The copyright zealots are going to love this. The Vatican has issued an edict saying that "all papal documents, including encyclicals, will be governed by copyright invested in the official Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana." according to the Times.
I've cut the section from chapter 1 of my book that was going to deal with the Pope and the Net but I'm almost tempted to put it back in.
"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."
That's about €620 or £420 per line. I wonder if I could negotiate that kind of royalty rate? With 220 page textbook that would amount to a little over £3million. But then he is the Pope. It would be a fascinating area to investigate empirically - the effect of this edict. Any cyberlaw types out there with good Vatican connections should think seriously about it. :-)
Update: Doc Searls has a great one-liner on this story, "Is the Pope cluetholic?"