The days which precede the release of the new papal encyclical have been dominated in the Italian press by many articles (mostly quite critical) of the new copyright system set up for pontifical texts -- quite a way to introduce an encyclical called "God is Love"... When the decree on copyright was issued by the Secretary of State last May, most comments were related to the pope's texts as a private author. But its most far-reaching effects are those related to the official pontifical texts.
No Encyclical, Angelus speech, or actually any official document of any kind, by the pope or any congregation, may be published without the authorization of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (the LEV, the official Vatican Publishing House).
La Stampa explains the major points of the new copyright rules:
"The 'written' magisterium of Benedict XVI will be administered by the [Libreria Editrice] Vaticana. If another editor wishes to publish an encyclical, an apostolic exhortation, or a speech, he must present a project of edition to the LEV. 'The text of the encyclical-comment ratio shall be 1 to 2 (1/3 of the book used by the document and 2/3 by the theological-philosophical commentary'. The LEV shall grant approval and shall determine the time of use for the commented encyclical' But the editor must pay: 'The agreement, in economical terms, shall vary between 3 and 5% of the cover price, with anticipated [payment] to be agreed on according to the published volumes (for example: encyclicals 5%, other documents 4%, anthologies of speeches 3%)' And it will be necessary to ask for authorization even for the publication of small excerpts, in commentaries, guides, or anthologies."
The copyright is claimed also retroactively, to all texts of the past 50 years.
Now, I could theoretically understand the need of copyright to protect the integrity of texts, but this goes way too far. If the Index was abolished in part because the Church agreed it would be impossible to have any kind of knowledge of the sheer volume of works published in the 1960s, to try to control the diffusion of pontifical texts in the age of the internet is pathetic. So, the integrity of texts is not the issue here; the issue is MONEY.
Which is why Vittorio Messori, interviewed yesterday by La Stampa, is quite harsh in his criticism of this copyright plan:
"It seems to me a negative affair. Once again, the odor of money is felt around the priests.. ... the interest of lay journalists to allow their readers to have access to the message of the Pope should not be a reason for pride for Catholics? Do we wish to stop the diffusion of the message of the Pope, who speaks Urbi et Orbi, and put it under an economical cover ...I am surprised. As an image operation, it is disastrous."
I could not agree more. It looks disastrous and it is disastrous. It is shameful and embarrassing to all Catholics and a blot on the image of the Church, which is shocking for an Apostolic See which, since the Council, has been so self-conscious about its image to the world.
More information here (in Italian); The Times [of London] has accurately (believe it or not) described the facts in today's edition.
Et intravit Jesus in templum Dei, et ejiciebat omnes vendentes et ementes in templo, et mensas numulariorum, et cathedras vendentium columbas evertit: et dicit eis : "Scriptum est: Domus mea domus orationis vocabitur; vos autem fecistis illam speluncam latronum." (St. Matthew, XXI, 12-13)