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AN OVERVIEW OF THE MAAHERRA TRIAL
|In several articles during the past year we have mentioned the lawsuit
which the Urantia Foundation has against Kristen Maaherra. This was usually
in conjunction with out discussions of the Foundation's apparent infidelity
in fulfilling its responsibilities to make the Urantia Book available to
the public and be good stewards of the trust which has been placed in them.
In this issue of the Pilgrim we have decided to present a detailed account
of the legal battle which is under way between the Foundation and Kristen
Maaherra in order to provide accurate context for those of you who have
not followed this matter closely. We invite further comments from anyone
who may have a different perspective (particularly in defense of the Foundation)
or some enlightening information to add.
--Bruce McCoy, Editor
Brief History of Foundation Lawsuits
In 1973, about "one generation" after the Urantia Papers were printed, and about 40 years after the Papers were put into English, at a time when, by most reliable accounts, it is believed that the Revelators intended for "control" of the Papers to be letting up, Martin Myers became a Trustee of Urantia Foundation. If he had been a linguist instead of a lawyer, we might have had 20 years of translations. As it is, we have no translations and 20 years of lawsuits:
The Foundation sued Bob Burton and Burton King for copyright infringement -- giving away quotes out of the Papers. It sued CUBS and the Houston Society for trademark infringement -- using the word Urantia in their names -- and it is now suing Kristen Maaherra for both copyright and trademark infringement -- giving away disks containing a complete index to the Papers with the Banner of Michael and the word Urantia displayed on the disks.
The Foundation has spent enough money in lawsuits to give away at least half a million copies of the Urantia Papers (which currently cost about $9.00 each, to produce). There were no lawsuits while the members of the Contact Commission (except for Christy) were alive. The budget for administrative and legal expenses while Bill Sadler, Jr. was involved (as Bill was fond of saying) was zero.
In spite of this tendency of the Foundation to be hard-nosed and punitive toward readers who dare to identify themselves formally with The Urantia Book and participate formally in the furtherance of UBK scholarship, Kristen and her husband, Eric Schaveland, began giving away "the index of their dreams" in the late 1980's. It was an exhaustive index of the Urantia Papers -- every occurrence of every word. When the Foundation got wind of it, they hit them with a lawsuit that was so hefty they had to ask special permission to exceed the legally allowable page length. J.J. Johnson of Phoenix, Arizona, was included in the lawsuit. That was February 27, 1991.
Without an Index, the human mind has a tendency to fool itself into thinking, "the Papers say this," or "the Revelators said that," but "I just can't find it." At the end of the Table of Contents of the first printing of the Urantia Papers, it says, "An exhaustive index of the Urantia Book is published in a separate volume."
In 1993, almost 40 years after the Urantia Papers were first printed, and almost 60 years after they were translated into English, the only exhaustive index available to readers is the one that the Foundation is suing Kristen for.
The Foundation claims that Kristen personally caused the drop in their book sales (neglecting to mention to the Judge that in 1990 they had delisted the Urantia Book with all book distributors). They seem horrified by the thought that folks who received Kristen's free, anonymous, study aid would mistake her for them: "The likelihood of confusion as to source or sponsorship causes plaintiff irreparable injury." They requested of the Court that Kristen "be required to pay statutory damage" to them (and pay for the damage to their own Folio Views index, finished in 1989 but "not available yet") as well as pay them "the costs of this action, including reasonable disbursements and attorneys fees incurred" by them.
The Foundation's claims against J.J. Johnson included "an Arizona informant" whom they would not identify and who failed to come forward when it was time to testify. The lawsuit also alleged that J.J. and Kristen had appeared on a TV show together to talk about the Urantia revelation. (This talk show won a national prize for Best Religious Show in 1991). J.J. denied infringing any rights of the Foundation, and on March 14, 1991, the Foundation dismissed its claims against him.
J.J. is well known in the Urantia movement for his service project of getting the first book in Braille to a blind reader. The Braille Institute said that the Urantia Foundation was the first publisher they'd ever run into who refused to reply to their permission requests; most publishers sign a blanket permission form for the blind. The Braille Institute went ahead with the Braille copy even without the Foundation's permission, since it is illegal to refuse a book to a blind person.
