Foundation, Inc.; Complaint for Declaratory Judgment
May 16, 2000
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
Case No. 00-885-W
MICHAEL FOUNDATION, INC., a Foreign Corporation, Plaintiff,
Urantia FOUNDATION, an Illinois Charitable Trust,
COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT
Michael Foundation, Inc., (“Michael Foundation”) for its complaint against Urantia Foundation, states:
1. Michael Foundation is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Oklahoma with its principal place of business in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
2. Urantia Foundation is an Illinois charitable trust with its principal place of business at 533 Diversey Parkway, Chicago, Illinois.
3. This action arises pursuant to the laws of the United States pertaining to copyright, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et. seq. This Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
4. Venue of this action is proper in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in this district and because Urantia Foundation may be found in this district.
5. By this action, Michael Foundation seeks a declaratory judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 determining the rights of the parties with respect to certain written materials described herein.
6. This case involves certain written revelations received during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Both parties profess to believe that the revelations were delivered by spiritual beings through an anonymous human being. The revelations were delivered in the form of papers known as the Urantia papers.
7. Michael Foundation is the publisher and distributor of a book called Jesus-A New Revelation ("JANR"). JANR consists of certain of the Urantia papers, Nos. 121 through 196.
8. Urantia Foundation publishes and distributes The Urantia Book. The Urantia Book is a compilation of all of the Urantia papers in the order in which they were delivered. Urantia Foundation has, on many occasions, represented to others and encouraged others to believe that no humans decided the content of The Urantia Book and that the contents of The Urantia Book are just as the non-human spiritual beings delivered it.
9. In 1955, the Urantia Foundation obtained a copyright for The Urantia Book representing that it was the author of The Urantia Book.
10. Urantia Foundation renewed the copyright in 1983, representing that it was the proprietor of a work-for-hire.
11. Urantia Foundation presently asserts that it is the holder of a valid copyright with respect to The Urantia Book.
12. Urantia Foundation asserts that JANR infringes its copyright of The Urantia Book. Among other things, Urantia Foundation has manifested its position through the following acts:
(a) By letter dated August 5, 1999, Urantia Foundation asserted that JANR infringed Urantia Foundation’s copyright and demanded that Michael Foundation cease publication and distribution of JANR;
(b) By letter dated October 13, 1999, Urantia Foundation renewed its accusation that JANR infringed Urantia Foundation’s copyright, demanded that Michael Foundation cease publication and distribution of JANR, and threatened litigation in the event Michael Foundation failed to comply with Urantia Foundation’s demand; and
(c) On November 22, 1999, Urantia Foundation commenced suit against Michael Foundation in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, which suit was subsequently dismissed due to improper venue.
13. The copyright claimed by Urantia Foundation in The Urantia Book is invalid for the following reasons, among others:
(a) The contents of The Urantia Book are uncopyrightable because no human being authored such contents;
(b) Urantia Foundation is estopped by its representations to various members of the public to assert that the contents of The Urantia Book were organized, even in part, by any human being;
(c) Urantia Foundation established that the right to copyright the contents of The Urantia Book was assigned by the original authors to Urantia Foundation; and
(d) Urantia Foundation is not a proprietor of a work-for-hire and the term has expired to renew its claimed copyright on any other grounds.
14. Even if Urantia Foundation’s copyright were valid, JANR does not infringe such copyright.
15. An actual controversy exists between the parties due to Urantia Foundation’s claims that Michael Foundation has infringed and is infringing Urantia Foundation’s claimed copyright by publishing and distributing JANR. Michael Foundation therefore seeks a declaratory judgment declaring that Urantia Foundation’s claimed copyright to the contents of The Urantia Book is invalid or, in the alternative, that JANR does not infringe such copyright.
WHEREFORE, Michael Foundation prays this Court enter judgment in its favor against Urantia Foundation declaring that Urantia Foundation’s claimed copyright to the contents of The Urantia Book is invalid, or in the alternative, that JANR does not infringe such copyright, for Michael Foundation’s costs of this action, including a reasonable attorneys’ fee, and such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.
Ross A. Plourde, OBA #7193
McAfee & Taft
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF