Dawn Eden On Why The Church’s Rights To Distribute Copyrighted Material Should Be Honored…UPDATED

Dawn Eden On Why The Church’s Rights To Distribute Copyrighted Material Should Be Honored…UPDATED July 6, 2013
Image Credit: Erik J Heels


Yesterday, I shared a post linking to Brandon Vogt’s blog thanking him for providing other digital formats of the latest encyclical Lumen Fidei. As it turns out, Brandon didn’t have permission to provide those other formats, and as a result, the Vatican and the USCCB cried foul.

Those of you who clicked on the link that took you to Brandon’s blog were met with the following message,

 In the last couple hours, I’ve received a litany of emails from both the USCCB and the Vatican accusing me of “[violating] both civil and moral law” and “stealing from the pope” (actual words used) by making the encyclical available in other formats. They’ve ordered me to remove the documents with full knowledge that this would prevent hundreds of people from reading it who otherwise wouldn’t read the encyclical online or in print.

In my view, this is tragic and unjust. It’s valuing profit over catechesis, and I have to believe Pope Francis (and Pope Benedict) would be extremely perturbed. Their goal and the goal of the Church is to evangelize—to spread the message of Jesus Christ, especially through papal encyclicals—not to make a dime off each copy printed.

I’m heading out the door for a three-day spiritual without access to the Internet, so I’ll save my fuller reaction for another time. But per their request, I’ve removed the documents. Feel free to read the encyclical online or pre-order the Ignatius hardcover version.

As it turns out, it’s quite easy to reformat the PDF version of the encyclical into other formats. But just because you can do something, does that mean you should do something? That is the question that Dawn Eden answers well in her latest post, Were the Vatican & USCCB “unjust” to order a Catholic blogger to take down reformatted versions of Francis’s encyclical?

What then are those reasons?
  • First of all, just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right.How often do we Catholics have to emphasize this in our daily interactions with those outside the faith, as well as with fellow Catholics tempted to “go with the flow.” In this case, just because “mainstream” Catholic websites reprint papal documents at will does not mean that it is morally licit to do so. Which brings me to my next point:
  • The Church recognizes the rights of societies to make their own laws (Compendium of Social Doctrine 45). When laws are not enforced, they cease to have force. If we as a Church did not uphold this, we could not register protest at the Supreme Court’s rejection of the rule of law in its same-sex marriage decision. While it is true that the natural law is prior to, and supersedes, human laws, the right of the Holy See to decide how its writings are to be distributed is not a prima facie violation of the natural law.
  • The “universal destination of goods” spoken of in Catholic social teaching does not overturn the right to private property. Catholic social teaching recognizes that it is unjust to deprive human beings of those goods and technologies that necessary for human thriving. But it also recognizes the value and social function of private property (CSD 91). To prove that Lumen Fidei is by rights a “universal good” and not subject to the laws pertaining to private property, one would have to show that those who need it are being unjustly deprived of it. That is simply not the case. Anyone who can access the Internet can find and download Lumen Fidei for free from the Vatican website, either in HTML or PDF format. Those with mobile devices also have the convenience of the Vatican’s free Pope App.

Read the rest, as what she says makes a lot of sense.


The Curt Jester: Evangelization vs. Copyright 

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