German Court: Jesus Doesn't Deserve Copyright Protection
from the holy-shit dept
The initial copyright on a work is supposed to be bestowed upon the person who added that creative element that made it subject to copyright. For example, if you were to dictate a new novel, you should still get the copyright, rather than the stenographer who took down your words. But perhaps that gets a little trickier from a legal standpoint, when the "dictator" is supposedly Jesus. That leads us to a case recently decided in Germany that found that a woman, who directly claimed not to be the author of a book, gets to retain the copyright over those words... because she claimed the actual author was Jesus. As you can imagine, that raises some slightly unusual copyright questions. Via Adrian Rodriguez:
A verdict released by the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt (OLG) on Wednesday decided for a US claimant called the Foundation for Inner Peace. It sued a German foundation for copyright infringement after they published passages of text from a book called A Course in Miracles. The German foundation took passages from the book and justified their actions on the reasoning that Schucman herself claimed not to be the author or the messages, and that the text was a result of the dictations she received from Jesus.The "author" in question, Helen Schucman, an American psychology professor, is on the record as stating that the texts she transcribed were authored not by her, but by Jesus in the form of ongoing dreams. Because I find it quite convenient to do so, I'd like to completely take Schucman at her word. She transcribed the work of Jesus. If we we do that, it's difficult to understand the German court's logic in this ruling. Copyright goes to the author of the words, which by Schucman's admission is not her. That should kind of be the end of the argument.
Except, the court decided that even if it takes her story as accurate, there would still be a legitimate copyright... for Schucman (and her heirs or assignees).
The court saw it as a breach of copyright law arguing that divine inspiration is legally attributable to their human recipient.Yup, that's a governmental court ruling on the proper attribution of supernatural inspiration. As a result the self-proclaimed copier of Jesus' words gets the copyright. We've now got a case on the books in which a person who claims not to be the author of certain words gets copyright protection over those same non-authored words. Now can we admit copyright is getting silly?
Oh, and if you want to make this even more fun, it's worth noting that a lawsuit over the same copyright in the US had an opposite result, though for different reasons. The court in that case (wisely) avoided the question of who really was the "author" (in fact, tossing out that particular question). Instead, the US court chose to declare the work in the public domain after it was revealed that a version of the work had been distributed without a copyright notice prior to publication. While that wouldn't matter under today's copyright law, this happened just a few years before US copyright law automatically handed copyright to every creative work. Back then you needed to register, and without that registration, it put the work into the public domain here in the US.
Either way, have fun dealing with the question of: What would Jesus copyright?