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Date Posted: 15:25
Author: Yogananda Devotee - 28 Aug 2001
Subject: Re: Excerpts from SRF's 1995 response to Ananda's accusations - part 7
In reply to: ketch - 28 Aug 2001 's message, "Excerpts from SRF's 1995 response to Ananda's accusations - part 7" on 10:41

This commentary, taken from the Yogananda Rediscovered website, explains the SRF copyright claims from a legal and universal spiritual perspective:

SRF Claims Ananda Infringed Its Copyrights
Printer friendly version - 8 pages

SRF considers itself the guardian of Paramhansa Yogananda's spiritual heritage. They want complete control of his writings, all photographs of him and recordings of his voice. SRF believes that Yogananda intended for SRF to have this control in order to ensure the "purity" of the teachings.

Many of Yogananda's writings are now in the public domain
Control, however, is slipping away from them. The passage of time, and the boomerang effect of this lawsuit, has already brought much of Yogananda's writings and many photographs of him, into the public domain. (See Out-of-Print Writings) Books by Yogananda are freely available now from sources other than SRF.

For example, Ananda publishes the first edition of Autobiogrpahy of a Yogi, since SRF's later editions includes many changes made after Yogananda died.

There are two versions of Yogananda's commentary on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: SRF's Wine of the Mystics, edited by Mrinalini Mata and Ananda's The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained, edited by Swami Kriyananda. The two books are so different that it is hard to believe they come from the same original material.

Only SRF has published Yogananda's commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gita because the bulk of those commentaries and also those on the Bible are still in dispute in this lawsuit. Neither SRF nor Ananda has published the unedited versions, of these works, except in the SRF magazines, because Yogananda himself asked that the commentaries be edited before publication in book form.

Much of Paramhansa Yogananda's writings, and the commentaries in particular, are scripture to his devotees, and may someday be scripture to the whole world. Upon completing his Gita commentary Yogananda exclaimed joyously, "A new scripture has been born. Millions will find God through this book! Not just thousands. Millions! I know, I have seen it." (The Path)

Who can edit Yogananda's writings?
SRF feels that Mrinalini Mata is the only one chosen by Yogananda to edit his works. Kriyananda knows this is not true, since Yogananda instructed him to work on writing and editing. SRF's insistence that there can only be one version of Yogananda's books is like saying there should be only one version of the Bible.

It is folly, in any case, to think one disciple, or even one group of disciples can encompass the totality of a master's teachings. An avatar needs many instruments to convey to the world even a fraction of the divine truth he came to bring. This has been the yogic tradition for millennia. Great masters inspire many disciples, each of whom, in turn, inspires others. In this way, a great teachings spreads. (See Why three versions of the Rubaiyat?)

What did Yogananda intend?
There has already been an enormous amount of litigation in this section of the case, and key issues are still unresolved. In fact, this is the only part of the lawsuit still alive. But it is a humdinger.

Since neither party in this case is the actual author of the works in question, everything hinges on what Paramhansa Yogananda did during his lifetime and what the courts determine he intended to have happen after his passing. Relevant events took place 50 to 75 years ago and the few eyewitnesses left alive are getting on in years. Consider the fact that the author is a God-realized master, and you can see that the case is unconventional, to say the least.

Many of the works at issue are from SRF magazines, copyrighted by SRF. It turns out, however, that when an author or photographer gives his work over to a magazine to be published, it cannot be assumed that he has also given over his personal copyright on that work. The magazine publisher owns the composite, but not necessarily the individual articles and photographs within it. The publisher needs proof that those rights have also been transferred. Therein lies the tale.

SRF's claims against Ananda
SRF charged Ananda with infringing copyrights on:

(1) Eight photographs of Paramhansa Yogananda, two photographs of Rajarsi Janakananda, and eight pieces of written material ranging in length from one sentence to three paragraphs published in Clarity Magazine. (Clarity is Ananda's own publication. During the time referred to in this lawsuit, it was sent to members, donors, and others already on Ananda's mailing list, six to twelve times a year. Subscriptions, including free ones, topped out at 840.)

(2) Eleven chants from the book Cosmic Chants either included in an audio tape recorded and sold by Ananda or quoted in Clarity magazine.

(3) Six recorded lectures by Paramhansa Yogananda reproduced and sold by Ananda. (In 1985, when Ananda was given these tapes by a non-SRF source, no tapes like them were available to the public, even though SRF has a vast archive of such tapes. After Ananda began to sell these, SRF also published some of the same recordings, with better sound quality. Ananda then withdrew some and continued to sell others.)

(4) Numerous articles from SRF magazines containing Paramhansa Yogananda's commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad-Gita. (Yogananda completed his commentary on the Gita in 1951; SRF finally published a highly edited version of it 45 years later in 1995. His Bible commentary has yet to be published. Both commentaries, however, were serialized in SRF magazines. In 1978, Shivani Lucki, an Ananda member, began mimeographing the commentaries from old SRF magazines, spiral binding them, and selling them at cost to Ananda members.)

Many different legal arguments have been presented. Let's go through them step by step.

Copyrights had lapsed
In 1991, while doing research for this case, one of Ananda's attorneys, discovered that SRF had allowed the copyrights to lapse on all SRF magazines published before January 1943. SRF did not charge Ananda with infringing any magazine articles prior to this date, even though many had been included in the commentaries Shivani printed and distributed, so SRF was clearly aware of the lapse.

The attorney also discovered that the copyrights had lapsed on all books written by Paramhansa Yogananda and published prior to 1936. Perhaps SRF thought their copyrights on later editions also protected the earlier ones, but they did not.

When Ananda presented this information to Judge Garcia, SRF conceded that, in fact, many of Yogananda's books, writings, and photographs of him had passed into the public domain. While this had no effect on the case at hand, it was a great discovery for those who favor free access especially to Paramhansa Yogananda's original writings.

The irony is, that if SRF had not sued Ananda we would never have found out.

Copyrights improperly renewed
When an author copyrights a book in his own name, and then dies before the first term of that copyright has expired, according to the law, only the author's heirs or the executor of his estate can renew that copyright. When Yogananda died, no will was presented, so there was no legal executor. And direct disciples, although perhaps more truly the heirs of a great master than his blood relatives, are still not recognized as heirs by a court of law.

Nonetheless, SRF had renewed copyrights that fell into this category, specifically the 1938 edition of Cosmic Chants, which is a part of this case. Ananda presented the facts to the judge, who ruled in Ananda's favor, and ordered the copyright canceled.

SRF appealed, but the Ninth Circuit upheld the lower court's decision. So the 1938 edition of Cosmic Chants went into the public domain and was dropped from the case.

Autobiography of a Yogi was never a part of this case. But the same logic that put Cosmic Chants into the public domain, also applied to the first edition of the Autobiogrpahy. So Ananda made plans to publish it. SRF challenged Ananda in court, but the judge ruled in Ananda's favor and now the first edition is freely available. Once again, the irony: SRF's sues to gain control and ends up losing even more.

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