Monday, January 23, 2006

Roma, We Have a Problem...

Writing from Rome, Richard Owen of The Times (of London) reports that spreading the papal message might just cost those of us who do it a pretty penny.
For the first time all papal documents, including encyclicals, will be governed by copyright invested in the official Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

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”.

Publishers will have to negotiate a levy of between 3 per cent and 5 per cent of the cover price of any book or publication “containing the Pope’s words”. Those who infringe the copyright face legal action and a higher levy of 15 per cent.
To be honest, I'm really freaked out about this. I now have to do some long, hard mulling about whether or not I can post the speech texts and translations anymore, which would be so upsetting as those are some of my favorite posts. But a royalties bill from the Libreria is positively the last thing I need.

(That said, the guitar case, i.e. the Donation Button along the right side that pays the bills, remains open and famished -- any help in keeping Libreria Editrice Whispers purring along is much-appreciated.)