In a decision so bizarre that I have to wonder about the sanity of those behind it, the Vatican has announced that it’s asserting copyright control over use of the image, name, title, etc. of the Pope (as the Catholic News Agency reports):

Holy See declares unique copyright on Papal figure

The Vatican made a declaration on the protection of the figure of the Pope on Saturday morning. The statement seeks to establish and safeguard the name, image and any symbols of the Pope as being expressly for official use of the Holy See unless otherwise authorized. …

The declaration alludes to attempts to use ecclesiastical or pontifical symbols and logos to “attribute credibility and authority to initiatives” as another reason to establish their “copyright” on the Holy Father’s name, picture and coat of arms.

“Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff… and/or the use of the title ‘Pontifical,’ must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See,” concluded the message released to the press.

I’m not sure what this means for me as someone who occasionally comments on the actions of the Pope© and the Holy See©. Must I always use copyright or trademark symbols when talking about the office of the Pope©, the current officeholder Benedict XVI©, or the Vatican© itself?

I’m no lawyer, but it would seem to me that someone as public as Pope Benedict XVI© is … and since the office of Pope© has existed for many centuries already … I’m not sure how the Holy See© could even begin to enforce its copyright. But since the Roman Catholic Church is the wealthiest non-government entity on the planet, it’s safe to assume they can hire whole armies of attorneys to try to do so, and perhaps use lawsuits to coerce cooperation, even if they are not legally entitled to it by the letter of international copyright law.

Finally, I’m not sure what the point of all this is. Surely the Vatican© has much more compelling concerns, especially given the most recent revelations on the Irish clerical child-abuse saga, which to date has led to the resignations of two Irish bishops, and may yet end more careers (including police and government officials in Ireland who had acceded to the Church’s will and did not stop the abuse).

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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