Pontifex Maximu$ ?

On Monday, the Times of London carried this story about the Holy See’s decision to use Vatican copyright law to cover official papal statements and documents.

The story reports: “For the first time all papal documents, including encyclicals, will be governed by copyright invested in the official Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.”

Interestingly, the new copyright-based approach applies retroactively: “The edict is retroactive, covering not only the writings of the present pontiff — as Pope and as cardinal — but also those of his predecessors over the past 50 years. It therefore includes anything written by John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII.”

I’m reminded of a passage in Chapter 1 of Landes & Posner’s Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law, in which they suggest that government can fund its production and distribution of official documents from general revenue or from copyright-based exclusive provision (in effect, user fees).

Hat tip to Ann Bartow’s post at Sivacracy.

UPDATE: A follow-up story about the Holy See’s copyright policy. An interesting bit, nodding to basic fair use principles: “The Vatican Press Office, asked about the copyright, said newspapers have the right to publish texts as news, including Benedict’s first encyclical issued Wednesday.”

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