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Copyrighting God

Book description

Copyrighting God provides the first detailed account of how American religious organizations used copyright in sacred texts not simply for economic gain but also for social organization and control. Including chapters on the angelic authorship of The Urantia Book, Mary Baker Eddy's use of copyright to construct the Christian Science Church, interdenominational disputes in the Worldwide Church of God, and the Church of Scientology's landmark lawsuits against Internet service providers, this book examines how religious copyright owners mobilized the law in order to organize communities, protect sacred goods, produce new forms of spiritual identity, and even enchant the material world. In doing so, this book demonstrates that these organizations all engaged in complex efforts to harmonize legal arguments and theological rationales in order to care for and protect religious media, thereby coming to a nuanced understanding of secular law as a resource for, and obstacle to, their unique spiritual objectives.


'Copyrighting God explores how copyright law is crucially involved in constructing and maintaining the sacredness of religious texts and the aura of charismatic leaders, framing a church’s relationship with internal and external critics, and maintaining the boundaries and identity of new religious communities. Even more surprising, some of the specific challenges that religions have posed to intellectual property have been influential to its further articulation. Superbly researched and subtly argued through copious printed and archival sources, Copyrighting God has many gems to offer to many disciplines, from religious studies to law, media studies, American studies and history, and cultural studies. Ventimiglia’s gift to communicate complex arguments in crystal-clear prose will gain this book many admirers, from the classroom to the public sphere.'

Mario Biagioli - Distinguished Professor, University of California, Davis

'Focusing on disputes around intellectual property, Ventimiglia demonstrates how religious communities rely on secular law to define and protect their religious knowledge. I can’t imagine a more innovative, more timely, or more urgently needed investigation of the dynamics between law, religion, publishing, and technology. Ventimiglia’s book makes a powerful contribution to our understanding of how contemporary religion takes shape.'

Ari Y. Kelman - Jim Joseph Professor of Education and Jewish StudiesStanford University Graduate School of Education

'This exciting book asks scholars of religion to identify intellectual property law as an important site for organizing - and controlling - religious practice. Through rich analysis of legal disputes, the author considers how the commercial management of property defines modern religious experience. A powerful and necessary new argument.'

Kathryn Lofton - Yale University, Connecticut

'This is an original, engaging, and thoughtful book that will be of interest to anyone seeking to gain a deeper understanding of an important but neglected area of the history of copyright law, as well as the complex relationship between religion and law in the United States. Through careful socio-legal analysis and archival research, the author reveals the legal resourcefulness that American religious leaders and organizations have employed in asserting ownership over sacred and prophetic texts. At the same time he also demonstrates that a greater dependence on the law might damage religious credibility and vice-versa.'

Brad Sherman - University of Queensland

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