Monday, October 11, 2010

Osho's Copyrights

The recent interview of Ramateertha by Harideva in the Viha Connection and Ramateertha’s open letter to the Inner Circle have stirred up fresh interest in the topic of intellectual property rights: copyrights and trademarks. We’ve received comments from several people about Zurich-based OIF’s claim to own Osho’s interests in His copyrights, along with requests to open this topic for discussion in the community.

We’ve also had questions about the difference between copyrights and trademarks. Copyrights protect the use of the content of creative works that have been “fixed” by digitalizing, printing, writing down, drawing or painting, recording, and so on. A copyright applies to creative works like writing, audio, video, photographs, and artwork. The copyright attaches automatically at the time the work is fixed and belongs to the person who created the work.

Trademarks are what they sound like. They protect the mark used to market goods or services in the marketplace. A mark can be a word, phrase, or symbol. The only connection between trademarks and content is that the person who controls a mark can control what content is marketed under that mark. The same content can be marketed under a different name.

One writer raised the question of using money from copyrights to support operations in Pune. He had heard a person involved with management there complain that audio copies of Osho’s discourses are being distributed for free (apparently the new cost price in this techie age). He wanted to know what people thought about this. Since OIF doesn’t run the center in Pune, it isn’t clear what the financial connection actually is. Other commentators are concerned that Osho’s work can’t be protected without a copyright. Others argue that with all the compilation books published by OIF or with their blessings, OIF does not protect Osho’s work at all. Some of these books, as well as books published by the “official” Pune publishers, are heavily edited.

Osho clearly owned the copyrights to His work during His lifetime, since copyrights automatically attach to creative works at the time they are “fixed” (written down, recorded, and so on). The relevant question today is whether Osho transferred those rights to someone else. Many people are convinced, from the documents on file at the US Copyright Office (available at, that Osho did not transfer His rights to OIF. This raises several questions. If Osho did indeed not transfer copyright interests, should anyone try to pretend He did, in the interest of protecting the work or making money? Could pretending that someone owns Osho’s copyrights ever be successful? Will attempts to do so bring on more coercion (banning, shunning, threatening lawsuits), in an effort to bring people in line behind a questionable claim? What effects would this coercion have on the community?

Osho had some interesting things to say about owning, distributing, and protecting His work. One was a request to have His work distributed at cost price. Here are a few others:

I am utterly empty.
If there is any truth in my words, that truth comes out of my emptiness. It does not belong to me, I am just a passage. I allow existence to connect with you – and it is possible only if I am absolutely empty.
(Sermons in Stone, Chapter 15)

Just now there is an exhibition going on in the Soviet Union. I have sannyasins in the Soviet Union; of course, they have to remain underground – they cannot declare that they are sannyasins – but there are a large number of sannyasins. Our stall of books is overcrowded; it is the most successful stall even in Russia. But the people don't have money, so they are stealing books. I have informed my people, "Don't pay any attention – let them steal. At least those books will reach to millions of people, and if you catch somebody red-handed, just tell him, ‘I'm not against stealing; what can you do if you don't have any money? Just keep one thing in mind: When you have read it, pass it on. That is the price.” (The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to Here, Chapter 12)

“Beloved Osho,
The commune is no more; or, every sannyasin is the commune. But what about such institutions as the Academy, or Friends, which takes care of the publication and distribution of your words? Do they still have a function, and how can they function?”

They still have a function – and they will continue to function – but their function is not dictatorial. Their function is to serve the whole world of sannyasins and the people who love me. So their function is not to govern you, their function is to serve you.
And they are not organizations, they are simply institutes. And their function has become more important now, because for all the languages that books are being translated into, it has to be seen to it that they are not mistranslated – that the translation is right, that it does not harm the spirit of the message.

So it is a great work to take care of all the languages – we need the publication institute to check all the language publications before they are published.

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 that 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 that 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.
(Light on the Path, Chapter 28)

We would like to invite our readers to discuss these issues. We ask everyone to be respectful (no insults, sarcasm, personal attacks, psychological evaluations…) so that we can hold a space for all points of view. Posts that do not follow these guidelines will be removed.

