Monday, March 7, 2011

The Trouble with ZENIT

Like many people who receive ZENIT'S emails, I appreciate their new coverage and must also deal with fundraising campaigns that seem to come along every few months.

I have no problem with that. Goodness knows that such organizations need money. But let me say here what I have said many times to ZENIT itself but never received a reply: there is something strange about an organization that solicits contributions in the name of its service to the Church and world, and, at the same time, enforces extreme copyright control over the words that it distributes, demanding that it and it only somehow owns exclusively every word it prints. It is not uncommon for this organization to write good Catholic bloggers and demand that they stop reprinting their articles. They can be extremely severe and threatening. It always shocks people because in reprinting and linking, people figure (rightly) that they are helping the mission of ZENIT. ZENIT regards this as theft of its property.

Now, it might be one thing if this were the NYT (which doesn't do this, by the way), a profit-making company that has its eye on the bottom line and doesn't solicit charity from others. But that is not ZENIT. ZENIT calls on our charitable instincts to help them in their plight even as it acts like some kind of corporate conglomerate, happy to use the law against people who think that they are helping. To me, this is akin to a soup kitchen that turns people away based on their dress, or a church that demands that its parishioners never evangelize. It is also extremely bad business to put artificial limits on the distribution of your message.

For this reason, I cannot and will not given ZENIT a contribution. If the day comes when ZENIT decides to leverage my contribution by making its material completely open and publishes into the commons, and stops using the state against people who just want to spread the good word, they can count on my constant support.