Wednesday, 25 Aug 1999
Richard Keeler, Georges DuPont, Kwan Choi, Gard Jameson, Mo Siegel
Trustees of Urantia Foundation
533 Diversey Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614
Dear Richard, Georges, Kwan, Gard, and Mo:
This is in reply to your certified letter dated August 5 and postmarked August 18, 1999 in which you demanded that I refrain from distributing Part IV of The Urantia Book. Though the letter was addressed to me, I
am answering it in my capacity of President of Michael Foundation, Inc., the publisher of Jesus -- A New Revelation.
What I know regarding your copyright to the Urantia Book differs markedly from what you assert that I know. It is the following:
The original decision by Judge Urbom invalidating Urantia Foundation’s copyright to the Urantia Book by summary judgment was based on a
correct analysis of the facts and the law concerned. While ruling -- most significantly -- that revelation is uncopyrightable, Judge Shroeder’s 9th Circuit reversal of the District Court decision relied upon the
fact that members of the forum posed questions to the revelators, a
situation which she deemed supplied sufficient human involvement for copyright protection (ignoring, among other things, the fact that Urantia Foundation was not even the successor in interest to the forum).
The 9th Circuit decision was given without citing any precedents, because none exist. The concept that individuals who merely pose questions to an author are entitled to copyright protection would
create the ludicrous situation of giving anyone who talks with an author about his upcoming book a claim to copyright. Such a legal theory would open to challenge the copyrights of 99% of authors to claims by, for
example, friends and neighbors with whom they might have bounced around ideas regarding their upcoming books, not to say copy editors whose job it is to rewrite the books themselves. Amicus curiae against such a ludicrous position would likely be filed by any number of individuals and publishing houses who would not want the entire concept of authorship
in copyright law so radically overthrown.
Quite apart from the issue of forum questions, the “History of the Urantia Movement”, which Urantia Foundation introduced as having been written by Wm. S. Sadler, trustee and former contact commissioner, forecloses Urantia Foundation from now claiming any other species of that human involvement which would be necessary in order to qualify the Urantia Book for copyright protection. That document states unequivocally that the contact commission “had no editorial authority. [Its] job was limited to spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.”
Further, Urantia Foundation is on record admitting that “no human being wrote any portion of the text of the Papers.” This testimony (made when Urantia Foundation was basing its copyright claim on a different
theory) supplies a mortal blow to the weak "compilation” copyright which is all that now remains of the original “full” copyright which Urantia Foundation obtained based on the false claim that it had authored the Urantia Papers.
And there are other grounds on which Urantia Foundation’s copyright to the entire Urantia Book is defective. It is quite certain that the poorly thought-out, indeed absurd, Shroeder opinion will be reversed upon any serious challenge.
However, even if the Shroeder opinion were upheld, its very terms preclude the enforceability of the copyright with respect to the material contained in Jesus -- A New Revelation. This is the case because all evidence reveals that Part IV of the Urantia Book was delivered to the contact commission as a completed document without any of the forum involvement which Judge Shroeder stipulated as the basis for copyright protection.
In short, gentlemen, your chances of prevailing in a copyright
challenge to the entire Urantia Book are very slim; and with respect to Part IV
-- at least against someone whom you can neither successfully intimidate nor financially exhaust -- you will most certainly lose. Jesus -- A New Revelation will remain on the market until such time as a court of competent jurisdiction finally rules that it must be removed, an event which we are confident will never occur.
However, for me there is far more to this issue than the legalities involved. I believe that in the world to come I will have to account
for what I did with respect to the “greatest of all human knowledge” which according to the Urantia Book is “to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.” (196:1.3) Other statements by Jesus are equally compelling, such as, “And now I declare to you that I, if I be lifted
up on earth and in your lives, will draw all men to myself and into the fellowship of my Father.” (174:5.13)
The only arguments I have heard against proceeding forward on those and similar imperatives are based on the so-called “mandates,” which, since they were given to none of us now alive, have no more than the status
of hearsay. I find it easy to obey the direct words of Jesus in situations where they conflict with so-called “mandates” which by their own terms were supposed to be burned 20 years ago. I see the relationship of the so-called “mandates” to the revelation itself as no more than a 20th century version of the oral traditions which the Sanhedrin taught were more sacred and binding than Scripture itself (153:3.7), and against which oral traditions Jesus was in “constant collision.”
Michael Foundation is doing no more than the work you yourselves are called to do. Yet instead of pursuing the many worthy activities open
to you in furtherance of the kingdom of God and brotherhood of man, you
are contemplating allocating a significant fraction of your resources
toward legal action in order to suppress the dissemination of Jesus’ gospel.
Any such effort, you must be aware, will consume many years and immense resources, and ultimately will prove futile. While I would much prefer to spend my time and energy promoting the gospel, if it becomes my duty to defend the free access of people to God’s (not your) revelation, be assured that I will consider it the highest honor to do so. This is
true notwithstanding the fact that two of you are among my dearest
Freedom of religion is inseparable from freedom of religious
expression. People like myself who believe that the Urantia Book is a divine revelation will no more submit to controls on its dissemination than Christians would to controls on their ability to use the texts of the original manuscripts from which the Bible was compiled. The fifth epochal revelation should and will be free.
You can learn this lesson voluntarily or you can let life itself teach
you. Your misguided control/suppression approach is doomed because human religious expression cannot lastingly be squelched. Instead of experiencing consternation over the passing of your unjust control over the fellowship of believers, you should rejoice that a new day is dawning
in which all sorts of new creativity will be unleashed in work for the Father’s kingdom. There’s nothing to be scared of. For example, in the short time in which Jesus -- A New Revelation has been out, significant numbers of individuals who previously had been unreceptive to the Urantia Book in its totality have encountered and benefited from the truth of Jesus’ God-revealing life on earth through that work. And that is just the start.
Urantia Foundation has a limited future so long as it attempts to play religious dictator over the family of believers. Cooperation with the fellowship of believers, instead of misguided attempts to maintain unjust control over them, will serve the world -- and yourselves --
much better. Why not use this opportunity to make a clean break with Urantia Foundation’s traditional control/suppression approach and give cooperation/support a try? I predict you would be most delighted with the support you in turn would thereby receive.
Harry McMullan, President
Michael Foundation, Inc.