Brandon Vogt is classier than me

Brandon Vogt is classier than me August 1, 2013

He wrote to ask me to take down my snark about the folly of the USCCB’s threats against innocent laypeople for trying to use documents that should be freely available, because he is a kind, good, and charitable person. So I have, per his request, taken the piece down. I should note that the piece was written and posted entirely on my own and he had nothing to do with it–except for his kind, good, and charitable request to remove it.

You’re a better man than I am, Brandon.

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  • HornOrSilk

    Good for him to suggest it, good for you to follow the suggestion. I think people understand the frustration, but remember the frustration which went with the printing press, and similar kinds of complaints which came out then.

    The best thing to do is try, with patience (this is the Church) and humility (this is the Church) to enact improvements so it is easier to work with these materials and help spread them.

  • In that case, I’ll repost here, but without the names. The Cardinal actually responsible for this mess, is under investigation for other reasons. Hopefully his replacement will listen to us and see that such requests are entirely outdated and not compatible with evangelization in general.

    • Well, if you’re going to repost Ted, so will I. Here’s what I think the USCCB ought to do, and probably would do if they knew about it, reposted below:

      I’ve mentioned Creative Commons licensing in this thread. Let me try
      to put on my “I took an Intellectual Property class once in law school,
      so there!” hat and explain it. In true copyleft tradition, I’ll start
      by quoting the Wikipedia entry about them:

      “Creative Commons licenses . . . allow creators
      to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive
      for the benefit of recipients or other creators. An easy-to-understand
      one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains
      the specifics of each Creative Commons license.”

      Property rights, in law school, are often taught as a “bundle of
      sticks.” To offer a concrete example, a landowner’s bundle includes
      things like the right to build a house, the right to drill for oil or
      other minerals, etc. Down here in Texas, landowners often sell off just
      one stick from their bundle–the subsurface mineral rights–but keep
      the right to the house sitting on the surface. Usually the mineral
      rights come with other sticks (an easement to drive heavy equipment
      across the property to the wellhead, etc). One of the non-parasitic
      functions we lawyers serve in society is helping people manage
      transactions in which they want to license/sell some of the “sticks” but
      not others.

      Creative Commons licenses are contract-like documents provided free
      of charge by a legal non-profit. They are crafted to do for the
      copyright holder’s “bundle of sticks” something akin to what an oil and
      gas lawyer does for a landowner–help the copyright property holder
      manage which sticks he wants to keep, and which he wants to distribute
      free of charge.

      Here’s a link to the “choose which license is right for you” page,
      where you toggle which rights you want to reserve. Have fun playing
      with it for a few seconds before you realize how incredibly simple it is
      and get bored:

      Having done that, I think you’ll agree that the ideal license for
      ecclesial works would be the “Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported”
      license, which requires attribution of the reprinted text to its author,
      and forbids, with the full force of copyright law, any attempt to
      “alter, transform, or build upon this work.” In other words, those
      rights are “reserved.” But the rights not reserved are the rights to “to
      Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and to make
      commercial use of the work.” So bloggers and Catholic publishers can
      make both non-commerical and commercial (e.g., family Bibles, etc.) use
      of the work, but they cannot muck with the work’s integrity. At all.
      Mess with the integrity, and the bishops can still take you to court for
      violating their reserved copyright not to allow alteration.

      I cannot stress enough how *precisely* this meets the Church’s legal
      needs. Hopefully the Ents in the Vatican or at the USCCB will notice it
      sooner rather than later. All the bishops have to do to harness this
      legal innovation is to put “This work is licensed under a Creative
      Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License” on their documents instead of “Rights Reserved,” as I presume they do now. That’s all! Except for their own entirely understandable bureaucratic inertia, they could start doing this tomorrow. The tools are there.

      • How would presentation affect this? What if I produced an ebook that that subtly emphasized particular parts of the text and de-emphasized others? (Kind of like red letter-gospels, but with my own political axes to grind.)

        • Then to not violate the license, you need to clearly state “emphasis mine”

          • Imp the Vladaler

            Always hated that personalization and lack of a verb. It’s not in any stylebook but it has taken off on the web. “Emphasis added” is far better.

        • Great question, Jon W!

          To the extent that reserving all copyright rights would protect against this sort of alteration/transformation, so would a reservation of those rights via a license that allows for sharing/commerical republication.

          In other words, I’m not sure how much the current “all rights reserved” regime the USCCB uses would protect against font-color issues, e.g., but to the extent that the current regime does, the Creative Commons license I’ve suggested would, too, since it reserves all those rights.

