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Holy See Declares a "Unique Copyright" On the Pope 447

Posted by kdawson
from the vatican-rag dept.
An anonymous reader sends in news of what must be some kind of record in overreaching intellectual property claims: the Vatican has declared that the name, image, and any symbols of the Pope are for exclusive use of the Holy See. They may have a point if, as the declaration hints, some have used "ecclesiastical or pontifical symbols and logos to attribute credibility and authority to initiatives" unrelated to the Vatican. But how much room will they allow for fair use? Will high school newspapers have to remove the Papal Coat of Arms from their Vatican news columns? The royalty schedule was not released, so it's not clear how much Slashdot will have to pay to run this story (or if there will be a penalty for the accompanying pagan idol).


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Holy See Declares a "Unique Copyright" On the Pope

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  • by thebiss (164488) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:03AM (#30508840)

    ...who have found using IP an effective way to manage criticism.

  • by Fished (574624) <amphigory AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:28AM (#30509016)
    Something that I rarely hear pointed out is that, with copyright as we know it today, Christianity would have died "in the womb." Imagine if the various churches who were the recipients of Paul's letters were unable to make copies and forward them to other churches. Imagine if the Bible were originally copyrighted (the way that the modern critical texts are! I still don't really get that one--how a 2000 year-old text can be coyrighted.) Copyright is an enemy of the Christian faith, and I'm disappointed in the Vatican--of course, here I am a Baptist whose theological 40% evangelical, 30% Anbaptist, and 30% Eastern Orthodox, so maybe that's not surprising.
  • Terrible article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coppro (1143801) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:28AM (#30509024)
    Ugh... I wish people would stop mixing up the difference between trademark and copyright. Notwithstanding that the Vatican is a sovereign state and can do whatever the heck it wants within its boundaries, what they're really declaring is that the trademark of the Pope is going to be reserved for their exclusive use. Copyright isn't even involved here.
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <{skennedy} {at} {}> on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:37AM (#30509070) Homepage

    I'm not so sure I'd use the word "effective". Or "manage" really.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:41AM (#30509084) Journal

    There's been at least one long standing battle in the US over much the same problem: people taking an image, name and/or conceptual equivalent, and using it in such a way as to ... dishonor is frequently used here, but not many understand the it from the injured parties' standing.... insult is closer but too weak ... we'll just say: to promote a commercial product, the juxtaposition of the appropriated image and the product being contrary to the known statements of the party imaged and/or the descendants.

    The product in this case is Crazy Horse malt liquor. Crazy Horse spoke out against alcohol many times, specifically claiming its use was destroying his people. His descendants have been trying to get the brewer to stop using the name. No, they didn;t attempt to acquire copy right or trademark protection, because they didn't think they'd need it. In their culture, such protection is automatic and seated deeply in the cultural mores.

  • Re:Scope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:43AM (#30509092) Homepage

    Under the Berne Convention and all other copyright treaties, local copyright laws apply in every country. Trademark laws are local as well. The state of Holy See could pass legislation copyrighting the Bible for God's sake (pun intended), and it would have no impact whatsoever on the rest of the world, where that legislation has no relevance.

    Whether organizations around the world connected to the Roman Catholic Church are affected by this isn't a matter of copyright law. That's simply a matter of the rules that a church lays out for its members. If the RCC says "no meat on Friday" or "no condoms" or "no use of the pope's logo without permission", that's just a church being a church. I can see members of that church being concerned about a change in those rules, but is this News For Nerds or Stuff That Matters? No.

  • Re:Scope (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:14AM (#30509254)

    This appears to be a reference to Stalin's remark "The Pope? How many Divisions does he have?" (Where Stalin was talking about military divisions, and making the point that without them, what the Pope said about whatever the USSR did didn't really matter.).

  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao&hotmail,com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:20AM (#30509268) Homepage

    The entire organisation is based on selling a bunch of silly and un-provable claims to millions...

    Wait, are you talking about the church, or copyright holders?

