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Some Knockoff Artists Go to Jail, Others Go to Hell

The wildly irreverent and funny Blingdom of God site reports today on the Vatican's decision to enforce copyright in papal writings, including a brand-new encyclical about sex (who reads the others, anyway?).  To back up its claims, the Vatican reportedly sent one publisher a 15,000 euro bill for about 30 lines of text (including legal fees).  With prices like that, those had better be some pretty inspired words. 

The strange part of the Vatican's new awareness of intellectual property rights is that Christianity probably wouldn't have gotten very far if copyright (or related performance rights) had been around 2,000 years ago.  Christian culture, once it moved beyond its Jewish roots, was all about missionary work and permissive appropriation of the message, not excessive control.  Go out and spread the gospel?  Not if you have to pay royalties. 

Blingdom asks, where will all of this end?  What about knockoff papal rings and other jewelry, easily available at tourist shops outside the Vatican or online?  And how many Hail Marys do you have to say if you get caught buying?

Benedict XVI's ring

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Comments

As has been reported elsewhere, the Vatican publishers are only cracking down on deceptive books. The folks who got charged claimed that their book was nothing but the Pope's words -- but the book actually only included 30 lines by the Pope.

And lying is a sin. :)

Newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. are allowed to reproduce official papal documents for free as long as they acknowledge copyright. People who want to publish papal books have to negotiate and pay. (Money goes to the Church, not to the Pope.)

Interestingly, the Vatican is only claiming copyright on papal works for fifty years. This is pretty short.

Quotes are free. And vatican.va makes most papal documents available for free, anyway. So really, it's not a very restrictive policy.

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