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Cut & Paste: plagiarism in the faith


Reading one of the main Peruvian newspaper ‘El Comercio’ I became aware of a debate among religious, academics, newspapers, blogs and the like that is occurring in the country. The debate is around copyright and the idea/expression dichotomy regarding teaching a religious faith.


Image result for cardinal
A proper cardinal: are you talking to me?
Several times Lima's Roman Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani has written a column in the newspaper ‘El Comercio’. Last week a blog called ‘utero.pe’, which is about religious experience, noted that Cardinal Cipriani has plagiarized his writings in the newspaper. The allegation was that Lima's archbishop included six paragraphs from the book Communio by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict). When this accusation was published the readers started a wish hunt! And many has taken the trouble to go through the Cardinals’ newspaper writings and placed into the google search box…and …yep…the results have shown several writings (whole paragraphs) that have been taken from other sources and have not being properly attributed to their authors (screen shots can be seen here).

Cardinal Cipriani then took the time to apologise for not having mentioned his sources but continue to say that popes do not have intellectual property rights over their words since they are part of the “heritage of the faith”. Here is where the debate has been quite heated because of this idea/dichotomy that exist in copyright. Ideas as such are not protected and thus the teaching by popes are indeed part of the heritage of the faith. Giving an example, my teaching comes part of the legacy of the alumni and they are free to use those teaching – teaching is a learning tool. However, another matter and quite contrary to what has been claimed in this debate is that there is not property right on the teaching. In my example as said, the teaching is a learning tool but another issue would be to record the teaching (audio or verbatim) and copy it and pass it as if it were coming as their own. The latter is what happen in the newspaper column. What Cardinal Cipraini was doing was not using the idea but the expression of it – indeed a copyright infringement. For example:
Art 42 of the Peruvian Copyright Law says “Lectures given either in public or in private by the lecturers of universities, higher institutes of learning and colleges may be annotated and collected in any form by those to whom they are addressed, provided that no person may disclose them or reproduce them in either a complete or a partial collection without the prior written consent of the authors.”
Cardinal Cipriani even suggested that because of the type of column he was writing, there was not space for indicating the source. And this misconception is followed by others that have taking the social media to say that because it is different when you write a book, or academic paper, or a column in a newspaper Cardinal was right not to acknowledge the sources. There is indeed exception to quotations for copyrighted material such as reviewing or criticism. However in the present case the Cardinal used the quotations to impart a teaching – the quotes were neither reviewed nor criticised. And even in this legal exception such quotes need to be fairly used.
Art 44 of the Peruvian Copyright Law says “It shall be permissible to make quotations from lawfully disclosed works without the author’s consent or payment of remuneration, subject to the obligation to state the name of the author and the source, and to the condition that such quotations are made in accordance with proper practice and only to the extent justified by the aim pursued.”
However note that there is another exception that can be thought of which is enclosed in Art 43 Copyright Law as follows:
 “With regard to works that have already been lawfully disclosed, the following shall be permitted without the author’s consent:(a) reproduction by reprographic means, for teaching or the holding of examinations at educational institutions, provided that there is no gainful intent and to the extent justified by the aim pursued, of articles or brief extracts from lawfully published works, on condition that the use made of them is consistent with proper practice, involves no sale or other transaction for consideration and has no direct or indirect profit-making purpose;”
Indeed, imparting the info disclosed by the Cardinal may have not needed ‘authorization by the author or payment of any remuneration’ (even though he was not imparting the teaching in an educational institution) BUT it was not exempt from the obligation to state the name of the author and the source. Even in the 'space' given in the column there was still the need to accommodate the paragraph with ‘quotations’ marks and to put in brackets the author for example Pope VI or Pope Benedict.

Image result for quotes plagiarismFinally, an issue that has not been debated is the issue of moral rights which the Peruvian law also regulates under Chapter II of the Copyright Law. In this case the right infringed was the ‘rights of authorship’ also known as the ‘paternity right’.

Due to this debate and the assertion by the Cardinal that he did use the writings of former popes without attributing them, the newspaper El Comercio made the decision to delete two articles by the cardinal and said it would not publish him again. This measure could have been taken due to the fact that Art 218 (c) of the Criminal Code establishes a penalty of either imprisonment or a fine when knowing that the copy or reproduction is illicit, it still distributes the said copy/reproduction to the public by any medium, or stores it.

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