Vatican invokes papal copyright

A row has broken out in Rome about whether the speeches and writings of Pope Benedict should be freely available to everyone or subject to copyright.

The dispute was prompted by revelations that a publishing house in Milan had to pay £10,000 to reprint 30 lines from the first speech by the Pope following his election in April, after the Vatican transferred copyright on papal texts to its own publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The Vatican also plans to charge rights on any papal texts of the past 50 years.

“I am perplexed,” said Vittorio Messori, who has co-authored two books with two popes. “The Church is an organisation that exists to spread the word of God and levying a duty on those words, putting a smell of money on it, seems to me to be a very negative thing.”

The Union of Catholic Booksellers and Publishers has also complained.

The Vatican has said that papal texts have always been subject to copyright but that the rules were often not observed. Transferring the copyright was to protect papal works and ensure that the rules would be applied more rigorously, a spokesman said. He denied that the charges were excessive and said there was a sliding scale of 3% to 5% in royalties on books which used extracts from the Pope’s teachings. But the newspaper La Stampa claims that the Milan publishing house which printed an excerpt from the Pope’s first speech had to agree to pay 15% in royalties and £2,000 in legal costs.

We appreciate your support

One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Guardian, UK
Jan. 23, 2006
Barbara McMahon in Rome

More About This Subject

This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)