Brandon Vogt is Simply Right

and I support him 100%.

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  • John Schaefer

    When folks talk of a top down organization, the Roman Catholic Church should be at the top of the list.

  • John Schaefer

    Mark, the Vatican maintains a copyright on the Encyclicals. “© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana”. He should have sought permission to reproduce them first. He simply could have promoted the link, but he chose to ignore the copyright. That makes him in the wrong.

    • Sam Schmitt

      Vogt apologizes for this.

      He doesn’t question the copyright, just how the content is distributed.

    • Imp the Vladaler

      That’s only if there’s no fair use exception. And if there are no fair use exceptions – if you wish to apply U.S. copyright law strictly – then you can never quote a single sentence from any encyclical, homily, or address, for any purpose. Those are technically copyright violations, in the absence of fair use.

      So you of course recognize that fair use of the Pope’s letters to the faithful (and that’s what it is: a letter to the “lay faithful,” among others, not the Pope’s private correspondence) is possible under some circumstances. It’s a question of boundaries. And Vogt has a good-faith argument that what he did falls under fair use.

      What possible purpose could hassling Vogt have? We’ve been provided one example: the Church has the right to ensure that its teachings are not corrupted. Well, nothing that Vogt did makes that more likely to happen, and no one can provide a single example of the feared corruption. Are there copies of Evangelium Vitae floating around, purporting to be the originals, in which some rogue has inserted the sentence “By the way, abortion is now a sacrament”?

      And promoting the link wouldn’t accomplish what he wanted to do, which was to make the encyclical readable on other devices.

      • John Schaefer

        Your mistake, and Mark’s, is believing that the copyright doesn’t pertain to Brandon’s ‘good use’. It is irrelevant that the use is good intentioned or in good faith. It is copyrighted. He should have asked for permission first. THAT is the problem.

        • Imp the Vladaler

          Not “good use.” “Fair use,” which is an important part of copyright law.

          If you so much as quote a single sentence of any homily, address, encyclical, message, or tweet, for any purpose you have violated the Pope’s copyright. The only reason that you can do that is because there’s a fair-use exception. Without that exception – which you have pooh-poohed – you can never even quote anything that Francis has written. So I trust that you’ll never, ever do that without permission.

          Of course, the same thing applies to the Catechism. So if you’ve ever quoted any portion of the CCC without permission in any comment, you have violated the Church’s copyright. Please think about that before hurling any more stones.

          • John Schaefer

            He didn’t quote anything from it. He chose to distribute the WHOLE thing, because he felt he was right to do so. The Vatican thinks differently, as it is their copyrighted material. It’s quite possible that they have planned other uses similar to Brandon’s. But, it is their decision to make, not his.

            • Imp the Vladaler

              If you’re not going to recognize fair use, and at least consider the possibility that Vogt’s acts fall under that protection, then you had better not do anything that reproduces any portion anything any Pope since Pius XII has written.

              If you do recognize fair use, then we’re engaged in a discussion about degree. What Vogt did was analogous to an accepted fair-use exception called “time-shifting.” You can record an entire movie on a DVR and watch it later. The Supreme Court has said that is fair use. Although there haven’t been any Supreme Court cases on copying from one storage medium to another, it’s pretty much universally acknowledged that copying music from a CD to an iPod is fair use. Copying a text from HTML to a different machine-readable format so that it can be read other other devices is similarly fair use.

              The issue then becomes whether it matters that Vogt distributed copies in other formats. That’s a closer call, but it’s not obviously not fair use.

              • John Schaefer

                Wrong. This isn’t time shifting, it’s whole distribution.

                • Imp the Vladaler

                  I need you to focus on the actual words that I’m using. You’ve been having difficulty with that, confusing “fair use” for a heretofore unknown principle of “good use,” and missing where I said “analogous to.” If you can’t focus on my words, I’m afraid this won’t be a productive conversation.

                  • John Schaefer

                    You are confusing “Fair Use”, and its application here. Brandon’s use doesn’t fall under criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. He took it upon himself to create versions of the text to distribute, as HE saw fit. Not the copyright holder, which in this case is the Vatican.

                    To use your example of making a copy of a VHS tape for personal use, that is accepted under Fair Use. When you distribute it, as Brandon did, that is the violation. So, If I take a copy of Mark’s “The Work of Mercy”, and scan it into a PDF for me to read on my computer, that is acceptable “Time Shifting”. When I take that PDF and actively distribute it on the internet, without permission of the copyright holder, to others, I have broken the law. I’m not sure why you would argue that Fair Use covers this activity.