Perhaps it is in keeping with the Foundation's policy of "slow growth" to refuse to put the Papers in Braille for the blind.
Ernest Moyer, of Hanover, Pennsylvania, and longtime reader of the Urantia Papers, volunteered to put together an "Answer and Counterclaim" to the lawsuit. Since this Counterclaim was filed, the Foundation is "locked" into the lawsuit. They cannot now decide they want to abandon the suit. Among other things, the Counterclaim states:
"Plaintiff is using the commercial laws of copyright and trademarks to control and suppress the promotion and dissemination of The Urantia Book as a divine revelation."
The Declaration of Trust
By refusing to print translations (there have been about six different languages ready to print for years), by refusing to make Urantia books for the blind, by refusing to make their own index available to readers, by delisting the Urantia Papers with book distributors, by suing believers -- people who are "disseminating the revelation" and "fostering a religion" as the Declaration of Trust suggests they should -- the Foundation goes against its own interests.
To point to the "keeping text inviolate" instruction in the Declaration of Trust as a reason to copyright the Urantia Papers is, at best, a misunderstanding of copyright law. The purpose of copyright law is not to "keep text inviolate." Most of the world's beautiful symphonies and classic books have no copyrights on them. They aren't altered or tampered with. They are enjoyed. the purpose of copyright law is to protect the financial interests of the author. The authors of the Urantia Papers, since they are non-humans, do not need money. Some of the religious people in the Forum who paid for the first printing of the Urantia Papers actually mortgaged their homes to do so. Those Forumite religionists were not looking for rewards in this world. The supernal authors of the Urantia Papers don't need money. any way you look at it, there is no reason for anyone to make money from the Urantia Papers.
To point to the Declaration of Trust as a reason to copyright the Urantia Papers is also, at best, a misreading of the trust document; not once does the Declaration of Trust even mention copyright or trademarks.
Religion and the Papers
First Amendment Defense:
Kristen told the Judge: "I helped distribute a study aid for my religion. The Urantia Book is listed in the religion section in the Library of Congress. I have not distorted any teachings, nor made any money, nor competed with the distribution of anyone's product. Students still read their book; they look things up in their computer Concordance." She said she believes the Urantia Papers are "a religious work in the public domain."
Bill Sadler on Religion
On the subject of religion, the Judge listened to part of a tape by William Sadler, Jr., member of the Contact Commission, who said:
"I think there is a possibility of developing, from this blue book, a religion the like of which this world has never yet seen." "the Urantia Papers present, I think, the most sane religion that's ever been offered the human race. Pull theology and cosmology out of it -- this complicated book is the simplest religion ever presented to man. I think the Urantia Brotherhood, The Urantia Book, the Urantia movement, represents the best effort of all superhuman beings concerned to get an international religion started, a mankind religion."
The Foundation on Religion
In the hearings and documents filed for this court case, the Foundation consistently calls itself an "educational" foundation, the publisher of "a major literary work."
In court, the Foundation claims that The Urantia Book is "not a religious book." Yet in fundraising letters to believers, the Trustees write about, "the fifth epochal revelation," "the latest revelation," "this great revelation," "the supernal teachings of the fifth epochal revelation."
They further state: "Nineteen hundred and ninety-three years ago this August 21st, Christ Michael was born on this planet and dedicated his inspiring life to the revelation of our heavenly Father to all mankind, helping us in the discovery that we are all brothers and sisters. Please join us in our efforts to once again reveal that good news to modern man by contributing your financial support to Urantia Foundation." "May our Father's love fill your heart."
William Sadler Jr. as Author?
The foundation repeatedly claims to the court that William Sadler, Jr., is their "author for hire," the reason for their "legal" copyright. In front of a Judge who had never before heard of the Urantia Papers, Foundation lawyer Craig Fochler (with Trustees Martin Myers and Rich Keeler present in the courtroom) stated; "There was a trustee of the Urantia Foundation, William Sadler, Jr., not Senior, who wrote, authored, however you want to look at it, parts of The Urantia Book."
