Archive for January, 2006

This Is Not A Joke: Pope Sues To Prevent Spreading The Good Word.

January 23rd, 2006, by Peter Hirshberg | located in Conversations | Comments off | trackback


The Vatican has announced that is is enforcing copyright on the Pope’s writings and encyclicals. You heard that right, if you spread the word… you now have to pay a 15% royalty to the Church. And you thought the whole point of the Church was to Spread The Word. Forget it… Now its, "If you quote the Pope, you pay the Man." This isn’t evangelism, its antivangelism. The Vatican seems to have learned a bit of "this ain’t no fooling around" from the RIAA, Disney, and the New York Subway System:

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.

At first I thought this was an Onion comedy piece. "Pope Sues To Prevent Spreading the Good Word," is a very funny gag. But.. its true! And further proof that calcified old institutions can act incredibly stupid when it comes to understanding a world where publishing isn’t about control but about spreading ideas through a network of influencers. The Times article is full of quotes from the Italian versions of Doc Searls, Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen expressing outrage and confusion at all this.

The article goes on to say that if the Church approves of how and when you use the Pope’s words, they would be willing to waive the fees, but only by "prior agreement." This is an egregious mashup of bad copyright policy, bad free speech policy, and Nixonesque strong-arm tactics.

But in the end its only fair to give Vatican the last word:

"A Vatican spokesman said that the Holy See had to defend itself against “pirated editions.”

No, come to think of it, I get the last word. "The Cluetrain will not be making any stops in Vatican City anytime soon."