Vatican asserts copyright on Pope's works

The Holy See has reasserted its legal ownership of the copyright to works by Pope Benedict XVI, prompting a heated exchange with a leading Italian publisher.

Catholic World News reports that in an editorial at the weekend, the Italian daily La Stampa charged that the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, was seeking to squeeze a profit by limiting access to the Pope's statements. The Italian paper charged that the Vatican wanted to "terrorise" editors and publishers with the threat of charging heavy fees for use of the Pope's written work.

Libreria Editrice Vaticana shot back with a public statement released yesterday, saying that the Vatican was not limiting access to the Pope's work, but merely protecting against "piracy" of papal statements. The Vatican publisher stressed that Italian publishers were well aware of the rules governing reproduction of papal statements, and that those rules have been essentially unchanged since 1978.

The question of copyright ownership for papal works has special urgency, as reporters await the appearance of the first encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI. The Italian journal Famiglia Cristiana won a major coup by arranging for publication of the full text of Deus Caritas Est, but had to set back the publication date of its special issue until the encyclical was released.

Some English-language reports on the dispute in Italy have suggested - inaccurately - that the Vatican would forbid quotations from the encyclical, or charge fees to journals that reproduced passages from the work.

Vatican officials explain that their goal is not to limit access to the Pope's words, but to prevent "premature" publication of leaked documents, and to guard against exploitation of the Pope's name.

The dispute with La Stampa began when Libreria Editrice Vaticana sent a bill of 15,000 euros to the publishers of a book entitled The Dictionary of Pope Ratzinger, which was advertised as coming from "the pen or the voice of Joseph Ratzinger." The journalist who compiled that book wrote the first article in La Stampa criticizing the Vatican policy.

Vatican shoots back in copyright dispute for Pope's works (Catholic World News 23/1/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Spread the word, but the Vatican will charge for it (The Australian 24/1/06)
Vatican invokes papal copyright (The Guardian/Associated Press 23/1/06)
Vatican 'cashes in' by putting price on the Pope's copyright (The Times 23/1/06)

24 Jan 2006