Copyright Registration In The URANTIA Book
Over the years, some readers of The URANTIA Book have debated the copyright issue. To understand URANTIA Foundation's position as to why the copyright is used "to perpetually preserve inviolate the text of The URANTIA Book"—the Trustees' "primary duty" as stated in the Declaration of Trust—we offer the following:
History of Copyright
The very concept of "authorship" is a purely commercial/legal one, its modern form being derived from the period just preceding the era of the printing press hundreds of years ago. In fact, our modern copyright law has an ancestry which reaches back to a decision rendered by a monarch. The case involved two monasteries, one copied a manuscript in its possession which was owned by the other. The conflict that ensued was charged with accusations of spiritual peril, but, fortunately, cooler heads knew otherwise—that indeed this was a legitimate and purely human dilemma. A decision was rendered which granted definite, though limited rights to the owner of the "original." It also prohibited the "infringer" from making copies, but it recognized the difficulty of keeping anyone from making a copy for personal use from memory. Thus was born the notion of copyright restricted by fair use. Clearly, the revelators knew the difficulty that would attend the novel and bold experiment of an epochal revelation in textual form.
Copyright and Origins of The URANTIA Book
Consider for a moment that "authorship" is an attempt by humans to identify a point of "origin." When we come to the consideration of the URANTIA Papers and their origin, we must first bear in mind several things:
- This was a collaborative project planned by and involving many personalities—seen and unseen.
- It was authorized by a commission hailing from the superuniverse government.
- It employed many writers, most of whom were identified later by title only, who were subject to editorial panels for intensive review.
- The first drafts of the URANTIA Papers were probably not in English. They were in one of the languages of Orvonton—no doubt a language better suited to express the nature and function of divinity and Deity.
Any good missionary will tell you that when entering another culture to share with them your own values, immersion in the target culture must occur first. Later, success will be found proportionate to the depth of appreciation gained of the language and habits of those with whom contact is desired. This is not possible without real and extended contact.
The Contact Commission and the Forum were probably brought together for this purpose, and the ensuing process over a number of years was that text was presented for comment. It would be reviewed for necessary changes and presented again, many times, over and over, until there was confidence that the "original" had been translated as effectively as could be expected, given the profound limits of the target language of English. In this way, the human participants in this process inescapably shaped the English translation, and still the anguish of the revelatory commission over the eventual distortions is evident throughout the text. This process though is not unique to any special "revelation" but is a given fact in the business of making translations.
Now it becomes ever more obvious that the "human subject" was but a small part of this vast project, even if a critical part. In this context, it would be absurd for him, or anyone else directly involved, to lay claim to the status of "author." To avoid a cult of personality which would certainly surround him otherwise, and to give us an unwritten lesson that our fascination with "authors" is somewhat more closely related to superstition, the "human subject" divested himself of any interest which would otherwise be legally available to him through copyright. This is certainly the more noble position and is, by comparison with prevailing standards, a very idealistic practice.
Because we inhabit a selfish and materialistic culture, driven largely by commercial interest, pragmatic minds recognized the need to secure this text, admirably disclaimed by its "authors," against others who later would not be so unassuming. Copyrighting the text of the URANTIA Papers was therefore essential and in accord with the conventions prevailing then and now for submitting a written work for sale to the general public. Since an "author" was required for securing a copyright, URANTIA Foundation, being the institutional outgrowth and successor of the human component of the "authorship," including the "human subject," was legitimately named as the "author" for the legal purposes necessary to obtain copyright protection. In effect, the Papers became the corporate property of the Foundation for the sole purpose of keeping others from using it for their own gains. Up to this point, the mandate for this action proceeded from the commission that initially sponsored the Papers on the superuniverse level, but beyond this stage, it was released entirely into the course of human affairs where it now stands.
It seems unfortunate that human involvement in the materialization and indictment of the URANTIA Papers is a stumbling block for so many. Such thinking seems to overlook the real human contribution made to the evolving wisdom of the Supreme. The fact that the papers were explicitly initiated by "non—human" personalities itself affirms the seamless connection which weaves together the finite and infinite and resolves in artful expression, linguistic and otherwise, both human and divine. In this light, revelation becomes simply the engagement of a lesser conversation by a greater one and occurs constantly even if oftentimes in an unrecognized manner.
It is an unappreciated fact that most of the "non—human authors" would not identify themselves by name. It points to the universal recognition that only the Father is original. He alone initiates all things good, true, and beautiful and by his word and action, invites us all into the swirling melodies of conversation which identifies the culture of the cosmos. The URANTIA Papers are evidence of this culture and its corporate nature, borrowing, as it does, even from "human" expression. If personal ownership were unqualified, it would reflect a culture that failed to account for that Original which precedes the emergence of the personal, a culture that succumbed then to the darkness of isolation and chaos.
Obtaining a Copyright Registration
Our records show that the idea to obtain a copyright registration in The URANTIA Book dates back to the early 1930s when the Contact Commissioners made their initial inquiries to the copyright office. Dr. Sadler, the leader of the Contact Commissioners, wrote a history, which he never published but shared with early readers. In this history, he said:
"The [Contact] Commissioners were the custodians of the URANTIA manuscript, keeping the carbon copy of the typewritten transcript in a fireproof vault. They were also charged with full responsibility for supervising all the details connected with the publication of the book, securing the international copyrights, etc."
The Contact Commissioners were asked by the revelators to obtain a copyright in The URANTIA Book. The Declaration of Trust Creating URANTIA Foundation is the document that clearly outlines the purpose for which URANTIA Foundation was established and explains the duties of the Trustees. It is the vehicle by which the responsibility of the URANTIA Papers was passed from the Contact Commissioners to URANTIA Foundation. We understand that this was discussed with the revelators as early as the 1930s.