  • no big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by belmolis (702863) <billposer AT alum DOT mit DOT edu> on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:35AM (#30509344) Homepage

    I haven't been able to find the actual Vatican statement, but as the news accounts describe it, it looks like this is really nothing more than a routine trademark claim. I don't think they're claiming that you can't refer to the pope or even display his symbols without permission. They just don't want them used in such a way as to suggest that the Pope has authorized something without permission. This is the same as a regular trademark. You can talk about IBM and even portray its logo; you just can't use them in such a way as to suggest that you speak for IBM or are affiliated with IBM.

  • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Monday December 21, 2009 @02:09AM (#30509474) Homepage Journal
    I dunno, you don't get executed for having an unauthorised copy of the bible like in the good old days.
  • by rcasha2 (1157863) on Monday December 21, 2009 @04:14AM (#30509916)
    Well since we can no longer use "the name, image, and any symbols of the Pope", the sensible solution would be for the rest of the world to make up a new name, image and symbol for use when referring to the person formerly known as Pope. The competition for the new name, image and symbol will remain open until end December 2009, and the winner will get free permission to visit the city-state formerly known as Vatican. All entries must be open sourced.
  • Re:This definitely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Znork (31774) on Monday December 21, 2009 @05:55AM (#30510284)

    Still, trademark isn't something you can just claim out of the blue. Unless they've already had a trademark since the start and enforced it, those symbols will have lapsed into common use since a long time.

    I'm not sure there (thankfully) exists any IP form appropriate for what they want to do. Even if they could claim trademark, they'd end up having to enforce it against ten year olds webpages which would make them look like (even bigger) asses.

    Perhaps they could offer to sign anything they endorse with the official Papal Public Key instead.

  • Re:This definitely (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dcmoebius (1527443) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:54AM (#30510820)
    I wasn't implying that they didn't have the RIGHT to such a copyright/trademark, I was simply trying to point out the underlying problems with trying to enforce such a copyright claim. Given the especially litigious atmosphere surrounding IP and copyright these days, it seems to me that the the Papacy may have invited trouble unnecessarily.
  • Re:F/OSS Religion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fished (574624) <amphigory AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:07AM (#30511114)

    Speaking as a trained New Testament scholar... wow. Just ... wow. That is quite possibly the scariest charter for a Biblical translation I've ever encountered, and I include many oddities in the mix, like the New World Translation and Reformation minefields the Geneva Bible (it's a hobby of mine.) There's no awareness whatsoever that the Bible might not support every element of their agenda, and they're going to cut lose people with no knowledge of the original languages to use a Strong's concordance and the King James in order to create their "translation." Wow.

    This is almost a formula for how not to translate the Bible.

  • Re:This definitely (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheLink (130905) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:05AM (#30511562) Journal
    But how's that relevant?

    I could say I'm an Apple employee, wear black etc. Doesn't necessarily make me one.

    Or I could even say I'm a hardcore Apple Fan. But if I actually serve and follow the Chair Throwing Steve instead, my claims would be in doubt.

    I could say I'm serving the American Public and Protecting the Children. But it could be just a bunch of bullshit to get votes.
  • Re:This definitely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nutria (679911) on Monday December 21, 2009 @04:46PM (#30516570)

    If they claim they aren't Christians, then they aren't Catholic either.

    I know it, you know it, but there are a whole lot of people who don't seem to realize it.

  • Re:This definitely (Score:2, Insightful)

    by my_left_nut (1161359) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:36PM (#30527494)

    Just to clarify, since the content of this thread is starting to fall under the category of "non-falsifiable religious belief", the idea of verifiable "truth" or "falseness" doesn't really come into play. So, saying something is "true" in this context, at best means that you "believe it to be true" to you, and to the other members of your faith. It cannot be independently verified via the scientific method to be "true" or "false" (not "true").

    On the other hand, the two catchy phrases are inherited from a number of qualities and behaviors that have been observed in adherents of those religions, and may actually be statistically verifiable.

    For example, Protestants have the the Puritan "work-ethic" driven by the idea that God "blesses" his chosen or "saved" ones with hard-earned wealth. Many Catholics have guilt complexes over things that typically hurt nobody. For example, eating meat on Fridays in Lent, breaking restrictions on various sexual activity, etc.

    These are real and measurable psychological phenomenon. So, oddly enough, the claims that those catchy phrases made, actually have the capability to be measured. In contrast, the claims that the dogma makes do not.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.