Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is the Copyright/Royalty Regime Starting to Crack?

A remarkable and telling story just now appeared on NCR: US Bishops, Biblical Association in Dispute Over Royalties. It seems that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has stopped paying the Association its traditional 25 percent share of royalties that the U.S. Bishops get from the New American Bible, which is at once the most copyright protected and widely criticized translations in existence.

I'm most interested in the actual reported figures of what the U.S. Bishops actually receive in royalties from the NAB and other publications. Mary Sperry actually spells it out: "the budgeted net royalties of the bishops’ conference over the past five years have been $1.38 million in 2006, $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, $1.17 million in 2009 and $875,000 in the current calendar year."

Two points: the obvious decline in payments and, most strikingly, the relatively small amount of money we are talking about here, especially when we consider the vast distribution of the NAB and the unfathomably high moral costs associated with restricting access to the sacred scriptures.

The NCR story is packed with weeping about those students who are being denied money for archeological digs, the journals that are hurting for funds, and the like. All of this is a given: everyone wants more money rather than less. What the story never mentions is where this money is coming from to begin with. In the end, it all comes from the pockets of Catholics in the pews, who are being taxed to read, listen to, and learn from the Word of God. There is something very wrong here. These institutions all need to ween themselves from attachment to money from this source.
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