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Vatican blogger meeting says no to copyright, yes to lifting content

Consider the lilies of the field...

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Speakers at a bloggers conference at the Vatican this week gave themselves an indulgence, saying it is OK to lift content from "old media" and that copyright was old hat.

The Vatican's Councils for Culture and Social Communications had invited 150 bloggers to a meeting in Rome yesterday.

While many of the Catholic bloggers had been clearly excited about the event, designed to foster dialogue between bloggers and the Church, the official programme suggested this was unlikely to be more than a meet-and-greet.

The bloggers were being squeezed in just a day after Pope John Paul II's beatification. The official programme makes it clear they would have to get to Rome under their own steam, as well as cover their own room and board.

The Catholic Church doesn't rush into things, and so far, no official communique appears to have found its way onto the Vatican's news feeds – not in English anyway.

However, Catholic media appears to have universally hailed the event as a great success.

The Catholic News Service quotes Rome-based Canadian Blogger, Hilary White, as saying: "At the Vatican level I've been assured that there's no interest in regulating bloggers – and I believe them. These people don't lie."

One speaker told the meeting that copyrights are "an old model for new media".

And Father Roderick Vonhogen, a Dutch priest who also blogs, told the meeting that journalists should accept that bloggers will take their material and reuse it, adding that this amounts to free publicity and that good journalists will survive anyway, CNS reports.

"If they steal some of your content, as long as you put out quality, you will make it," he said.

This is clearly a Web 2.0 reworking of the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus tells the multitude to consider the "lilies of the field" who are clothed in splendour, yet do not labour or spin, or the birds of the air who don't bother storing up food. Then again, birds and flowers rarely produce much in the way of breaking news.

The Vatican's own spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said that Catholic bloggers should remember their first role is to serve others and the church, and added that the danger of self-centredness and "ego" is "one of the problems which is worth reflecting upon". ®

Mount-note

Also in the sermon, the multitude were told, "For I say unto you, that unless your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." Which is fair enough - bloggers do generally outdo journalists on the righteousness scale.

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