Osho Copyright, Trademark and the Right to Copy

Through the years I have followed many discussions concerning Osho and the copyrights of his discourses. Many of these discussions have been filled with venom. And recently these discussions seemed to have reached a new level of ugliness. And a lot of this ill feeling is being stoked by those who should know better.

From 1981 to 1986 I worked with the books both on the road selling to bookstores and distributors all across the United States and Canada and also when back at the ranch in Buddhaghosha which was the department that took care of selling and warehousing all of Osho’s books. Many friends worked in this office including Swami Chaitanya Keerti, Ma Dharma Jyoti, and two of Osho’s brothers; Amit and Shailendra.

One of the jobs that was done from that office was the sending of copies of Osho’s books to the United States Copyright Office, the Library of Congress and for receiving ISBN numbers. Every one of Osho’s books was sent to be registered for copyright protection.

Interestingly enough, by law in the United States, it is not even necessary to send copies of works for copyright because they are automatically protected once they have been produced but it does add a layer of protection in case there is ever any question as to who is the holder of such copyright.

In these discussions that can be seen on the internet, there are those who claim that Osho never wanted his works to be copyright protected. But they do so only by ignoring the obvious. You can look inside every book that was produced in Poona and see Copyright, Rajneesh Foundation. Every one of the booklets that I have seen from the days before the Poona Ashram said, Copyright Jeevan Jagruti Kendra. The copyrights moved from one organization to another always following Osho. When Osho left the United States, a new organization was formed Osho International Foundation and it then became the holder of Osho’s copyrights.

One of our legal friends has argued that when the Ranch ended and the new organization O. I. F. was formed, that because it was such a chaotic time, there was a lapse in making the transfer from one entity to the other and so argues that because of this there is some doubt as to whether it was done properly. Now this may be a clever legal argument but it only highlights the fact that Osho’s works have always been copyrighted. And though, it is possible that there may have been some oversight it is clear that the intent was to transfer the copyrights. I suspect that this is the reason that someone came up with the creative idea to create a will in order to correct this lapse of filing. Now anyone can argue that this was not the most ingenious idea but personally I cannot fault anyone for trying to ensure that the copyright protection continues.

Osho never took the stand that he didn’t want any copyright as did U.G. Krishnamurti. U. G. says clearly that his words are not subject to copyright but Osho has had every one of his works printed with the words Copyright. And personally, I am grateful that he had the foresight to make sure that his words were protected. It would have been much less of an issue while he was in the body, because he could have spoken out, but once gone the only protection against any Tom, Dick or Harry writing nonsense in Osho’s name is the copyright protection.

If one wants to argue about the enforcement of copyright that is another story but to argue that Osho didn’t want his works to be under copyright protection is absurd. Clearly there is a lot of room as to how stringently to enforce. I recently saw that the producers of Wild, Wild Country and Osho International Foundation reached an agreement and that now the documentary states by permission of OIF.

As far as the trademark OSHO, there seems to be a lot of confusion. First of all, there was no trademark granted in the United States but it was upheld in Europe. And it is only the use of all caps OSHO that is trademarked. I am pretty sure that at the time of the ranch the two birds symbol was trademarked.

Now where I have objections is how the trademark law is being applied. There were trademarks while Osho was in the body but I am not aware of them ever being used to control the activities of his meditation centers. But that is a question of management style and there has always been objections to management style. In Poona people objected to the way that Deeksha operated, at the Ranch it was Sheela that was objectionable and these days of course it is the way that Jayesh operates that people find objectionable.

So, I would encourage anyone who wants to object to the workings of the Pune organization, to object honestly. It is a question of agreeing or not agreeing with management decisions and it has nothing to do with such high falutin sounding principles of “Osho never wanted any copyrights.”

Osho could not be clearer than this discourse on the need for copyright protection:

“Now there are many countries…. Just yesterday, a Korean woman was here, and she informed us that more than thirty of my books are translated into Korean, and thousands of copies are available in all the bookstalls all over the country. We have to take care of things. There are countries which are not members of the Bern Convention: they do not believe in copyright. Korea is one of those that do not believe in copyright, so they can translate any book, publish any book.

But we can at least keep an eye that the translation is done rightly, that the person who is doing the translation understands me. It is not only a question of copyright, it is a question that I should not be presented in a wrong way — which is possible. Because if they are just earning money, who cares whether the translation is right or wrong?

I informed the woman, “You send…” Because we don’t even know: it may be happening in other countries. There are many countries which are not under the copyright convention. But we can help them, we can suggest to them, ”We don’t want any money from you, any royalty from you, but we would like you to represent every book exactly, without any distortion. And in many countries we will have to take publication into our own hands.”

from Light on the Path, Discourse #28

Prem Purushottama