Divine IP Right

Andrew Brown draws my attention to the fact that the Vatican is now claiming IP Rights over papal encyclicals. According to the Times story,

For the first time all papal documents, including encyclicals, will be governed by copyright invested in the official Vatican publishing house, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The edict covers Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, which is to be issued this week amid huge international interest. The edict is retroactive, covering not only the writings of the present pontiff — as Pope and as cardinal — but also those of his predecessors over the past 50 years. It therefore includes anything written by John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI and John XXIII.

Ahem, but isn’t there a small problem here? Encyclicals are utterances ex cathedra: in them the pope claims to be speaking as the ‘Vicar of Christ’ — i.e. he is a mouthpiece for the Lord. So logically, the IP Rights, such as they are, belong to the author, not to the conduit. Hmmm…. time to call for Professor Lessig.