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Monday, 9 February 2009

Saints and Sinners and Copyright

Jeffrey Tucker does the Church a great service by continuing the pressure on TPTB to come to a fair resolution of the injustices of the way the copyrights on the English translations of the sacred texts of the Catholic Liturgy are administered.
But I am puzzled.
It seems to be taken as a given that greedy ICEL demands its pound of flesh to use the real words of the Mass, and so the freedom-fighter* composer or publisher is forced to use some paraphrase rather than bow to ICEL's mercenary demands.
So it always seems to be framed.
Certainly the problem has ended up encouraging massive abuse of Mass texts by musicians who don't want to pay the ICEL tax. The most widely used Mass setting in the United States carefully adjusts the official text so that ICEL doesn't have to be paid. Thus do we sing, "Jesus, Lamb of God," instead of "Lamb of God." [emphasis added]

Oh, all these illicit, (arrogant, I say,) texts are because someone resents ICEL's greedy attempts to profit by the use of the text?
Not because the composer or publisher wants to hold and profit by a copyright of texts themselves?

Why is ICEL the villain in this scenario and the purveyors of the ersatz sacred texts get a pass?

Why are the motives of the one vilified, and the other's escape criticism?

I'm not convinced, I'd buy the noble freedom-fighter characterization.... if the silly refrains and awkward phrases of the Celebration series, for instance, weren't themselves copyrighted.
If they had been placed in the public domain, (I am speaking of the texts, only.)
And if some owners didn't insist that one needed a license to reproduce even public domain texts if one intended them to be sung to a copyrighted tune, or even a copyrighted accompaniment to a public domain tune.
I see no evidence that the impetus is more to avoid paying ICEL than to create the opportunity to exact their own pound of flesh.

Look how often a familiar (need I add, public domain?,) harmonization of a classic hymn is given minute, and often as not clumsy, changes simply to enable someone in the Liturgical-Industrial complex to copyright for himself Love Divine, or Amazing Grace.

No, I am not buying it.

(*I am certainly not suggesting the Bow-tied One characterizes theses people this way.)

1 comment:

lvschant said...

I don't really think of the folks making the decisions about this stuff at ICEL as villains. I think they may be catering to much to their buddies at GIA/OCP etc. without considering the potential public outcry (that has since occurred).

Perhaps their problem is similar to the problem the Vatican's press office is having -- ineptitude? I can't say with any knowledge. I just wish they would realize that it would be a tremendous good for the church to make the texts public domain... for all involved -- the clergy, the lay people and individual musicians. It would also make it much more attractive to the big publishing houses to actually use the correct words in their compositions... what a concept!

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