In the meantime, some lawyers from around the world have written in with a few helpful comments. An American attorney points out that even if OIF, Zurich did have a legitimate claim to copyrights, it would still be legal to use Osho quotes:

As I understand the situation, many requests have gone to OIF over the years, asking to use Osho quotes in various kinds of publications: books, memoirs, people’s personal stories about meeting Osho, etc. Almost invariably, OIF wants to see the proposal, assess its worth, and give or withhold permission.

The reality is that your right to Osho’ s words is safeguarded by the legal framework of “fair use” that has been adopted in the United States and in most other countries. […]

One of the key issues in permitting “fair use” is public interest.

For example, Osho is a public and controversial figure. He might well be described as one of the most radical philosophers of the twentieth century. Therefore, it greatly benefits the public to understand him from as many different perspectives as possible.

Let’s say, I’m totally opposed to Osho’s teachings and regard him as a danger to society. I want to write a book showing how immoral and subversive are his teachings.

Now, clearly, OIF is never going to give permission for a book like that. But, equally clearly, it is in the public interest to have access to my views, since it broadens the public’s general understanding about Osho and his work. It encourages debate and discussion. It widens the public’s knowledge about a controversial figure.

So, with full legal protection, I can use long quotations from Osho in my book, refuting each of his statements as I go along, and OIF cannot do anything about it. If they take me to court, they are certain to lose.

Similarly, if you have personal stories about Osho, or if you want to use Osho quotes in your book, you do not need permission to do so. Why? Because your use of Osho, in your particular context, is broadening public understanding about this controversial mystic.

You’re adding to the body of knowledge that is available to the public about Osho. The chat you had with him, over a cup of tea in Woodlands in 1973, or the relevance of his vision to your book on quantum physics, deepens the public’s understanding of this extraordinary man.

If Osho had been a very private man, things would be different. But he was not. On the contrary, he made every effort during his life to become as widely known and as notorious as possible. Parodying Dale Carnegie, Osho once said that his biography should be called “How To Make Enemies And Influence People.”

Osho’s public stature is your protection.

If you want to play safe, then keep each quotation under 300 words, because this has been adopted as a general “fair use” guideline. But longer quotes will also be okay, especially if you break them up into short sections of direct quotations, while paraphrasing in between.

But for those of you who just want to write about their personal memories, or use a quote here and there, or talk about Osho’s views on various subjects, have no fear. Feel free to quote the Great Rebel. He’s public property and your right to comment will be protected under the law.

Another writer points out that if there is a legitimate copyright holder, and if you are relying on the fair-use rule for protection, you need to make sure you attribute material by Osho to Him to avoid claims of plagiarism. You can’t take a quote or close paraphrase of Osho and use it as your own work.

An attorney in Australia suggests that a new approach to handing copyright, called Creative Commons, might be the solution. Here are links to a comic book description of Creative Commons that explains what it is:;
and information on an author who increased sales using this approach:
Let us know what you think.

Sourced from our Osho magazine, the Viha Connection.


  1. I think the _intention_ behind the trademark may be a good one, though not the trademark itself. And I've got a proposal.

    The idea that you can trademark Osho's name and create a network of franchised centres is ridiculous. It is contrary to the spirit and detail of everything He said publicly. In my limited knowledge it's contrary to what he said privately as well - in the story I have heard, Osho went on at great length to Anando about how the centres round the world were not to be interefered with.

    But at the same time, I think there is a genuine need that if the public buy a box marked "Osho", then the contents are "Osho."

    Osho did have clear and definite guidelines. For example, He did not want His name associated with things like manifestation, with positive thinking, or with other masters. If sannyasin-run centres wish to do those things that is entirely their freedom, but then stop calling it an Osho centre.

    As I look around, I see plenty of centres doing dubious things:
    --- some activities may be perfectly innocent in themselves, just not Osho's work.
    --- then there are the various fake gurus and suchlike
    --- some people who open Osho centres are very new to sannyas and are innocently ignorant of His guidance
    --- some things are just off the wall. I went to an event at a well-known Osho centre a couple of months ago which was totally wierd and ended with the grouproom filled with the smell of semen. While this not not portrayed as an Osho workshop, it was held in, and enthusiastically endorsed by, the centre concerned. To my mind it tarnished Osho's name by association, and confused His message.

