Saturday, January 09, 2010

Who Owns the Pope's Face

The Catholic News Agency explains in "Holy See declares unique copyright on Papal figure."

The statement cited a "great increase of affection and esteem for the person of the Holy Father" in recent years as contributing to a desire to use the Pontiff's name for all manner of educational and cultural institutions, civic groups and foundations.

Due to this demand, the Vatican has felt it necessary to declare that "it alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter, and therefore, to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church."

The declaration alludes to attempts to use ecclesiastical or pontifical symbols and logos to "attribute credibility and authority to initiatives" as another reason to establish their “copyright” on the Holy Father's name, picture and coat of arms.

This isn't the first use of copyright law by the Vatican, as this Virtualpolitik story from 2006 indicates, but it represents an interesting attempt to control the visual rhetoric associated with the Pope, as well as the verbal rhetoric. And this is a pope who had previously warned against excessive copyright restrictions and the exercise of power by rich countries that they represented.

Of course, like all public figures, the image of the pontiff has been Photoshopped, as in this gallery of images of heightened security around the Pope, and there is even a Photoshop tutorial about turning the Pope into Governor Palpatine of Star Wars fame.

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