                    This is what the law says about Fair Use:


                    “The safest course is to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.

                    When it is impracticable to obtain permission, you should consider avoiding the use of copyrighted material unless you are confident that the doctrine of fair use would apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine whether a particular use may be considered fair nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.”


                    “The Supreme Court has described fair use as “the guarantee of breathing space for new expression within the confines of Copyright law.”1”


                    • Imp the Vladaler

                      If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.


                      Copyright law – and the concept of fair use – is not set in stone. It’s one of the most dynamic areas of statutory law. “Fair use” looks very little like what it looked like 30 years ago. Before the VCR case, everyone knew that fair use didn’t cover time shifting. Before the 2 Live Crew case, everyone knew appropriating a melody for a commercial purpose was not fair use. Whatever you think fair use is today, I promise you that it’s going to change.

                      Vogt distributed copies of a free, publicly available document, addressed to all Catholics and meant for them all to read, without alteration, for the sole purpose of making that document more accessible to other Catholics. No one was deprived of a cent. Vogt did not make a cent. The only fair use factor that doesn’t break in his favor is the length of the work, which is what makes it a close call. But I would be happy to take this case to any court that would hear it.

                    • pickaname

                      So does your interpretation of “fair use” apply to Vogt’s own blog? Is he good with people reformatting and redistributing his blog writing as long as it’s for the sole purpose of making it available to other Catholics? He’s not losing a cent. His blog is free, it’s publicly available. Can we now apply your interpretation of fair use to any free, publicly available piece of writing, regardless of copyright and especially if the material is somehow evangelical or philanthropical in nature?


                      This is idolizing a particular blogger. He’s one of the Catholic blogosphere’s darlings, therefore you’re good with his breaking the law.

                      If an atheist had done this, you’d be having a fit.

                    • Imp the Vladaler

                      Vogt does lose money when people copy his work. He’s losing advertising revenue.

                      Never heard of this guy before yesterday. If you want to know what my impression of him is, it’s that he seems high-strung and a little annoying. So this isn’t about me liking the dude. He certainly isn’t my darling.

                      Actually, I would be absolutely delighted if an atheist took an encyclical, didn’t change one word of it, and made it easier for people to read.

                    • pickaname

                      Yes, but he’s gaining traffic and potential advertising revenue when he makes someone else’s copyrighted material more readily available — all out of the goodness of his heart, of course…

                      It’s that he has a profit motive that makes his actions doubly questionable.

                      If I copied and pasted the encyclical into an email and sent it to my sister-in-law, for example, I doubt anyone would care.

                      But when a Catholic who has promoted himself as a brand, who makes a profit from being a “professional Catholic”, so to speak, copies, reformates and redistributes that protected material, it’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

                    • John Schaefer

                      BINGO! Didn’t have time to get to this earlier…. He is in the book selling/appearance game. Using the church’s materials to distribute on his for profit site is unseemly at best. It drives traffic to his site, which is used to sell his books and appearances. Whatever his intentions are, it is wrong. To support him in this endeavor is wrong.

                      The fact that he didn’t get permission first, and complain (after the fact) that the church is not transparent enough for him as it relates to the release of church writings compounds the matter. They said NO. They do NOT owe him an explanation of why they would say no. This is like a discussion with one of my kids. Sometimes, no is NO. Not maybe.

                      Finally, the fact of the matter is, I can BUY Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals on Amazon, for use on my Ipad or Kindle, for $2.95. The Church SELLS these at a VERY FAIR price. And, I’m sure they will do the same with F1.

                    • Imp the Vladaler

                      Or you could download them all for free from the Vatican website.

                      And he’s not charging for them. My goodness. He might sell a book along the way, after someone downloads a free copy of the free encyclical that the Vatican is giving away for free.

                      The horror. The horror.

                    • John Schaefer

                      As I’ve said previously, the Church has copyrighted the material for a reason. It is THEIR property, and theirs to do with as they please, and believe to be appropriate. There is a reason they chose to copyright the material. If they wanted it out there for free, they would have done so.

                      The fact of the matter is, you are assuming that the Church is not going to sell the Encyclicals, as they have done in the past.

                      If this is true, and they release in book, or Kindle form, than there are monetary damages, and are not free. You are working under the assumption that they are, or will be, free. History has shown that is not the case.