    I assume that the intention behind the trademark is to keep things clean, and to make sure that our old friend The Mind doesn't subtly pervert His message. If so, then I have a proposal.

    Many people with be familiar with the brandmark logo on many computers which says "Intel Inside." My idea is to have a similar brandmark logo for Osho; it might say for example "24 carat Osho". A centre which displayed this logo would adhere to an explicit list of Osho's guidance. For example
    --- quotations from Osho would be verbatim, with anything omitted marked with "..."
    --- no other masters
    --- any translation is approved
    --- etc etc etc.

    There would be a lot of talk and debate in setting this up but it would be constructive and useful. I am not thinking of anything which would destroy the individuality of centres or imply anything whatever about devotional vs non-devotional or anything like that. I am only talking about basic things, mostly well-known, based on Osho's direct guidance. The intention is that if the box says "Osho", the contents are "Osho."

    Then this brandmark logo, "24 carat Osho", would be trademarked, while "Osho" itself would not be. So anybody could call themselves an Osho centre. If they fit in with basic guidelines which come from Osho, they could apply to use the brandmark, just like "Intel Inside." If a translation was approved, the the book cover would say "Translation: 24 carat Osho".

    As it would be easy to fit in with the requirements for using the logo, any centre or translation which didn't would immediately invite question. They would still be free to use Osho's name; but it would be clear they were not adhereing to some basic guidance. And as now, everyone is free to do whatever they want if they don't call themselves an Osho centre.

    I suggest this is worth exploring as a way to both keep Osho's name clean and pure, yet do so in freedom.

    With love

    Bristol, UK

  2. Tarika was having trouble posting this, so I am doing it for her.

    Thank you for opening up the opportunity for the Sannyasin community to respond. I have so much appreciation for the maturity of how you both hold this community in such a loving respectful way ...and, how you impeccably offer the Viha Connection newsletter.

    It is his gift and our legacy to care take and then.....there is the also in this consideration:

    Thank you Islam,
    Thank you Viha Connection,
    Thank you OIF,
    Thank you all lovers of Osho,

    Interesting how my ears are hearing 'awareness is enough'. Oh, that is an Osho quote. Where is it from passage: 16; no no....or was it....
    Perhaps, I am even more radical than you beloved.(s)
    I would like to propose freedom as the first and last freedom. HA! Good Zen Koan.
    I am a sannyasin for over thirty years. I pause and take a conscious breathe and feel Osho's presence and feel the grace of that presence gifting me, again and again and again. I have eaten of the feast he set before us all so much that I hardly ever read any of his books any more and yet, I have a huge collection. I also have a huge collection of tapes and videos....of which I drink one in six months....and I am so full.
    Potent Osho is.

    Your proposal is amusing. There would still have to be an institution that declares if it is '24 carat Osho'...oh no! Then comes the competition for that stamp of approval....
    Well well, I am sorry I cant bend to that but have also no judgment that those who would seek it or feel it as an absolute...oh absolute! In the dusty recesses of my memory I hear his voice absolutes!

    This is fun....perhaps I have nothing to say. Thirty years maybe the emptiness is happening and spring comes and the grass grows by itself. SO Beloveds is there a resolve - really? How can we be graceful and LIVE Osho? Is it the LETTER of the it a law at all that we need to 'protect' truth...truth that is like water through ones fingers?

    Truth rises. I trust life. I trust in the process of instant enlightenment and the paradox of evolution. Let those who wish from a HEART SPACE to respond to the encouragement of Osho to keep the intent and content of his work clear to respond to their calling - self appointed or divinely given.
    I myself detest organized religions...righteousness...and yet also embrace it as part of our evolution. Perhaps and indeed for all humans at different times a sort of need. Does anyone remember some of the hidden aspects of control at the Ranch?...ugh...and its consequences? Yet, we all know in our being it could have been different?!!...Yet, was it also not perfect in its own way?