          Even more briefly: I’m not sure they’re protected against that NOW, but if they are, going to a Creative
          Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License wouldn’t change their amount of protection at all.

          Tangential fun fact I noticed since writing the original comment: Bradon Vogt’s blog uses a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license, which is very similar except it wouldn’t allow for commerical republication. (Check out the very bottom of the page at his site.) He is, indeed, a classy guy.

          (I think the bishops ought to allow commercial republication of the New American Bible or bound sets of encyclicals or what have you by, e.g., Ignatius Press or TAN Books without the payment of fees, to encourage maximum availability. That’s why I advocate the specific license I do.)

          • Irenist, thanks for the kind words! Good to know that someone else, perhaps independently, arrived at the exact same conclusion I did about the CC license. See my original post here (in which I, too, advocate that it shouldn’t be “non-commercial”):


            • Brandon, I should’ve known you’d have thought of it sooner, and explained it WAY better! Good on you, sir.

              FWIW as verification you’re on the right track, I arrived at it independently just by toggling around the Creative Commons “pick a license” choices.

      • The USCCB isn’t entirely the ones that need to hear this- It is a *specific* “Ent in the Vatican”- by which I believe you mean a member of the curia, in specific the Secretary of State- that needs to hear this.

        But they won’t. Not until the Cardinal in question is replaced.

        • Curial inside baseball is above my paygrade. Providence will uproot various Ents as the Holy Spirit bloweth and listeth. I can wait.

          That said, in my total absence of knowledge of the facts on the ground in either the Curia or the USCCB bureaucracy, I prefer to assume ignorant good faith rather than informed malice. I find that works well with most groups of people.

          • With the original post, I took the time to research this. It is very top down- started with a memo from the Secretary of State’s office to the Printery at the Vatican back in 2005, that was renewed in 2009. The orders are extremely top down, and affect all Vatican documents and translations, and require strict copyright defense whenever necessary. It is relatively new (though experiments joining Imprimatur to modern copyright law are common in the United States over the past 80 years that I can tell, they aren’t as common elsewhere in the world), and very tone deaf to the whole idea of the “New Evangelization”. The two Cardinals involved also happen to be quite prominently figured in a variety of scandals in the curia, and there are already rumors circulating that they will be quietly moved in October, for reasons related to those scandals, not this one.

            That gives us an opportunity and an opening, which makes me think that letters to the Vatican, specifically to Pope Francis, on this subject *might* be worthwhile.

            • Good for you for taking the time to research all that, Ted!

              Still, I do wonder if the motive is worthy but misguided. Like a lot of the commenters in the prior thread, I suspect a lot of elderly cardinal-types would naturally think that the only way to hold on to the “no alterations” part of the copyright bundle of property rights sticks would be to reserve all rights.

              Frankly, I don’t think most non-nerds are very well aware of the Creative Commons option. I believe you that the policy is probably top-down: the post-French Revolution Church is (whether for good or ill is also above my paygrade) historically anomolous in how ultramontane its administrative structural biases are. Nevertheless, I still hesitate to assume malice where “out of touch in the way that most people everywhere, especially elderly theologians, are out of touch with this issue” is still an available hypothesis.

              But by all means–write that letter! It can only help.

              • That’s why I find it important to mention that it is “unrelated to this scandal”. THIS scandal, to me, seems to be nothing more than a bunch of men over the age of 60, not knowing the first thing about how the web works, and likely not even having a clue that Creative Commons exists. They’re just trying to use a set of laws commonly used to protect revenue streams, to protect the words of the Pope. Wrong tool, right job.

                Given what that group does seem to have some malice about, well, I don’t think there is any profit in this situation at all, and I don’t see what copyright law has to do with extra-curicular sexcapades either (to coin a new term on the spot that is a horrid pun).

                • HornOrSilk

                  On the other hand, I think you need to be very careful, because I think you are creating scandal with your “rumors,” and what you are doing could easily fall under calumny.

                  • Well, If I’m guilty of it, so is Cardinal Dolan (he’s where I got the October timeframe from) and then of course there is also the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, whose own press releases about this issue are available on the web for anybody to read.

            • Theodore, can you send me an email at I’d like to learn more about this. Thanks!

  • Sharon

    IMHO both posts could have been detraction – telling the truth to people who have no compelling need to know it. If Brandon had a gripe with the bishops it would have been better if he had privately approached them with his disagreement.
    This is not to say that I disagree with Brendon about this matter; I just didn’t need to know about it.