                      Further, pickaname is correct, in that Vogt would profit by search engines sending people to his site, as he sells books and appearances. It is unseemly, and I would see that as the primary objection of the church.

      • John Schaefer

        Fair use of the entire piece? Put together as someone else sees fit? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?

        • Imp the Vladaler

          It’s not so ridiculous if you understand what Vogt did and how American copyright law has evolved since Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. was decided thirty years ago.

          • John Schaefer

            Have you read the terms of Fair Use in section 107 of copyright law? Explain it to me, because, that is NOT what Brandon did.

            • Imp the Vladaler

              Given that I occasionally practice in this area, yes, I have. And I can tell you that reading the plain text of the statute is where the inquiry begins, not where it ends. You need to think of statutes the way you think of Scripture: there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Don’t proof-text.

              You can’t just read the statute; you have to read the accompanying case law. As I suggested below, Sony v. Universal is a great place to start.

              • John Schaefer

                Sony v. Universal covers personal usage – NOT distribution.

              • John Schaefer

                Proof-Text? I read the whole statute. I did not cherry pick to make my argument. You are attempting to tie this to one ruling, which is irrelevant to the context of what Vogt did.

                • Imp the Vladaler

                  Dude, I’ve forgotten more about copyright law than you know. It’s not just Sony. It’s ALS Scan, etc.

                  Proof-texting means reading the text without understanding of the Tradition surrounding it. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re reading a statute and deciding what it means without understanding how the federal courts have applied it for decades. Enough with this Protestant approach to statutory law.

    • You probably should read the actual article as you’re addressing the last battle, not this one. In this case, Vogt is talking about something related and he is 99% right. When you let somebody else write your license, you are giving up control in ways that might not be wise so I think it would be better for the Vatican to carve out its own Creative Commons-like process to come to the proper conclusion that would fully preserve its legitimate interests which both include stopping people from copying in certain circumstances and permitting copying in other circumstances all without drowning the Vatican in copyright red tape.

      There are a number of these licenses out there. Creative Commons is just one of the famous ones. The Vatican has unique needs and responsibilities. If they decide to take steps to improve their copyright licensing, they should roll their own variant that takes into account all those unique features.

  • johnnyc

    Kinda silly I think. These documents are easily accessible. We should be promoting the book form anyway so as to support our local Catholic bookstores and/or online Catholic bookstores.

  • Matthew

    So this is a letter addresses to the “lay faithful” – that’s me. Why can’t I quote a letter someone has addressed to me?

    • Imp the Vladaler

      Under U.S. copyright law, authors of letters retain their copyright, so merely receiving a letter doesn’t make the content your property. But you’re asking an important question. If the Pope is writing to all Catholics, there’s no harm in enabling more of the explicitly identified audience to read the letter.

  • Stu

    Dr. Samuel Johnson’s right about Olson Johnson being right. And I’m not giving up my ice cream parlor, that I built with these two hands, for nothing or nobody.

    • Newp Ort


  • Newp Ort

    So, if I don’t act on it, is it a sin to be gay for Brandon Vogt? Cuz after reading his post outlining the freetheword concept, I think I’m gay for Brandon Vogt. (and this doesn’t happen to me every day)

  • Stu

    I think a different approach is needed. Much better for the Vatican to get up to speed in using web technology to simply make these things widely available, FORMATTED so that they are easy to read, and in tune with current social media trends.

    The expertise resides within the Church. They simply need to bring it to bear.

    (Father Z, call your office.)

    • John Schaefer

      Here’s a good solution…ASK for permission first before you use copyrighted materials.

      • Stu

        That’s not really an approach for the Vatican to take. People using the material, rightly or wrongly, are doing so ostensibly for the right reasons and because the Vatican format just doesn’t cut it.

        The Vatican should recognize that and make attempts to present the material in a way that doesn’t require people to reformat, repost and/or redistribute.

        Indeed the Vatican is well within it’s rights. But what are we trying to achieve here?

        • pickaname

          So as long as I believe I’m using someone else’s copyrighted material for “right reasons”, I’m good?

          Take that one to court and see how far it gets you.

          Copyright and intellectual property are copyright and intellectual property regardless of someone else’s intent in stealing/redistributing the material.

          Stealing is stealing. Sorry, but it’s like lying. Lying is lying, it’s a sin and perhaps a crime, regardless of your personal intent in engaging in it.

