Report 6th and final day
Claudia & Lee’s Report
June 19, 2001
We are sitting waiting the jury’s verdict.
Court wasn’t convened today until 10:40 because the judge was still working on jury instructions. But, after the jury was brought in, Judge West informed them that they would hear his instructions (and that, fortunately, they had even fewer issues to actually decide); that there would then be a break for lunch; and that, finally, each side would have 50 minutes for closing before they would be commissioned to make their decisions.
The Judge told them that one of the decisions they would have had to make had already been agreed to by both parties, namely, that “the subject is the legal author of The Urantia Book.” (This is truly an astounding position reversal for UF to have advanced after their feigned disbelief at Harry taking that position!) He explained that he would use the term “subject” to refer to the sleeping subject, the patient, the contact personality, or any other reference term for the person who actually had written down the Urantia Papers.
For about 45 minutes he read through his jury instructions and told them how they were to respond on their “interrogatory” forms after making their decisions. The judge stated that a copyright renewal in the Urantia Foundation’s name would be valid if 1) the UB was a product of being a “work for hire” or a ‘commissioned work,” or 2) a periodic, encyclopedic or “composite” work. Both may apply, or either one alone could give the Foundation a legal copyright. He gave them a whole long list of points to keep in mind, such as the above, including that personal attacks were to be set aside, that only the legal issues were before them.
Closing arguments started right at 1:00 when Murray Abowitz used 35 minutes of his 50 minutes giving a clear case for none of the above to apply. He was effective, he was very considerate of the jury, and apologized again for Harry’s private remarks on the Ryder truck, reminding the jury that we have all said things we regret, but that it had no bearing on what they were charged to determine and that they too would have to set it aside.
Murray proceeded to show that the Foundation had no ability to prove this was a work for hire or commissioned work using their own testimony, particularly quoting from documents by Christy and Dr. Sadler, and from Keeler’s testimony. The patient was not paid, he was not asked to volunteer his efforts; there was, rather, a patient doctor relationship. The UF would have to be considered the commissioning party, yet all the hand writing, all the output from the author was from the subject, not the “commissioning party.” Asking questions alone does not constitute “commissioning.” The composite work concept was similarly dismissed using the UF’s own testimony, the work is a unified whole, something that has been repeatedly stressed.
Then Steve Hill took his 50 minutes to make his points, in particular the claim that questions were the driving force behind the creation of the papers, and how that process constituted a “commissioned work.” He said that questions were still driving revisions of the papers through 1942, that Emma’s shorthand note-taking of the first 57 papers shows how the Foundation had a role in directing this commissioned work, and touched on a number of other tangents in the process. Steve has a well-modulated voice and a smooth presentation style. He used his time well, seeming to make a fairly good case for the UF. Using phrases like “it is an accepted fact” when stating that Christy took the first 57 papers down in shorthand (supporting the contention that the work is commissioned), Steve appeared to have believability. (In fact, evidence presented showed that Christy herself claimed that she never changed a single thing other than spelling or punctuation and that the papers were already in the patient’s handwriting.) Steve claimed he about came out of his chair once when Harry said TUB was just a book, like other books, and has an author. (Harry’s point had been that it was written by an author like other books.) He didn’t let facts get in the way of his closing. The contact commission bore the costs of authorship, paying for all production costs and the $100,000 to get them to press. Steve claims he “showed” that the contact commission, as “employer,” deserves authorship. Saying so doesn’t make it so, but the jury will have to be clever enough to figure that out. His was a smooth presentation, finishing up right on the 50-minute deadline.
Murray then had 15 minutes to rebut 50 minutes worth of bad logic and untrue statements from Steve Hill. He was fairly deft in doing so, we believe. He quickly reminded them of the difference between works that are copyright protected and those that have transferred into the public domain, and how the process works. He also told them that he had wondered if his efforts during the past week had gained him anything and was glad to see that even the Foundation would not be attempting to claim that the Urantia Papers were a composite work, the jury can go ahead and check “No” on that question. The other issue, that of whether or not it was a “work for hire” or “commissioned work” still needed clarification, given the stands taken during the Foundation’s closing. On the claims that financial responsibility for the production allows for claims of authorship (“works for hire” are owned by the one who pays) have no relevance here. The production costs of writing a book are fairly minimal, the paper and ink about account for it. If an author of a book today brought a manuscript to a publisher which then put up the money to print it, then that company doesn’t gain authorship; the situation was no different when the $100,000 was put up to publish The Urantia Book. He said that in any event, the book was completed in 1935 and the printing costs weren’t incurred until the 1940s. Christy’s testimony that the papers were published exactly as they were given and that she had nothing to do with it refuted Steve Hill’s claim that she was involved in the writing process by virtue of her note-taking. Just as his minutes reduced to nothing, Murray reminded the jury that they really only had one major decision to make and that the preponderance of evidence was in favor of his client, that the Urantia Book is clearly not a commissioned work. As had Steve Hill, Murray also thanked the jury. He noted how attentive they had been throughout the case and thanked them for the work they would do in carefully considering the evidence.
Closing was efficiently carried out in the time frame that had been agreed to, and by 2:40 the jury was lead to the jury room for their deliberations. We came back to Harry’s to wait. We were just recently called and told that the jury has passed the judge a note saying that they are recessing for the evening, and that they are far from agreement. They requested copies of: a 1955 copy of the UB, a 1983 copy of the book, a copy of the Declaration of Trust, Sadler’s History of the Urantia Movement, Carolyn Kendall’s history, Keeler’s email to a man explaining that UF’s basis for work for hire was tables of contents (which the judge has already ruled are not relevant.)
We won’t have any news until sometime tomorrow.
claudia & lee