Tuesday, November 18, 2008

GIA, Revised Grail Psalter, and Open Access

The GIA has answered my query posted here. Rather than review the details, I'll just reprint the correspondence. In sum, it is good news that the policies on text access have not been finalized. It is not good news, however, that GIA is citing the postconciliar precedent of closed texts without mentioning the change in ICEL policy that now permits the Mass texts to be posted online without legal penalty.

Dear Mr. Tucker,

Thank you for your inquiries about policies governing licensing and the use of the Revised Grail Psalter. Firstly, it should be made clear that GIA does not set policy in this regard, but functions as the literary agent for the joint copyright holders who retain all rights.

I am happy to report that the copyright holders are committed to making this text available on terms consistent with the licensing of liturgical texts ever since the introduction of the vernacular to the liturgy. Specific details of the licensing policies, however, are still being refined.

The text, of course, will be released in accordance with the requirements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the meantime, we await the local imprimatur and the Vatican recognitio, the latter of which could theoretically call for further revisions.


Michael Boschert
Permissions Editor
GIA Publications, Inc.
7404 S. Mason Ave.
Chicago, IL 60638
1-800-GIA-1358, ext. 62

Here is my answer:

Yes, I understand how publishers and agents work with copyright holders. There can be contracts involved that can restrict access to texts that are closed for decades. Under these conditions, anyone who blogs a Psalm could face legal penalties. Clearly this will not do.

The best news of your note is that the licensing policies are still not finalized. I do hope that you will insist on permitting completely open access to all these texts, lest artistic development be impeded and the rights of Catholics to their own liturgical texts be unjustly restricted.

In this regard, "the licensing of liturgical texts ever since the introduction of the vernacular to the liturgy" does not set a precedent that is suitable in the digital age. ICEL has been clear on its new policy: its texts "may be reproduced in a non-commercial site ("Site") on the global computer network commonly known as the internet without obtaining written or oral permission."

At minimum, this should also be the policy with regard to the Revised Grail Psalter. It is also a serious problem that publishers may not use the ICEL texts today without paying royalties (this is in contrast to the Book of Common Prayer, which is wholly public domain). Permitting open access to the Grail will also mean that any publisher--not just the GIA and not just those who are heavily capitalized--can use the Psalm texts to produce and sell music, which will allow maximum artistic freedom.

When will you have final word on your policy? For those interested in influencing the outcome, where can we write to express the need for openness? After all, surely those of us in the pews who are most strongly affected by these policies--and ultimately end up paying the price for restrictions--should have some voice in how matters turn out.

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