          But, heck, let me take Vogt’s work and reprint it on my blog, hand it out free of charge. Because it’s all about AMGD, not Vogt’s bank account, right…right…? He’d WANT me to make his material publicly available because he’s only in it for the greater good of God, yes?

          • Stu

            “So as long as I believe I’m using someone else’s copyrighted material for “right reasons”, I’m good?”

            Where in the Wild, Wild World of Sports did I say that?

            • pickaname

              “People using the material, rightly or wrongly, are doing so ostensibly for the right reasons and because the Vatican format just doesn’t cut it.”

              You’re actually doing a little fence-riding here — you acknowledge that Vogt is technically in the wrong, but should be given a pass because you believe he did what he did for the “right reasons”.

              • Stu

                Did no such thing.

                My point is that the Vatican should look to the reasons “why” he did it and attempt to present the material in a way that would make those reasons go away.

                • pickaname

                  Well, yes, maybe they should. But that has nothing to do with the action that took place. That conversation should be had before the action.

                  • Stu

                    But it has everything to do with the point I made, to which you responded erroneously and is part of the overall solution.

                    • pickaname

                      Except that you’re excusing the action with that reasoning. You’re saying that the action is wrong, but excusable because of his supposed good intentions (again, see “road to hell”).

                      Are “good intentions” ever an excuse to flout the law? Or are “good intentions” only an excuse to flout the law for Catholics? Or Catholic bloggers? Or popular Catholic bloggers?

                      The solution to perceived accessibility issues is something entirely separate — in short, you gotta ask first, not act first.

                    • Stu

                      Again, I said nothing remotely of the such.

                    • pickaname

                      Okay, so you agree Vogt violated copyright law and his actions are wrong, full stop?

                      Or do you think they’re excusable because of his supposed intentions?

                    • Stu

                      Yes, he broke the rules and should not have.

                      But he didn’t have ill intent and that should be reflected upon. If I was the Vatican, I would be looking to do things to address the “why” of his actions because I realize he is attempting to help.

                    • pickaname

                      Well, they contacted him privately and asked him to cease and desist rather than hauling him off to court and claiming damages. I guess that’s taking his intentions into consideration.

                      You know, there are a lot of Catholics who use the Pope to direct traffic to where they will personally gain from it (remember all those “come to my website and tell me what you tweeted the Pope” tweets after they opened the Papal twitter account? I mean, how blatant can these people get?

                      It’s more than a little stomach-turning, IMO.

                      Plus, I’ll never forget Vogt’s request that people deliberately engage in dishonest, sinful behavior when it came to marketing his book. He told people to go into privately owned bookstores and rearrange his book so it appeared as if those bookstores were promoting it as a bestseller.

                      That’s wrong. It’s wrong for anyone, no matter how holy they think they are. It’s prideful and arrogant and just plain sinful, plus it spits in the face of the privately-owned bookstores and their rights, and it spits in the face of the authors who met the bar required for the display and cheated them of the space they earned under the bookstore’s conditions.

                      I cannot stand Catholics who think they’re somehow above not just the law of the land, but the laws of their very own Church, and even the law of God.

                    • Stu

                      I don’t really know the guy. Heard his name before but that is it. My remarks are more limited to how I think the Vatican should learn from this.

                    • They contacted him privately and accused him of “stealing from the Pope.” Is that a fair and reasonable response, in your opinion?

                    • pickaname

                      Yes, because that’s exactly what he did.

                      Whenever you violate someone’s copyright/intellectual property rights, you’re stealing their property, their “product”.

                      Yes, the encyclical was written for all Catholics. It is made freely available to all Catholics.

                      Just because some people didn’t like the background, or prefer a particular electronic device does not make it right for Vogt to have taken the material from the owner’s site, reformatted it and made it available via HIS for-profit website.

                      If this was all for the good of the Church and the glory of God, why didn’t he privately approach the USCCB/Vatican and offer to do the formatting voluntarily for their site? That he took the stuff and made it available on HIS site, a for-profit site, is a big part of the problem.

                    • Imp the Vladaler

                      It’s not stealing. The Pope doesn’t have one fewer penny today than he would have had if Vogt didn’t reformat an electronic document.

                    • pickaname

                      He stole their control over their product. Intellectual property is still property, and the distribution rights still apply even if the owner of the property chooses to distribute it for free.

                      The upshot is that no matter how you slice it, Vogt broke the law and also stood to gain from his breaking the law (ad revenues, potential book sales, speaker gigs as a result of new traffic to his site).

                    • What did he steal, exactly?

