David Kantor's commentary of 11/13/99 on Foundation's open letter

Dear Friends;

Judging from recent communications, Urantia Foundation appears committed to
taking legal action related to the publication of JANR. This action could
very easily force the worldwide readership of The Urantia Book to endure
ten to fifteen years of court proceedings with unpredictable social
repercussions   And this will take place during a period of time in which
revelation awareness around the world is growing rapidly; the initial
internationalization of the revelation would thus take place in a context
of protracted legal struggle.  Is this desirable?  This is not an action
which affects only Harry (or whomever else might create works which run
afoul of Foundation policy) -- it is an action which will affect each of
us.  It will profoundly shape the context in which we each engage in
revelation community building during the next decade and possibly beyond. 

What is the purpose for this great expenditure of resources?  In Urantia
Foundation’s initial press release on this matter, justification is
provided in the comment: 

“We believe the copyright to be an important tool to preserve inviolate the
text of The Urantia Book for current and especially for future generations.
The preservation of the inviolate text has always been, according to the
Declaration of Trust, the Trustees' primary duty.“

It is important to appreciate that the use of copyright is a *strategy*
which the trustees have freely chosen and implemented as a means of
attempting to meet their perceived primary duty. While all of their public
relations statements emphasize their belief that a copyright is essential
to the meeting of this primary duty, no one has ever once explained to the
community how possession of a copyright might achieve this objective.
There have been no examples, no explanations, no comments whatsoever
forthcoming from Urantia Foundation to support this contention.  In fact,
knowledgable individuals such as Phil Geiger, Dan Massey, Fred Harris and
others have published well developed arguments showing that this strategy
can have no real effectiveness when applied to real world situations
involving distortions or misuse of the text.

Further attempts by the Foundation to provide justification for this
strategy have taken the following form:

"If the copyright in the English text is lost, enforceable copyrights could
be obtained on translations of poor quality and on translations which
amend, abridge, embellish, or purposefully distort the text. Once obtained,
such a copyright could be enforced against all other translations, even
against a translation of the original text. Only by maintaining and
enforcing the copyright can we ensure that the inviolate text will reach as
many of the world's peoples as possible."

Ignoring the tenuous legal assumptions contained in this statement, we
might ask, "What is meant by 'amend, abridge, embellish, or purposefully

Does it refer to someone who might take portions of the text and use them
in some other writing, for example a novel?  J.J. Benitez has done this
with his series of novels, the sixth of which has now been published.  His
first book sold over 2,000,000 copies and was on the New York Times
International Best Seller list for over two years.  In a public meeting in
San Francisco last year, when asked why the Foundation did not take Benitez
to court, Tonia responded that it would simply be a nightmare to try and
prosecute such a case in a court in a foreign country and the trustees had
decided that it simply wasn't worth it.  (Benitez is also reported to have
said privately that the attorneys for his Publishing company have indicated
that Urantia Foundation would not have a chance of prevailing in such a
legal action.) Sr. Benitez has made a substantial amount of money by
repackaging and selling portions of the revelation without paying a cent in
royalties or even acknowledging the source of his material.

Does it refer to someone who might add material to the text and grossly
misrepresenting its meaning?  Gabriel of Sedona has done this and his books
are readily available in bookstores around the country. 

Does it refer to someone who might write a vicious parody of The Urantia
Book?  The right to do so is protected by law and is supported by a record
of related judicial decisions.

Does it refer to someone who might write a distorting review of the book,
the readership, and its history?  Martin Gardner has done so and sold many
books -- copyright law provides liberal concessions to individuals writing
critical reviews or commentaries.

So just what is it that this copyright strategy is designed to achieve?  I
would like to hear some specific examples of reasonably plausable
situations in which the possession of a copyright would save the day
against someone whose work might be damaging to the revelation. So far, no
one has been able to provide such an example and yet Urantia Foundation
seems willing to devote vast resources and risk significant long-term
damage to the readership community in order to continue pursuing this

The irony of all this, given the above, is that the Foundation is preparing
to go after a person whose derivative work has fully honored the original
text, preserved it "inviolate," and has carefully made sure that the reader
knows about the source of the work.  In fact, copyright laws are such that
the only people Urantia Foundation even have a hope of pursuing under this
strategy are those who honor the inviolate text.

Neither is it a matter of simply prevailing upon Harry to abandon his work
-- if it's not Harry, it will be someone else whose desire to create a
derivative work which honors the inviolate text will run into the
Foundation's copyright strategy.  It is this copyright strategy which must
be reconsidered -- does it really enable the trustees to meet the
obligations of their trust?  Exactly how does it do so? 

It would seem only prudent that the trustees develop a more viable strategy
which, in addition to assuring future generations of readers access to an
"inviolate" text, would also assure that future generations of readers
would find themselves operating in a social context more conducive to
planetary spiritual service than to the kind of sectarian hostility now
being promoted worldwide by Foundation efforts to mobilize support.

If we are to judge a tree by the fruit it bears, it would seem that a
half-century harvest of continous social dysfunctionality would lead us to
ask some serious questions about this one.

In the continuing struggle,

David Kantor