This proves to be an awkward position for the Foundation when challenged by the readership. In a letter dated May 5, 1991, to Jeff Keyes, then president of the Los Angeles Society, the Foundation Trustees' silver tongue sings a forked tune:
"During a hearing associated with the Maaherra case, Mr. Craig Fochler (one of the Foundation's copyright and trademark counsel) recently stated in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona, that William S. Sadler, Jr. had written certain portions of the Urantia Book. This referred to the fact that Mr. Sadler, on behalf of Urantia Foundation (as a work for hire), wrote certain of the introductory portions of The Urantia Book identified as The Titles of the Papers, and Contents of The Urantia Book. Mr. Fochler did not say that Mr. Sadler wrote any of the Foreword or any of the Papers contained in The Urantia Book."
More Court Information
Joe Lewis, Kristen's lawyer, received a letter from the Foundation's lawyer dated December 22, 1992:
"As we discussed, the application does not claim that the Foundation is the sole author, but rather that it is an author of the book. As we further discussed, the Foundation's authorship arises as a result of work done by William Sadler, Jr. We previously provided information respecting William Sadler, Jr.'s positions with the Foundation and agreed to provide the further information about the particular parts of the work for which he was responsible."
As discussed above, we agreed to provide additional information about the parts of the book William Sadler, Jr. wrote and the dates of his work. We further agreed, pursuant to your modification (c), to identify documents lisitng Mr. Sadler's duties or containing instructions respecting preparation of the book or references to same."
U.S. Copyright Law
Is the Table of Contents Copyrightable?
Bernard C. Dietz, current head of the renewal section of the examining division of the U.S. Copyright Office, October 17, 1991, stated in his deposition, "...it has to be kept in mind that in the vast majority of cases the table of contents itself is not copyrightable; it's nothing more than a listing of the citations in the book. There has to be something uniquely attributable to that author of the table of contents to make it copyrightable."
Are Divine Revelations Copyrightable?
Another excerpt from the 1991 Dietz deposition:
"Q. If someone had responded that what they were seeking to copyright in 1956 was not created by them but came to them by divine revelation, what would you have done?
A. It was not unusual during that period to receive claims to copyright for works for which the individuals asserted that this was revealed to them in a dream by an alien from outer space or a divine being and these claims were routinely rejected.
Q. On what basis?
A. That they were not works -- in the second instance that they were not works of human authorship, and in the first instance, that the author of the work did not have -- was not a member of a governmental body that had copyright relations with the United States, Mars, for example, or the moon."
The Disgrace of Making William Sadler Jr.
The Forum had a ritual of holding hands and reciting the Benediction from page 53 at the end of their meetings. Is Sadler's calling it, "The benediction," in the Table of Contents enough of a unique contribution to make him an author?
As every reader of the Urantia Papers knows, the revelators are not citizens of the United States or citizens of any country with whom the United States has copyright agreements. Isn't claiming authorship for William Sadler Jr. a clear and shocking deception? What would Sadler himself say if the idea were proposed to him?
What is the Role of the Copyright Office?
In a deposition of Dorothy M. Schrader, attorney for the government in the position of General Counsel of the Copyright Office, taken November 25, 1975, for the Burton case, Schrader made it clear that the U.S. Copyright Office does not rule on the facts of the application. Obtaining a copyright is not "prima facie" evidence that a copyright is deserved; it only means:
"...that these are the facts as stated to us by the applicant. Sometimes the certificate is issued after correspondence, after there has been a refinement of the information, but in any case the information is that which has been alleged to us," says Schrader."
In other words, the Copyright Office is a recording office without legal clout. If you provide false information on your copyright application, the Office will accept whatever you tell it. If something appears to be obviously incorrect, the Office can ask you for a clarification of the statements on your application, but if you again give the same false information it will still issue you the copyright. The Copyright Office does not rule on the facts; it only records the facts as stated on the application.
If another individual believes the information given to the Copyright Office to be in error, and they wish the true facts to be known, then they must sue in the United States Federal Courts. The counterclaim in this lawsuit makes this formal legal challenge.
Those of us who believe that the Urantia Papers are authored by divine beings, by revelators who are exactly who they say they are in the Papers themselves, have a bit of trouble with the Foundation's position in court. Believers also well know that the Copyright Office does not copyright works authored by non-humans. By suing Kristen Maaherra, the Foundation has swallowed a poison pill; if they admit the superhuman authorship of the Papers in court, they lose the copyright. If they say they hired a human to write the Papers, they lose their credibility with the readers -- not to mention the Ancients of Days.