                    • pickaname

                      Their distribution rights.

                    • Really? How did Vogt’s actions prohibit the Vatican from making the encyclical available in several e-reader formats and/or MP3 format (none of which they have done so far)?

                    • pickaname

                      So I can take any copyrighted material, reproduce it and distribute it and that’s fine because it doesn’t prevent the rightful owner of the material from doing the same? Do you even understand the law??

                    • You said that Vogt stole the Pope’s distribution rights. That would imply that the Pope LOST those rights once they were stolen from him. But he still has them.

                      Perhaps you don’t understand that the encyclical is MEANT to be shared with as many people as possible, free of charge. The Popes wrote it with the intent that it would be promulgated to as many people as possible. Vogt tried to assist in that endeavor and was accused of “stealing,” despite the fact that the Vatican apparently has no intention of promulgating the encyclical into other formats that many other Catholics would prefer.

                      I understand the law, but it doesn’t apply in this case. An encyclical is a letter to the whole Church, not a for-profit mystery novel or theology text.

                    • pickaname

                      You clearly do not understand the law. The material and the right to reprint and distribute the material belong exclusively to the Vatican. The law very much applies and you’d be hard put to find a lawyer or court that would dispute that.

                      It doesn’t matter whether or not the Vatican intends to sell the material. It doesn’t matter if the Vatican makes it freely a ailable to all via THEIR website. They still maintain full, exclusive rights to the material.

                      That’s the law, whether you like it or not or think its fair or not, or whether you understand it or not.

                    • Clare Krishan

                      and ‘in (even-briefer) short’ you gotta have some cash first… then ask second, and thirdly sacrifice your opportunity costs (time and alternative use for the monies) while you await notification of the “prix juste” according to Catholic Social Teaching of permission rights to act as a vehicle of the Holy Spirit (condoning blatant rent-seeking on property held in common — the Pope’s letter addressed to all of us Catholics and our fellow men of good will like my Protestant dear heart hubby, see above). Enforcement of private property rights by the State is at the root of this dispute (unless Diocesesan chanceries have the time and money — not here in Philly the priests retirement fund is in hock as well as the lay employees retirement fund to the tune on several million dollars — to set their legal beagles delving in to their tomes of Canon law and sue us into submission).

                      The end is a given (God’s desire to see us united with him in eternal beatitude) its the Means of Subsidiarity of go forth and be fruitful that seems a little askew. A male clerical-leadership caste appear to want to practice birth control of their lay folks feminine-nurturing-minded fecundity. Its not jiving with my understanding of spiritual-conjugal union of Bridegroom + Bride – since when was it nuptial to demand “what’s yours is mine but what’s mine is not yours”? That’s the Muslim-volunterist mind at work, no?

                    • pickaname

                      Doesn’t matter. The end doesn’t justify the means. Work to fix the problem by all means. Just don’t break the law in the meantime.

              • Imp the Vladaler

                pickaname: did the Irony SWAT Team just kick down your door? If not, you might want to prepare for it.

                Because your copy/pasting Stu’s words (“People using the material, rightly or wrongly, are doing so ostensibly
                for the right reasons and because the Vatican format just doesn’t cut it.”) is literally a federal copyright violation (unless you can claim fair use). You reproduced Stu’s words without his permission.

                Now, you’re going to claim fair use, and by all means, have at it. Vogt has a fair use argument, too. You don’t want to hear it. For you, he’s just stealing.

                • pickaname

                  Fair use applies to what I did. Fair use does not apply to one person acting on his unilateral belief that he has a right to redistribute material because he thinks the owner of that material’s methods of distribution are too clunky and annoying for the general public.

                  He is technically stealing someone else’s property when he copies it and REDISTRIBUTES it – it’s the redistribution that’s the issue.

                  • Imp the Vladaler

                    You and Vogt are both relying on fair use, and you both have good-faith arguments. It’s just a matter of degree. So please calm down, use fewer caps, acknowledge the good faith of your fellow Catholic, and stop hurling stones.

                    He’s not “technically stealing.” It’s at most a violation of copyright, which is not “stealing.” You won’t find that language in the statute. You have to be careful with your words here.

                    • pickaname

                      I don’t acknowledge the “good faith” of anyone who has marketed themselves as a brand and who has a profit motive.

                      Vogt isn’t an ordinary Joe off the street who was trying to help. His “brand” was helped too.

                      That’s the problem when you’re a brand with a product to sell and you use someone else’s copyrighted material to drive traffic to your blog.

