July 10, 2013

Article at Authory

Thou Shalt Not Pirate Papal Documents

There's been a brouhaha in cyberspace recently over lay Catholics converting Pope Francis' new encyclical Lumen Fidei into ebook format without authorization from the copyright holder and then offering it online as a free download. I've read the arguments, pro and con, and here's my take:

Book piracy is book piracy, and just because this is a papal document doesn't alter that fact. The very fact that this is the Pope's work actually makes piracy worse, just as it compounds culpability when an injustice is committed against your father rather than a stranger.

While it would be nice for those defending the Pope's copyright to speak courteously and not make rash accusations when there is no evidence of criminal intent, there is no obligation for permission to be given even if sought beforehand. There is not even an obligation to give a reason for saying no. All that is necessary is a polite "Thanks, but no thanks."

Speaking of niceties, it is also not nice to assume that a desire to protect revenue is a matter of greed. Contrary to popular myth, the Vatican is not fabulously rich. It has fewer liquid assets on tap to maintain its work than an Ivy League university. That means that piracy of papal documents is not a "victimless crime." The revenue generated may well be counted upon to fund the charities supported by the Pope.

Moral of the story: Ask first, accept no for an answer, and please don't scandalize fellow Catholics by claiming mistreatment when denied.

(Image: Pirate skull, Pixabay.)