    This is my contribution. Perhaps part of moving from linear to the vertical. What is there really to protect? Those who would seek the truth WILL find it in Osho's exquisite live discourses OR in surrendering to a stone...or a tree....'it's the quality of the surrender'. I now surrender here with own version of pearls on a string of observations and responses. I wish not to contribute to more separation and stories....traumas and dramas...I chose in this precious now to pause with these words to ask: it love? Then we each in our own ways, skills and talents really will know exactly what we are to do regardless of opinion.

    Thank you for hearing my response.
    I so love the Sangam....
    I so love you all,

  3. I simply do not understand the problem. Osho had himself appointed Jayesh and others to be responsible for the upkeep of the Pune resort and I have met Jayesh and talked to him a couple of times. He seems to be genuinely interested in doing Osho's work. Why do people imagine that he is going against Osho's instructions? He was a successful businessman before unlike a lot of us who are trying to give advice about how to spread Osho's vision. He was closest to Osho in his final years and and so he would be the best judge as to how Osho himself wanted his vision to be spread.


  4. hmmmmm He may be the only one that can answer this question.
    From one hand, he belongs to all and no one owns him; frrom the other hand, he needs to be protected so he/his words may not be altered. I say if anyone needs to be policeman over his work, it should be in India and better not be in USA (where profit/money/lawsuit is-that is so far away from OSHO ) whatever you guys want to do is fine with me but please please have integrity. I love my master.

  5. aloha
    seems a bit a waste of time we engage in, copyright the insights of Jesus , Buddha or Osho, just the idea is exactly like : this IS a funny planet
    The "24ct Osho inside" seems a good way to say: this is exactly the way he said it.
    Anything like: i sue you if you use Osho's words, brings out laughter in me.
    loving you all

  6. If Osho and his meditations were available in capsule form, Osho would be the biggest-selling drug of all time. Anyway, if we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't exploit each other, we should test ourselves for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.

  7. Dear Anonymous posters,

    I know this is the easiest way to post, but it would be nice if you could sign your posts with your name.



  8. Sorry, but I ´still don´t get the legal issue between copyright and trademark. If a ´creative work´ has been “fixed” by digitalizing, printing, writing down, drawing or painting, recording, and so on... and the property belongs to the author or to his family when he dies, unless precise and written guidelines given by the author himself to somebody else (that´s what I know). And this property is valid for a certain period of time after his death (this also I know), how somebody can put a trademark at something that doesn´t fulfill the previous needs and on what he doesn´t have any ´intellectual property´ or copyright? Can anyone clarify please?! This just regarding the legal aspect of the issue... As far the O.I.F. behaviour in dealing with the matter, I have already expressed my opinion in my comment to Ramateertha´s letter in another blog here at Viha.

  9. I wrote my previous post to make clear the fact that if O.I.F. doesn´t have any written transfer from Osho to ´eclusevely use´ His work ... they cannot trademark anything, not to give any guideline to anybody. Full stop! I am also wondering if the Publishing Houses around the world who have signed agreements with O.I.F. will turn against them and ask the money back when they will come to know to have buyed ´fake copyrights´ that never existed !!!

  10. Beloved friends,

    As a painter my paintings are protected by an organisation called "Pictoright". All my paintings are copyrighted, so it cannot be used by others who want to make money out of it.

    As I see it copyright is a protection of Osho's work in it's original form.

    Trademark is making a business out of Osho and not a protection.
    O.I.F. is using Osho as a trademark only to make money out of it!!!!

    As a sannyasin this trademark business goes against my whole individual Master-disciple relation, Osho is not a trademark !!!
    It's very important to be aware what O.I.F is doing in the name
    of Osho.

    love, Kalpa

  11. Lakshen--You have the description of copyright ownership just right, but copyrights and trademarks are different things. Trademark ownership has to do with exclusive use of a mark ("Osho" for example), in the marketplace to sell goods and services. In the US it's already been determined that Osho can't be a trademark because independent centers use it when they provide programs. The same situation exists around the world.

