Pickle Publishing "Lawsuit Over Sketches"
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A Response to the Video:
Seventh-day Adventism, the Spirit Behind the Church

by Bob Pickle

Answers to Questions Raised by:
Mark Martin, Sydney Cleveland
Dale Ratzlaff, The White Lie
. . . and

Discern Fact from Fiction

Jehovah's Witnesses, Cont.; Plagiarism

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#103, #104, & #105: "One book, Sketches from the Life of Paul, was plagiarized in its entirety by Ellen G. White. It resulted in a lawsuit and the book was quickly taken out of print."—Narrator. [p. 76]

#103: It was plagiarized in its entirety. This writer has both Mrs. White's 1883 book and Conybeare and Howson's book, and this wild charge is simply not true. As well as being different in both wording and size, the books definitely differ on basic interpretations of verses dealing with Paul's life.

F. D. Nichol's book, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, was published in 1951. It gives statistics for how much material from Conybeare and Howson was included in Sketches. Direct quotations of words, phrases, and clauses, along with close paraphrases, amount to 7% of Mrs. White's book being taken from 4% of Conybeare's book. Another book utilized in this way was one by Farrar. 4% of her book came from 2% of his book. If we throw in loose paraphrases for good measure, we have a total of 15.35% of her book being taken from these two sources (pp. 424-426). This is a far cry from being "plagiarized in its entirety."

Script writer Lorri MacGregor sent this author alleged documentation to support this long-ago debunked lawsuit myth. It consisted of the 1919 Bible Conference Minutes published in volume 10, number 1, of Spectrum. Spectrum is a theologically liberal journal which does not take the position that the Bible, the infallible Word of God, is the final authority in matters of faith and practice. This has led through the years to its publishing of articles endorsing evolution and denying the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

In these minutes discovered in the 1970's, General Conference president A. G. Daniells says that he compared Sketches with Conybeare, "and we read word for word, page after page, and no quotations, no credit, and really I did not know the difference until I began to compare them."

Obviously, he didn't know what he was talking about. The books are not the same "word for word, page after page."

A number of major factual errors like this one, coupled with the fact that the minutes were only recently discovered, raises the question of whether they are a forgery. It appears, however, that they are indeed genuine, and that sometimes Daniells would shoot from the hip, without being particular about accuracy. At times he would grossly exaggerate.

The documentation package is supposed to prove this charge under "Point 55." Rather than proof being given, a citation appears from page 27 of The White Lie which claims that Conybeare and Howson's book is "similar" to Mrs. White's book. Thus once again the documentation package proves the falsity of the video's charges, for if the books are "similar," they cannot be identical, and thus Sketches was not "plagiarized in its entirety."

#104: It resulted in a lawsuit. This myth was debunked at least by 1951 in F. D. Nichol's book.

First of all, Conybeare and Howson's book was from Britain. Since there was no copyright protection in the US for British works written prior to July 1, 1891, it was in the public domain. There thus was no legal basis for such a lawsuit.

Second, even if their book had been written after 1891, copyright protection still did not yet cover the making of derivative works. Conybeare and Howson would have had to prove in a court of law that Mrs. White's book was a plagiarized work, not a derivative work. They would have been hard pressed to do so.

The Thomas Y. Crowell Company of New York, a US publisher of Conybeare's book, wrote in 1924:

We publish Conybeare's LIFE AND EPISTLES OF THE APOSTLE PAUL but this is not a copyrighted book and we would have no legal grounds for action against your book and we do not think that we have ever raised any objection or made any claim such as you speak of.—Nichol, p. 456.

Thomas Y. Crowell was just one publisher of Conybeare's book in America. By law they could freely publish the book without sending any royalties back to Britain, and never get sued, for it just was not a copyrighted work. Since they themselves were publishing the book in its entirety without needing to get permission, they well knew that there could be no lawsuit.

D. M. Canright, an extremely bitter former Adventist, included the lawsuit myth in his 1919 book, Life of Mrs. E. G. White. According to Nichol's research, this is the first time the myth appeared in print, the very year of the above mentioned Bible Conference. According to the 1919 Bible Conference Minutes, A. G. Daniells did mention the lawsuit story as if it were a fact. All this shows is that Daniells likely read Canright's book and thought that the myth was factual. Yet Canright offered no proof whatsoever of the charge, and there was no possibility that it could have been true (Nichol, p. 438).

Sketches was published in 1883. Canright's first book against Adventism and Mrs. White, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, came out in 1889. It contained three short paragraphs about plagiarism, but never mentioned a lawsuit. Over the next 25 years, it went through 14 editions, but the lawsuit myth was never included (Ibid., p. 429). All this indicates that nobody had yet dreamed up this particular fable.

#105: It was quickly taken out of print. Sketches was published in 1883. The Signs of the Times [p. 77] promoted it through most of 1885. As late as 1887, editions of The Great Controversy sold by colporteurs to the general public contained direct advertisements for the book.

American editions of The Great Controversy mentioned Sketches on the title page. Editions in England, homeland of Conybeare and Howson, mentioned Sketches on the title page as late as 1907. Nichol put it well: "What a strange way to 'suppress' a book!" (pp. 443-446).

A Response to the Video

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