Copyright, the USCCB, and Evangelization
The USCCB continues to wield copyrights for and squash evangelical uses of Vatican-issued texts that are of critical importance to the Church's mission of evangelization.
Brandon Vogt decided to post the Holy Father's latest encyclical, Lumen Fidei, to his blog in formats that are accessible to the masses (epub, kindle, etc.), but was quickly made to remove these downloads from his blog because of a copyright claim by the USCCB.
Obviously, Brandon doesn't own the rights to the text—and he also obediently complied with the takedown request. However, time and time again, I have noticed that lay faithful (and heck, even diocesan organizations—I experienced this three times while working in the curia, and many more times since!) have had their innovative evangelical initiatives deflated or outright squashed by the USCCB's publishing wing. (Examples: Integration of the Catholic text of the Bible, Catechism, and mass translations in parish, diocesan, and organizational websites and apps (too many times to count), Flocknote's Catechism in a Year email list).
To be clear, I have no issue with the Vatican's and USCCB's rights to the texts of the faith (encyclicals, scripture, catechisms, teachings). I have issue with the fact that, any time someone demonstrates evangelical initiative, the first (and usually only) official Church response is: "stop that, you're stealing a copyrighted work." It should be more along the lines of: "you're trying to do something awesome—we'd like to help you, here's how you can do it without violating our copyright."
I have made myself heard on these issues many times. It's time to double our efforts, in prayer and in spreading the word, towards setting the sacred text of the Bible and the great evangelical tool of the Catechism free in the English language.
- Free the Word: Why the Church Needs to Release Her Teachings to the World
- Evangelization vs. Copyright
- Open Access to the Catholic Bible and Catechism (NAB/NABRE and CCC)
- Free Lumen Fidei
- Were the Vatican & USCCB “unjust” to order a Catholic blogger to take down reformatted versions of Francis’s encyclical?
[Update: It looks like there's another casualty from the fallout of this recent copyright battle—Jeff Miller's 'The Weekly Francis' eBook compilation project, which took all the writings/speeches of the pope and compiled them into one easy-to-digest document. I understand why Jeff had to stop, but I wish he wasn't compelled to do so.]