    Love, Sangeet

  12. Thanks for your clarification Sangeet! Anyway we know that O.I.F. had put the trademark also on Osho´s meditation techiniques!! Are those techniques: goods, services or ´creative work´?! It´s true that O.I.F. has lost the legal disput in USA, but the trademarks are still valid in the rest of the world... In Italy some people associated with O.I.F. have just tried to convince the organizer of a sannyas big Festival since years (one of the oldest sannyasin who´s organizing stuff in the country)not to use the name Osho for his events. So, basically O.I.F. tried and still try to control all and everything mixing up trademark, copyright and people bonafede. This has to end!!!

  13. Hi Lakshen -- You're right that OIF is claiming to own trademarks in "Osho" in other parts of the world, but that doesn't mean the trademarks are "valid." It just means they haven't been challenged yet. See Ramateertha's comments about challenging this in the whole EU.

    As for the meditations, OIF claims on its website that it owns trademarks in Osho's meditations, but the only place OIF tried to register those was in the US. Mostly the trademark office refused, because OIF doesn't own the meditations. "Osho Active Meditations" was registered and then canceled as descriptive. I know of no current registrations of trademarks for Osho's meditations anywhere in the world. Osho has allowed anyone who wanted to use the meditation since the 1970s. Because of this there's no way anyone could legitimately own a trademark for them.


  14. Hi Islam. I'm afraid your suggestion isn't legally possible. Trademarks are about exclusivity. The only way someone could own a trademark for "Osho" is if they were the ONLY one using that term in the marketplace for products and services related to the person Osho. Since many centers, institutes, and individuals are using "Osho" to market their own goods and services, no one can legitimately own a trademark. It isn't possible to have independent centers and a trademark for approval as golden Osho.

    It would be possible to have a voluntary program where people can request a golden Osho seal of approval, and someone could set themselves up as the judge of what is golden Osho. This could not be forced on anyone, and no one would need this approval to use Osho in the marketplace. Anyone who wants to is free to set up any kind of a voluntary approval program, but the emphasis has to be on voluntary.

    Personally, I think you underestimate the difficulties of agreement on what is golden Osho. For example, I don't agree with what you listed as obvious Osho guidance, and I doubt you would agree with what I came up with. I don't think that agreement is possible among sannyasins, and maybe that's the beauty of the whole thing. When Osho named all His people His successors, He must have recognized that they would have different interpretations of His guidance, different approaches, and different ways of presenting things. I think that Osho's work will flower by allowing it to flow through the many different conduits to people around the world.

    When people do things we think are "off," like filling the room with the smell of semen, we can talk to them and share our concerns. Osho always emphasized persuasion rather than coercion, and I find it the best alternative here. I think the whole idea of having a seal of approval for Osho is "off," and I would try and persuade people not to participate. I wouldn't interfere if people wanted to go ahead and do it, though.


  15. Ciao Sangeet. Thanks again for your explanations! Actually one of the main purpouses of my posts were to make people as much aware as possible about the legal aspect of the matter... I do agree with your reply to Islam´s proposal. I am also for persuasion, rather than coercion!!!
    One more question to your legal expertize: will be possible that some of the Publishing Houses that made deals with O.I.F. thinking they had copyrights on Osho´s words will ask whatever money or royalties they have payed if they discover that those copyrights never belonged to O.I.F. ?!

  16. Hi Lakshen -- Yes, publishers could claim breach of contract or fraud. OIF will claim that it believed it owned the copyrights, so it's unclear whether the publishers would pursue it. So, the publishers have a legal right, but I have no idea what they would do about it.


  17. Hi Sangeet,

    Thanks for all the work you've done fighting the Trademark business, thanks for listening to your heart inspite of everything, for me this is the Lion's roar Osho is talking about .....

    love Kalpa

  18. Hi Kalpa,

    Thanks. I admit it often sounds more to me like a loud meow. I think this is because I'm more and more aware we're dealing with paper tigers here. Those among Osho's beloveds who want power or tend to be abusive have only as much power as we give them. If we give them none, they have none. Personally, I'm all in favor of that.

    Love, Sangeet

  19. i had a thought

    wilileaks should host all the osho material.

  20. I have always taken the standpoint: let the truth reach to people by any
    means, by anyone.
    ” Beyond Psychology (Talks in Uruguay) #3


Just click on the pencil icon to post your comment to this article NOTE: All comments will be reviewed before being published to avoid spamming content