Believers also know you can't trademark religious symbols, such as the Star of David, or the cross. Again, the Foundation is in a jam. If they continue to claim the Banner of Michael is not a religious emblem, they upset readers. If they admit it is religious, they lose "ownership" of it. But however you look at the Foundation's predicament, lying to the copyright office, the trademark office, and the courts doesn't seem consistent with the supernal ideals of Jesus and the Urantia Papers.
Foundation Appeals Disqualification Motion
About a year ago, the Foundation entered a motion to disqualify Kristen's law firm. In an eight page order, the Judge turned down the Foundation's motion:
"The only evidence Plaintiff provides that supports the assertion that Mr. brylawski participated more than casually in the Burton case was an affidavit of Mr. Martin Myers. The hearsay declaration of Mr. Myers states only that Mr. Root conferred with Mr. Brylawski regarding substantive copyright issues. Plaintiff ... was unable to produce any persuasive evidence..."
Three months later, the Foundation resubmitted this same motion to the Judge, who turned them down again On December 22, 1992, the Foundation writes to Kristen's lawyers: "We will be raising the issue of disqualification before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We understand that you need to confer with Ms. Maaherra to determine whether you will agree to refrain from further work on the case pending resolution of that issue."
While the Foundation seeks for a third time to disqualify the law firm, they are not refraining from working on the case. They continue trying to obtain discovery requests (Foundation answers to interrogatories and production of documents requested) from them, as well as preparing depositions. They are trying to get the case into court. but it does appear that the Foundation could drag the process out for years, probably in the hope of running Kristen out of money.
When Kristen had no lawyer, the Foundation rushed through three hearings, in which she represented herself. now that there is a good lawyer on the case, it appears that the Foundation will do anything to stay out of court.
The Agondonter Fund
The following is an excerpt from the Agondonter Fund newsletter:
"Shortly after the last malicious attack by Foundation attorneys, a small group of individuals banded together and established the Agondonter Fund. We must do everything to assist Kristen in her effort to win this case."
Urantians are prevented from exercising their freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States by a Foundation with no real power -- a bogus copyright and bogus trademarks. A "boogie-man" consciousness (Boo!) keeps us in a playpen with 3 foot walls. When we get tall enough, we step out.
Two Urantia Societies Vote Support
Two Urantia Societies have voted their unanimous support of the court case and sent donations to support it. This court case represents an extremely critical crossroads for The Urantia Book and The Urantia Book movement. In these proceedings a legal decision is being made about whether The Urantia Book is a religious book, authored by non-humans, and thus, shall be placed in the public domain.
If the book is placed in the public domain, an even greater responsibility is placed upon the readership at large to protect it and foster its proper application and propagation. Are you ready for this? If you are, this is your opportunity to participate in freeing the revelation from restrictive "ownership," by the Foundation. It is also an opportunity to help make good study aids available to everyone as well as an opportunity to stop an unfaithful Foundation which has apparently become dangerously deluded and corrupted. Either way, whether we are ready or not, we have come to a crossroads. It is time for the readership to be attentive. It is probably also time to stand up and be counted. The book will either continue to be locked behind an apparently ill-gotten copyright or it will come out into the public where we must take greater responsibility -- to stay attentive and see that the truths of the UBK are delivered to the world according to the divine will of our Heavenly Father.
It does appear clear at this time that the Foundation has decided to be a foe rather than a friend to the revelation and its faithful readership. If this is true, it is proper that they be stopped. They must be stopped from wasting valuable resources. They must be stopped from denying the true authorship of the book and our right to access to proper religious freedom. And they must be stopped from misusing the legal system as a club to threaten everyone.
Please write to us and give your opinion about these matters. Donations are needed for Kristen's defense. Her lawyer, Joe Lewis, has a client escrow account for this purpose. His address is:
Donations can also be sent to:
The Agondonter Fund
Or we can send donations directly to Kristen Maaherra. Wherever you send donations, please mark them for Maaherra defense. Kristen's address is:
May we all pray that God's will be done in this matter. Pray also for the Judge, for the Trustees, and for the lawyers of both sides.
The Pilgrim is published by a group of Urantia Book Readers in Knoxville, TN.