                      Motive gets a little murky once people are profiting from all their good works.

                    • Imp the Vladaler

                      I don’t acknowledge the “good faith” of anyone who has marketed themselves as a brand and who has a profit motive.

                      Well then no one has any good faith. You’re a very cynical person.

                    • pickaname

                      Nonsense. You’re taking comments out of context.

                    • John Schaefer

                      You have no idea what fair use is, do you?

                    • Imp the Vladaler

                      Given that I’ve practiced intellectual property law for several years, I’m guessing that I know more about it than you do, Counselor.

        • John Schaefer

          I think the word “ostensibly” says it all.

        • John Schaefer

          May I refer you to some of Mark’s writings on Consequentialism?

          Because it is “for the good”, does not make it right in how one goes about it.

          • Stu

            If only I was making such an argument.

            • John Schaefer

              You did say “are doing so ostensibly for the right reasons”…correct?

              • Stu

                Yes. That has nothing to do with consequences. It only reflects that fact the Mr. Vogt seemingly has the best intentions. That’s all.

                • John Schaefer

                  Isn’t doing things for the best intentions the same thing? Because he felt it was right? If that’s the case, you are saying it was good intentioned so it is okay.

                  • Stu

                    No, I am absolutely not saying that.

                    You are making some wild conclusions.

                    Vogt seemingly had good intentions. That doesn’t make those intentions licit and nowhere have I implied such.

                    All I have pointed out is that the Vatican should attempt to take steps to address the concerns that Vogt has expressed in term of said documents being available and readable so as to remove the very reasons why Vogt did what he did.

                    If I worked at the Vatican on this issue, I would want people to be circulating such documents in the widest possible manner and would look for ways to make it easier for them, more readable for everyone all while maintaining their integrity. The solution should be far more reaching than simply sending a nastygram and warning people to ask “next time.”

                    • John Schaefer

                      Sorry, Stu. That’s the way it reads to me. Thanks for clarifying. The fact is, those readings ARE available on the Vatican website. They were not in a form that Mr. Vogt would have chosen. Apparently, Mr. Vogt would like the Vatican to upgrade its site so its easier to read on his mobile device. Which, I’m sure they will do at some point…

                      He would also like to release ALL church documents so that he can profit from them on his business, too.

                    • Stu

                      Here is where your disconnect happened.

                      In response to my initial post which was all about the Vatican improving it’s presentation (which is pretty poor), your responded:

                      “Here’s a good solution…ASK for permission first before you use copyrighted materials.”

                      My response to that was, “That’s not really an approach for the Vatican to take” because I wasn’t talking about Vogt. My interest is in the Vatican improving while you are focused on Mr. Vogt.

                    • John Schaefer

                      These threads are getting too long…under Mark’s initial post of “Brandon Vogt is Simply Right”, I have misinterpreted your words.

                    • Stu

                      It happens.

  • Newp Ort

    somebody got the one about praying in secret in your inner room confused with the one about hiding your lamp under a basket

  • pickaname

    He’s not right. He’s wrong. And I’m sure he’d feel the same way if someone had stolen his intellectual property which is SUPPOSEDLY all about evangelization and doing the work of God and responding to Christ’s call to spread the good news and not AT ALL about his personal profit or ownership of said property.

    This is not the first time Mr. Vogt has decided to fudge the legal rights of other people in order to serve himself.

    You can’t just take other people’s intellectual property and distribute it willy-nilly, regardless of your supposed good intentions (#roadtohell).

    If Vogt, et al., would like to work WITH the Vatican somehow, then he (they) may approach the Vatican and offer their services (one hopes free of charge, but I’m not holding my breath).

    Catholic bloggers are not part of the hierarchy, no matter how desperately they would like to be. They’re just people, no better, no worse than anyone else, and certainly not privy to special consideration when it comes to the law.

    • Imp the Vladaler

      Francis wrote a letter to all Catholics. Vogt made it easier for all Catholics to read it. The Church is not being deprived one one thin dime. No one whom Francis doesn’t want to see this letter is going to see it. That is not remotely the same as taking Vogt’s work, copying it, and making a buck off of it.

      This is not “stealing.” You cannot steal what is being given away for free.

      Did you pause for even a second after you described a Papal encyclical as “other people’s intellectual property”? That doesn’t look weird to you?

      And to top it off, you expect Vogt to labor for the Vatican for free, because it’s not like the Pope has an obligation to pay anyone a just wage or anything.

