You have a lot of good books in your articles. Especially the ones where you recommend books for reading. Back when my eyes allowed for more reading I would want to see the books in footnotes because I would want to look at them too.

    I have seen some pastors etc who never get asked questions about what they say and are so believed that when some asks basic questions or asks some in depth questions on a subject spoken on the person, or their followers/supporters, get very upset. Sometimes I think its because they have no evidence but their followers don’t care, other times I think they used to have the evidence but after years of not being questioned they simply lost or forgot the evidence. Now I wonder if sometimes they stole the presentation or study and thus they never had the evidence even though it exists.

    Let’s purge the church of all the leaven. Let’s also STOP listening to the business growth model people first brought in in the 1950’s. Yes it might mean DOWNSIZING from that megachurch to a more quaint sized one. It might mean putting that multi million dollar expansion on hold for now and thinking about what GOD wants more that what you want. It might mean ACTUALLY preaching instead of the usual mealy mouthed mush you hear from pulpits today. Jesus wouldn’t be able to preach in most churches today. He would be escorted out asked to brush up on his theology and his approach and his emphasis. There a joke I heard I don’t remember anything but the punch line: Jesus to the person – keep trying I’ve been trying to get into that church for years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *