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"Things can be copyrighted, thoughts cannot be copyrighted, and certainly meditations cannot be copyrighted. They are not things of the marketplace. Nobody can monopolize anything. But perhaps the West cannot understand the difference between an objective commodity and an inner experience. For ten thousand years the East has been meditating and nobody has put trademarks upon meditations."

- My Master 

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The History of Copyright Claims for Rajneesh Work     
Rajneesh began giving discourses in the 1960s. By 1969 a charitable trust was set up in Bombay to support Rajneesh work. This trust was Jivan Jagruti Kendra (JJK), and it began to publish some of Rajneesh discourses in written form. These were actually small booklets containing collections of discourses. Some of those discourses were English translations of Hindi discourses. In those small booklets JJK listed itself as the copyright holder, but there’s no evidence that JJK ever tried to claim ownership of Rajneesh copyright interests in the works. JJK may have had a copyright interest in the translations and compilations, while Rajneesh held the copyright to the expression of ideas in the content.

In 1974
Rajneesh moved to Pune and the ashram was set up there. As more people came to Pune a publishing department was set up and both Hindi and English discourse series were published in book form and in recordings: darshan diaries, recording Rajneesh meetings with individuals in the evening were also published. JJK, which had changed its name to Rajneesh Foundation (RF) in 1975, had these books printed and listed RF as copyright holder.

The books were transcribed from discourses, edited, and sometimes translated into other languages. All of these contributions make up aspects of the work that can be copyrighted. In other words, there can be several copyrights in a work.
Rajneesh owned the copyright to the expression of ideas contained in His discourse, but RF or the individuals involved may have also owned an interest in compilations, translations, and extensive editing. Whether. The question is, whether a charitable trust owns the work of volunteers—some of them Indian citizens and some foreign visitors—that is financed by the trust and done under the auspices of the trust. Even if the answer is no, it seems fairly obvious that RF thought it owned those rights and claimed copyrights in the work.

There is a copy of a 1978 document where
Rajneesh clarifies RF’s rights to His interests in the books. If this was an authentic document (no original is available) it indicates that RF was well aware that it didn’t own Rajneesh share of the copyrights and sought an agreement with Him so that it could publish and license out the works to other publishers. RF then began to license rights to some major American publishers, and these books gave Rajneesh a much larger profile in the West.

In the early 1980s
Rajneesh agreed to go to the USA for a rest that would improve His health.Rajneesh returned to the ashram in Pune for the last years of His life.

OIF, Zurich claims that
Rajneesh either transferred the publishing licensing agreement He had with RF to RFI or agreed to RF’s transfer of that license to RFI. Given that Rajneesh had every intention of returning to India, it’s very unlikely that He would have agreed to shift the center of publishing from India to the USA.

During the four years of Rajneeshpuram, USA, people there participated in creating books from
Rajneesh discourses, including transcribing, translating, and editing extensively. Under US law, which applies to the activities in Rajneeshpuram, any rights in the books from these activities belonged to the individuals who did the work, unless they had signed valid work-for-hire agreements with someone before the work was done. There is no evidence that work-for-hire agreements were signed.

Nonetheless, RFI might have thought it did own some rights. In any event, RFI continued RF’s practice of listing itself as the copyright holder. When the Rajneeshpuram collapsed in 1985, RFI transferred any rights it had to Rajneesh Foundation Europe (RFE later in 1990 after
Rajneesh left the body, changed to  [OIF Zurich]).

After Rajneeshpuram the situation of who was claiming copyrights became more complicated. There are reports that when
Rajneesh returned to India He asked that the publishing of His work should be centered in India, and that any claim that rights had been transferred to the US be withdrawn. This report is supported by several facts. First, no originals have been produced of the documents purporting to transfer rights to the USA, so they might have been destroyed. Second, during Pune II, the period of time between when Rajneesh returned to Pune and when He left His body, several Indian entities claimed to own the copyrights in Rajneesh work. As Rajneesh saw those publications He was probably aware of these claims.

OIF claimed in the US trademark case that
Rajneesh saw books of His discourses that had been published, and so He would have seen that OIF was claiming copyrights. This is not necessarily true at all. After 1985 the then Rajneesh Foundation Europe changed its name to Neo-Sannyas International. Around the same time Rajneesh Foundation in India also changed its name to Neo-Sannyas International. The books published after 1985 listed Neo-Sannyas International as the copyright holder, but gave no indication whether the reference was to the Indian or the Swiss foundation. The Indian foundation might have been relying on the claimed 1978 license from Rajneesh in claiming copyrights.

At the same time that one or both of the entities named Neo-Sannyas International were claiming copyrights for the books, Tao claimed to own all of
Rajneesh work that appeared in the English and Hindi Rajneesh/Times. We have no documents that would support these claims, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist. The point is that, given all these claims from Indian entities, Rajneesh had no reason to think that a Swiss foundation was claiming exclusive ownership of all His copyrights.

In 1991, after
Rajneesh had left the body, Neo-Sannyas International changed its name to   (OIF). Around the same time a new charitable trust was set up in India, also called Rajneesh International Foundation. For several years books were published listing OIF as the copyright holder, without indicating if this was the Indian or Swiss entity. Tao Publishing also continued to claim ownership of the copyrights for some time.