      This is madness. Closing ranks with the Bishops when they do dumb, oppressive things needs to stop.

      • pickaname

        I’m not saying take any blogger’s work to sell. I’m saying do the same thing he did — take it, copy it, distribute it without his permission. Same thing.

        If I cannot steal what is being given away for free, then I have a right to copy and distribute any material I find on any publicly available, free-to-access blog on the internet. I may not have a right to make money from it, but I can copy and paste and reformat and distribute to my heart’s content, regardless of their protestations.

        It doesn’t at all look weird to me that a Papal encyclical is that Pope’s and/or the Vatican’s intellectual property because it is exactly that.

        I don’t expect Vogt to labor for anyone for free. But if he’s CLAIMING he only did what he did to HELP the Vatican with their mission because it’s the Christian/Catholic thing to do, I’d hope he had the integrity to offer his aid for free — all for the greater glory of God, of course. I mean, that’s why he does what he does, right? I mean, he is a person of integrity, right…right?

        Are Benedict’s books his intellectual property, or do they belong to all of us because of his postion and the nature of his calling?

        Careful. Just because you like Vogt does not mean he gets special treatment under the law or by the Vatican.

        • Imp the Vladaler

          If I cannot steal what is being given away for free, then I have a right to copy and distribute any material I find on any publicly available, free-to-access blog on the internet.

          Your access to those materials is conditional. Those conditions are found in the website’s fine print. A freely distributed encyclical is not the same.

          Are Benedict’s books his intellectual property, or do they belong to all of us because of his postion and the nature of his calling?

          Benedict’s books are not encyclicals. Nor are encyclicals the Bible or the Catechism.

          I never even heard of Vogt before yesterday, so I have no reason to like or dislike him. Don’t let your love of Francis blind you to the fact that some low-level Church functionaries are abusing their power.

          • pickaname

            I don’t love Francis. I’ve never even met him and I’ve read very little of anything he’s said. I haven’t read this encyclical and probably never will.

            Low-level Church functionaries are not abusing their power if they’re enforcing their legal rights.

            The Vatican/USCCB is not refusing the encyclical to any individual Catholic. The Vatican/USCCB is saying that they reserve their right to distribution.

            So sue them if you think they’re wrong. Or Vogt can sue them if he thinks he’s right. That’s what lawyers are for. ‘

            Seems like plenty of Catholics and non-Catholics alike were able to get their hands on this encyclical without Vogt’s help.

            Plus, one could make the claim that his actions helped him promote himself as a “brand” and may have helped him increase sales of his own personal material. Who knows? It’s not like he doesn’t have a profit motive, you know.

            • Imp the Vladaler

              I don’t love Francis. I’ve never even met him and I’ve read very little of anything he’s said. I haven’t read this encyclical and probably never will.

              Looks like we’re done here.

              • pickaname

                LOL! Mmmmkay…sorry I put God before men. My bad.

          • John Schaefer

            “Don’t let your love of Francis blind you to the fact that some low-level Church functionaries are abusing their power.”

            That’s a flawed argument. You don’t know that they are abusing their power. They very well just may be exercising that power, and the Church’s right.

            For $4.99 I can buy one of Benedict’s Encyclicals.

            • Imp the Vladaler

              Yeah, if you want a handsome bound copy. If you just want the text, you can download it for free.

  • david

    Legally, the church bureaucrats were in the right. As far as discipleship and evangelization go (and in my view, overall just being cool) they were in the wrong. A better solution would have been to say “Hey Brandon, that is a great thing you did. Can we work with you to distribute them properly?” That being said, as a business owner, I always am very careful about copyright, and would never have done what he did.

    • pickaname

      The problem is that if they don’t maintain a vigilant stance, anyone with any intention will be able to copy, reformat and redistribute their material — and maybe even sneak in a few edits on the sly.

      Regardless of anyone’s supposed good intentions (and Vogt’s site is a for-profit site, so it’s fair to question his motives along those lines), people can’t just flout the law and do what they will with other people’s/entity’s copyrighted material. No exceptions.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Regardless of anyone’s supposed good intention

        Actually, “good faith” goes a long way in intellectual property law.

        • pickaname

          Maybe. I can certainly see, however, why the Vatican/USCCB might suspect the motives of someone who violates their copyright and reprints/redistributes their property via a for-profit website.

      • Newp Ort

        What do you think about Brandon’s suggested collective commons solution? Sorry if you’ve already commented and I missed it.

