Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Vatican and Copyrights: The Real Story

When it was reported a few months ago that the Vatican was going to start enforcing copyright protections on papal works many reacted with outrage. Claims were made that the Church was about to restrict access to Church teaching all for the sake of profit.


Everything is still available for free on-line.

In fact, those who led the charge that the Pope was simply being greedy--e.g., the Italian paper La Stampa--were the very same ones who had previously been making a killing on the lack of copyright enforcement.

In January a Vatican correspondent for La Stampa, Marco Tosatti, had received a bill from LEV, demanding payment of 15,000 pounds (at the time, about $18,400) for the use of material by Pope Benedict. Not coincidentally, it was Tosatti who led the editorial charge when La Stampa criticized the Vatican for asserting control of the Pope's intellectual-property rights.

But Tosatti's use of Pope Benedict's written work was a matter of a simple quotation or two. The Italian journalist had published a book entitled The Dictionary of Pope Ratzinger, composed almost entirely of the Pope's spoken and written words. In his preface to the book, Tosatti had assured readers: "Everything you will find here, beyond this introduction, comes from the pen or the voice of Joseph Ratzinger." In short, Tossati had tried to do precisely what he now charged Vatican officials with doing: make a profit by publishing the Pope's work.

In asserting its copyright privileges in this case, LEV explained, it was seeking to protect the Pope's interest, in the same way that any publisher protects its authors. Journalists may still quote the Pope freely, if their objective is to inform readers about what the Pontiff has said. But if their goal is to make a profit from the Pope's work, then the Pope is entitled to a share.

Why is that too much to ask? In fact, the Pope himself makes nothing at all - all the monies received goes directly to the work of the Church. If the Pope writes something, and some people are making money off it, why should they not give some of that to the Church? This is common sense.

The article which originally appeared in Catholic World Report is now available over at Insight Scoop. Of course, Insight Scoop is the blog which appears on Ignatius Press' website - the publisher of the Pope's English books. In the article the president of Ignatius Press is cited as saying the the Vatican made no effort to restrict the Pope's other publishers. On the contrary, he said, it was "very helpful, very accommodating" in recognizing the legal rights of the other parties involved.

Which is good for Ignatius Press - which I believe is still run out of a little house.

1 comment:

Jibin Ukken said...
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