Friday, January 27, 2006

Copyrighting

I do what I can (what I know how to do so far) to pay attention to conversations and the flows of power governing issues of copyright - particularly to issues rising with the increased portability, speed, and migration of information in the digital age. This "conversation" touched back today to traces of another time - another conversation still (in)forming my identity: the days of communion, catechism, and weekly attendance at mass as a Roman Catholic girl. Most of those days are in shadow now, but it still seems that memory serves in marking the words of the Pope as "the voice of God on earth."

That being the case, the recent "first" from the Vatican to copyright
all papal documents - a move positioned as current and retroactive - seems a bold move to me, and one being met with outrage and denouncing from many around the world as a reduction of the Pope's words to "saleable merchandise." As for merchandise being sold in the name of God, there's nothing new here; I've never attended a church that didn't find one way or another to convert too many money into opportunities for making a profit. It's less the merchandising that moves my attention than the application of copyright in something like a "land grab" for ideas and words. Copyright was intended to be a "protective" move on behalf of the author. From whom are the words of the Pope being protected and for what purpose? And when, given current laws (the life of the author + 70 years, I think), would the copyright for the "voice of God on earth" expire? Already difficult conversations seem to be getting even more out of hand.

The Milanese publishing house that recently published 30 lines from Pope Benedict's enthronement speech might readily agree: The unexpected bill received from the Vatican totaled 15,000 (Euro), a little more than $18,000 U.S. dollars. Oh, and "legal expenses" of an additional $4,250 were tacked on, too.


Read more on this topic from Richard Owen at the
TIMESonline.


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