        • pickaname

          That may be a solution, but remember that the Church has to protect its documents on an international level.

          I have no problem with interested parties offering to help find solutions to what they perceive as an issue.

          Like I said further down in the thread, ask first, act second. Vogt’s first mistake was acting first, and his second was his arrogant attitude that the Church was out of line.

          I know he’s apologized and back-tracked a little now, but the cynic in me says he’s more sorry he got caught than that he violated the law and also that he’s only back-tracking now because he fears he’ll be cut out of the dialogue going forward.

        • pickaname

          Another consideration is that the Vatican and the USCCB and other subsidiaries of the Vatican and so forth may have existing agreements with certain publishers (Ignatius Press, for example), so this stuff gets complicated and is really for their lawyers to sort out.. But, yes, it’s a good conversation in general, only people have to wait ’til it’s sorted out before they just assume their “good intentions” are a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to the law.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Legally, the church bureaucrats were in the right. As far as
      discipleship and evangelization go (and in my view, overall just being
      cool) they were in the wrong. A better solution would have been to say
      “Hey Brandon, that is a great thing you did. Can we work with you to
      distribute them properly?”

      This. The right or wrong of the Vatican and USCCB’s reaction goes beyond simple legality. They have a greater responsibility and should have shown more class. Furthermore, they should learn from situations like this and use systems like the Commons to distribute work like this.

      Charity forces me to believe the officials are telling the truth when they say these copyrights are in place to protect the integrity of the texts. If that is true, then entering these things in the Creative Commons will accomplish the same thing without hampering distribution.

      • John Schaefer

        They are also revenue generators. To run an organization like the Church requires cash. Encyclicals, and other texts are sold at VERY reasonable prices. Putting them in the Creative Commons removes that revenue stream from the church. Or, we could all put in another $500/year in the basket on Sunday.

        • Imp the Vladaler

          How much is the Church making off the free copies of the encyclicals on the website? Is it more than zero dollars? Because that’s what I paid for it. Zero dollars.

  • Noah Nehm

    This is not a new problem. Many years ago I asked the creator of a website (and Palm Pilot app – that’s how old this is) that published daily mass and divine office readings why he didn’t use the biblical texts available from the USCCB. He replied that he was not give permission to do so.

    I was shocked then, so I suppose I’m not terribly surprised now…

  • Clare Krishan

    I try not to share with my non-Catholic hubby the realities of our internecine dysfunctional storms in teacups, in the hope the Lord will one day see fit to lead him to desire union in the source-&-summit sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, (without having to jump too many repellent humanly-erected hurdles along the way) but …
    he just this minute uncovered this one all by himself …
    and tells me over our supper of his unfruitful travails to find a copy of Verbum Domini to read on his made-in-China iPhone-clone e-reader app at our weekly Holy Hour slot in the parish’s perpetual adoration schedule (no online-access in the sanctuary — except to the Lord himself directly — to the writings of his humble servant of the servants of God) after attending the NCBC where the document was a strongly recommended reading from several speakers from Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins on down — who also recommended your “Senses of Scripture” book at the final wrap-up session, way to go!
    What can I say…? [shakes head, shrugs]

  • An unjust law is no law at all; so says a doctor of the Church:

    “As Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5) “that which is not just seems to be no law at all”: wherefore the force of a law depends on the extent of its justice. Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just, from being right, according to the rule of reason. But the first rule of reason is the law of nature, as is clear from what has been stated above (91, 2, ad 2). Consequently every human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law.” Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 95, Art. 2.

    Copyright law may be just–just maybe–but the application of it in the case of pencil-pushers, not the Magisterium, in Rome shutting down the distribution of a papal encyclical, which by its very nature is meant for wide circulation, is absolutely unjust.

    I, for one, support this effort to revise the copyright license on these works. However, in the meantime, I will ignore demands that I cease from circulating an encyclical until my bishop so demands.

  • Dan Carollo

    What did the USCCB actually say?
    I’m also wondering if there could not be some productive way to work WITH the USCCB and Vatican. Even if USCCB is mishandling this, It is a terrible witness to the world for people to wave the dirty laundry. Case example is the “Free Lumen Fidei!” article by Simcha Fisher. We should quit making the USCCB the enemy here and seek productive and charitable ways to work together instead of complaining in public forums.

  • Paul Uwemedimo

    It is not just Catholics concerned about copyright hindering evangelisation: see and