All of this is pointless in the sense that since there’s no evidence
Rajneesh ever transferred ownership of this copyrights to anyone else, none of these claimants actually owned Rajneesh share of the copyrights in the works anyway. This is relevant, though, because it shows that there’s no evidence that Rajneesh had any idea at all that the Swiss foundation Neo-Sannyas, as opposed to the Indian Neo-Sannyas International, was claiming to own any rights in published works. OIF, Zurich's assertion that Rajneesh knew about and approved its copyright claims is completely without support.

Did  Master Rajneesh Ever Transfer 
His Copyrights To Others Claims by Oif Is False


No, He didn’t. Two documents have come to light that may (or may not) have been signed by Rajneesh. These are publishing licenses for some of His books. (See 'What are the documents OIF is relying on to claim copyright ownership?' for the documents and a complete discussion of their legal effects.]

Copyrights are legal rights that must be transferred clearly in writing. They can’t be transferred through inference or oral statements. There has to be a valid written document that clearly transfers all legal interest in the copyrights. If such a document ever existed, which isn’t likely, we don’t have that document now.

The question of copyright ownership was part of the US trademark case, but none of the documents produced in discovery or in evidence in that case over nine years of litigation are assignments of copyright ownership. In other words, OIF appears to have no such documents to produce. (Since the Trademark Board did not have direct jurisdiction over copyrights, it could not decide whether OIF, Zurich owned copyrights, only how the claim to own them impacted the trademark claim.)

A copyright claimant for Rajneesh copyrights has to have what is called a complete chain of title linking Rajneesh to it. To really own Rajneesh copyrights OIF would have to prove that Rajneesh assigned copyright ownership to RF, RF assigned it to RFI, and RFI assigned it to OIF, Zurich. If any link in this chain is missing, OIF gets nothing. The weakest link in this chain is the first document of 1978 (Document 1), which not only can’t be authenticated, but is on its face a license, not a copyright assignment. Document 2 is essentially the same as Document 1 and could, at most, transfer publishing rights in unidentified works or the eight works for Document 1. (See What are the documents OIF is relying on to claim copyright ownership?)
This means that OIF does not own Rajneesh copyrights by assignment, as it has claimed.


There is one other theory that OIF, Zurich has tried to use to justify copyright ownership. OIF filed copyrights for books and recordings of discourses given by Rajneesh with the US Library of Congress for several titles of Rajneesh work claiming that OIF owned copyrights through a work-for-hire agreement with Rajneesh. (It’s important to remember that a registration is not proof of ownership and means nothing if OIF didn’t actually own the copyrights.)

Generally a copyright attaches to a creative work as soon as the work becomes “fixed,” for example, put in writing, recorded, music put into notations, photograph taken, or artwork made. The person creating the work is presumed to own the work he or she creates. If someone creates something on behalf of someone else and is paid for the work, the copyright might belong to the person financing the project. In the US this is true if, and only if, the creator of the project signs a work-for-hire agreement before the project is completed specifying that the rights in the work will belong to the financer.

Rajneesh was never employed by any foundation, never was paid for giving discourses, and never signed a work-for-hire agreement with anyone. The two license agreements Rajneesh was alleged to have signed both specified that Rajneesh got to choose whether or not He included any discourse in the publishing license agreement (Documents 1 & 2) In other words, He kept control over His work and only agreed that He might grant limited rights (a publishing license) after the work was created (discourse recorded) and a copyright had been (attached) that belonged to Him.

Neither Theory Can Succeed

The only reason the RFI/OIF, Zurich would have registered copyrights in the US claiming a work for hire basis for ownership is because they realized that the documents allegedly signed by Rajneesh were not assignments of copyright ownership, but license agreements. They may have hoped that they would have more luck passing off the agreements as work-for-hire agreements than as assignments of copyrights. In the US trademark case OIF opted to make the assignment of ownership argument instead.

In truth, neither of these theories can ultimately succeed. The license agreements allegedly signed by Rajneesh clearly do not transfer any ownership rights in Rajneesh copyrights. A transfer of ownership rights would have been just as necessary for a right-to-hire agreement as it would be for an assignment of copyright agreement, and there is no document that transfers ownership rights from Rajneesh

Rajneesh Understanding

Though there is no existing original of the document allegedly signed by Rajneesh in 1978 (Document 1), it is possible that Rajneesh signed this very limited agreement with RF India. The language of that agreement makes it absolutely clear that Rajneesh intended to reserve the rights to control His own work at that point in time. He set all kinds of conditions on the license He granted and reserved the right to withhold future work from the license and to revoke the license and give it to someone else. The fact that no original is known to exist may indicate that Rajneesh decided to end that license and asked that the original be destroyed. That isn’t the kind of document that would have been lost otherwise.

One more thing is clear, and that is that no document exists that transferred Rajneesh copyright ownership to anyone else. This means that Rajneesh owned His rights during His entire life and OIF has no valid claim to copyright ownership today.

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