The Word$ of God (©)

While the rest of the world is moving towards making information more accessible via open source, the Vatican is continuing its policy of dragging the Church further and further back by putting a solid, legal lock on the Words of God (as allegedly revealed to the Pope) via copyright law. Henceforth, publishing the divinely inspired words of the current Pope, as well as his predecessors, without paying up will not only get you on the “naughty” list of the man upstair, but will be punishable by heavy fines:

The edict covers Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, which is to be issued this week amid huge international interest. The edict is retroactive, covering not only the writings of the present pontiff — as Pope and as cardinal — but also those of his predecessors over the past 50 years. It therefore includes anything written by John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII.

The decision was denounced yesterday for treating the Pope’s words as “saleable merchandise” and endangering the Church’s mission to “spread the Christian message”.

A Milanese publishing house that had issued an anthology containing 30 lines from Pope Benedict’s speech to the conclave that elected him and an extract from his enthronement speech is reported to have been sent a bill for €15,000 (£10,000). This was made up of 15 per cent of the cover price of each copy sold plus “legal expenses” of €3,500.

Vittorio Messori, who has co-authored works with Pope Benedict and John Paul II, said that he was “perplexed and alarmed . . . This is wholly negative and absolutely disastrous for the Vatican’s image.” A pope’s words should be available to all free of charge, he said, and to “cash in in this way surrounds the clergy with the odour of money”. (link)

Of course, anyone who’s familiar with the history of organized religion shouldn’t be in the least shocked to find “the odour of money” lingering around the clergy.

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2 thoughts on “The Word$ of God (©)”

  1. Interesting.

    What’s potentially even more problematic about this than the money aspect of it is the potential for the Catholic Church to use their copyright to protect the Pope’s words from criticism, similar to the way the Church of Scientology guards its most secret “teachings.”

    Plus, the idea of applying a copyright retroactively for the past 50 years is fairly worrysome.

  2. Word, CE.

    I think that more than a cautionary example of the evils of the current leadership of the Catholic Church, this demonstrates the dangers of modern copyright law in general. I can remember a time when the people who created works of art or intellectual thought were actually best-served by copyright law; by defining the categories of public domain, fair use, and full rights, it actually facilitiated the exchange of fair ideas. But within the last twenty years, the people fighting against copyright laws aren’t mountebanks, but the very people who do the thinking and the creating. Modern copyright is a battle between individual ownership and corporate ownership, and the Church is a corporation, have no doubt about it.

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