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Srila Prabhupada's Books Copyrights and Public Domain

By: Nimai Pandit Das, Long Island, NY
November 28, 2008

It has been proclaimed many times on the internet that Srila Prabhupada's books are in public domain or will soon be.
That is not the case. BUT, they will start to be in Public Domain after 60 years. Below are the excerpts of copyright law summary that lays it out. For more info, you can visit US Copyright Office page.

§ 304. Duration of copyright: Subsisting copyrights

(a) Copyrights in Their First Term on January 1, 1978. —
(A) Any copyright, in the first term of which is subsisting on January 1, 1978, shall endure for 28 years from the date it was originally secured.

(B) In the case of
(i) any posthumous work or of any periodical, cyclopedic, or other composite work upon which the copyright was originally secured by the
proprietor thereof, or
(ii) any work copyrighted by a corporate body [IN OUR CASE, A TRUST -BBT] (otherwise than as assignee or licensee of the individual author) or by an employer for whom such work is made for hire, the proprietor of such copyright shall be entitled to a renewal and extension of the copyright in such work for the further term of 67 years.

Works originally copyrighted between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977:
The amendment to the copyright law enacted June 26, 1992, makes renewal registration optional. The copyright is still divided between a 28-year original term and a 67-year renewal term, but a renewal registration is not required to secure the renewal copyright. The renewal vests on behalf of the appropriate renewal claimant upon registration or, if
there is no renewal registration, on December 31 of the 28th year.

So that leaves us ONLY A SHORT WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY OF LITTLE OVER SIX DECADES, to ensure that Srila Prabhupada's books, once they are in public domain, do not get changed en masse over the next 10,000 years like what happened to the Bible. How do we ensure that that does not happen? It seems very likely TO happen, as the current BBTI Directors who have taken a hold over the BBT Trust, and the Chief Editor have ensued a policy of continued changes to Srila Prabhupada's pristine books, defacing the books, KRISHNA Himself, but also setting a conscious legacy of "changes culture", a physic in consciousness of devotees that it is OK to demean scriptures, words of God.

Many many devotees have raised their voices against it but they feel: What can we do? We do not hold the copyrights? We do not have the money or legal angle to mount a battle against these perpeators.

If corrective actions are not taken, then progressively the millions of changed books sold by BBTI under the banner of BBT are gradually going to set a culture of changing, demeaning scriptures, that will be very hard to reverse even when, specially when, the books are in public domain after 60 years.

We can all do something about it. We are not disempowered.

"BBT, shall be created and shall be operated exclusively for the benefit of the INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS, Incorporated by me." (Srila Prabhupada in the BBT Instrument, May 28 1972)

ISKCON, Inc., based from NY, has been designated by Srila Prabhupada to be the exclusive beneficiary of BBT. We at ISKCON, Inc., as the beneficairy of the Trust, have the legal right under Trust (Probate) Law of California to request the Court to intervene. We have found that the BBT is not even operational as a Trust. The copyrights are not even registered in the BBT. BBT does not even have a bank account. We want that the BBT Directors, posing as BBT Trustees of a non-operational Trust-of their doing, be removed for not following the Trust directions given by Srila Prabhupada. We may be forced to go in that direction unless they change course.

BBTI Directors, working in conjunction with ISKCON GBC Society based out of West Bengal in India, have been trying to remove us from the premises of the LI temple for the last almost 5 years. Otherwise they fear that, unchecked, we will be in a easy position to approach the CA court for relief. By Lord Krishna's mercy, we are still here and becoming stronger. They have filed two lawsuits against some LI devotees to scare them away, but it has not succeeded. Their legal case is extremely weak. Inspite of putting in more than $1 Million to acquire a little temple running on skeleton crew, the result is that the Judge has ordered that the trespass notice issued by us is valid and hence we can put them in jail if they come on the premises.They have been dragging their feat, trying to sap our determination and resources...but they have not succeeded till now. And they will not succeed.

To correct the BBT and remove the so-called Trustees is one way to ensure BBT prints only original books of Srila Prabhupada. That is an essential step. But remember the public domain law above, this opportunity will be there with us only for the next 60 years. Then what?

What else can we do? How do we use this opportunity presented to us by Srila Prabhupada of correcting the BBT for this purpose? How do we correct the physic of devotees, damaged by hearing about and reading the changed books? How do we ensure that even when in public domain after 60 years, and continuing on for the next 10,000 years, Srila Prabhupada's books, the lawbooks of humanity, are not changed en masse.

We have been given this duty, as we are placed in this crucial time of history.

Pls give your valuable solutions....

Your servant,
Nimai Pandit Das