Cathedrals and churches may take refuge in copyright law

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CATHEDRALS AND churches in England are considering trying to register their images as trademarks as a way of protecting them against exploitation and to raise funds.

The idea of legal protection for the images of some of the most famous religious buildings in the world was discussed at the Church of England General Synod in London last night.

In a written question, the Ven David Gerrard, Archdeacon of Wandsworth, asked: "In view of the recent attempt to protect by trademark the images of the late Princess of Wales, the city skyline of New York and Dolly the sheep, has the council sought any legal advice about the possibility of protecting by trademarks images of cathedrals and churches of national importance?" The patenting would prevent inappropriate use of the images and provide a possibly lucrative income, he suggested.

The Very Rev Edward Shotter, Dean of Rochester and Secretary of the Association of English Cathedrals, of which there are 42, said that it would be a matter for individual cathedrals and churches to seek trademark status.

However, he said he would not be in favour of patenting the image of Rochester Cathedral, the oldest See in the country after Canterbury. "Anything that promotes the cathedral in the diocese or the county would be to its advantage," he said. "To limit [with copyright] the use of pictures of the cathedral or its profile would only reduce its impact in the community."

Dean Shotter said he could see the benefits of preventing the use of an image for "scurrilous ends" but added that images of the nation's religious landmarks were already used everywhere.

"You only have to go into a cheese shop or supermarket to see that these images are all over the place and I don't think for one minute that copyrighting people would agree to it."

Also on the Synod's agenda was religious radio broadcasting, as the Church of England joined the chorus of criticism of the changes at BBC's Radio Four, saying that religion had been relegated to a graveyard slot.

All mainstream religious programmes on Radio Four now finish before 9am on a Sunday morning. The flagship religious current affairs programme, Sunday, is over by 8am and the services which are broadcast on Sunday worship are significantly shorter.

The much-vaunted changes to Radio Four's schedule across the board were introduced in April and were supposed to increase listener loyalty. However, many programmes have lost listeners - and religious broadcasting is no exception.

The Rev Jonathan Jennings, of the Church of England's communication unit, is investigating the effects of the changes. "The BBC is capable of producing some superb religious programmes and has a track record second to none," he said. "But ... there is great concern among church members about the marginalisation of religious broadcasting."