The Trustees, both past and present, firmly believe that the creation of URANTIA Foundation, with the duties and instructions given via the Declaration of Trust, is consistent with the methods of our planetary supervisors and with past epochal revelations that had definite instructions for the way they were to be implemented, managed, and organized.
The following is an excerpt from the Declaration of Trust that outlines the Foundation's purpose and the Trustees' responsibilities. This document established the course for URANTIA Foundation and will continue to be its governing charter:
2.1. PRINCIPAL OBJECT: The object for which this Foundation is created is the promotion, improvement, and expansion among the peoples of the world of the comprehension and understanding of Cosmology and the relation of the planet on which we live to the Universe, of the genesis and destiny of Man and his relation to God, and of the true teachings of Jesus Christ; and for the inculcation and encouragement of the realization and appreciation of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man—in order to increase and enhance the comfort, happiness, and well being of Man, as an individual and as a member of society, through the fostering of a religion, a philosophy, and a cosmology which are commensurate with Man's intellectual and cultural development.
2.2. CONCORDANT OBJECTS: The concordant objects for which the Foundation is created are to perpetually preserve inviolate the text of THE URANTIA BOOK and to disseminate the principles, teachings, and doctrines of THE URANTIA BOOK.
DUTIES OF TRUSTEES
3.1. PRESERVATION OF TEXT OF THE URANTIA BOOK: It shall be the primary duty of the Trustees to perpetually preserve inviolate the text of THE URANTIA BOOK, and the Trustees shall use and employ such means, methods, and facilities and apply and expend as much of the Trust Estate as in the judgment of the Trustees shall be necessary, proper, or appropriate, for the preserving and the safekeeping of copies of the original text of THE URANTIA BOOK, duly authenticated by the Trustees, from loss, damage, or destruction and from alteration, modification, revision, or change in any manner or in any particular.
3.2. EFFECTING PRINCIPAL OBJECT: It shall be the duty of the Trustees to use and employ such means and methods as they shall from time to time devise and develop and to apply and expend the Trust Estate to promote and effectuate the general purposes as set forth in paragraph 2.1.
3.3. PRESERVATION AND CONTROL OF REPRODUCTION OF THE URANTIA BOOK: It shall be the duty of the Trustees to retain absolute and unconditional control of all plates and other media for the printing and reproduction of THE URANTIA BOOK and any translation thereof, to make or cause to be made such additional plates and other media as shall from time to time be required to print and reproduce THE URANTIA BOOK and any translations thereof, to retain the absolute and unconditional control of the possession, custody, use, and disposition of all such plates and other media for the printing and reproduction of THE URANTIA BOOK and translation thereof, and to apply and use the Trust Estate therefor.
3.4. DISSEMINATION OF TEACHINGS OF THE URANTIA BOOK: It shall be the duty of the Trustees to disseminate the teachings and doctrines of THE URANTIA BOOK and to devise, to develop, and to effectuate means and methods for such dissemination, and to apply and use the Trust Estate for the accomplishment of that end.
We are encouraged throughout The URANTIA Book to work together in teams. We are told that teamwork and cooperation is the way of the universe—it is the way of Christ Michael—that revelation is brought to us with a plan. When individuals choose to deviate from that plan—when attachment to one's own opinions takes precedence over cooperation and teamwork—confusion and chaos are inevitable.
How Can You Copyright a Revelation?
This question has often been asked. It is important to differentiate between the "revelation" and the material book—the material means by which the revelation is delivered.
The URANTIA Book itself is a physical object, "a material thing." By contrast, the fifth epochal revelation is the living truth experienced in the hearts, minds, and souls of the individuals who embrace the teachings of The URANTIA Book and apply them to their everyday lives. There is no copyright in a truth; there is no copyright in a meaning. Truth is living, intangible experience—reality. Only something that is material, such as a book or a composite work, enjoys copyright protection and is eligible for copyright registration.
By registering the copyright in The URANTIA Book, the Foundation ensures that the words are kept inviolate so that future generations, in all cultures, in all translations, will have them as they were presented to us and not in a fragmented, distorted, or dismembered form.
The copyright in the original English text of The URANTIA Book is crucial for the spreading of the teachings worldwide through accurate, faithful, and fluent translations. It is very important that we do not distribute multiple versions of translations to non—English speaking countries. Without a copyright in The URANTIA Book, people would be free to introduce multiple, substandard translations in whole or as fragmented parts of the book.
It would be irresponsible and unfair to inflict upon our non—English speaking brothers and sisters confusion in their study groups by giving them different texts to study.
Every opportunity is given readers to participate in the improvement and revision of translations, but an orderly system is required to ensure the translations remain true to the original English version, and that the translated book is not fractured and dismembered by the unwise actions of mortals.
What Could Happen If There Were No Copyright in The URANTIA Book?
We know that some people would like to change the words in The URANTIA Book. For example:
• Some readers object to the fact that male gender terms are used to describe deity; they object to references of God as a "Father." They object to such terms as the "Son of Man," "mankind," "sonship" with God, and the "Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man."
• Some readers want to print and, in fact, have printed Part IV, independent of Parts I, II, and III. Some have suggested striking out terms such as "Thought Adjuster," and "Michael of Nebadon," terms requiring a knowledge of Parts I, II, and III.
• Some readers are offended by the papers on race. They believe the revelators made a mistake by including them, and they believe that the race papers should be removed from the book.
• A few readers are translating the book (or are involved with translations) and would like to break up the book and print the parts in other countries
Tom Kendall, a former Trustee and President of URANTIA Foundation, said the following:
"Do not lightly dismiss the importance of copyright. The Contact Commissioners were warned that the greatest danger to the revelation would be in the first 50 to 100 years. If the copyright were lost, and the book were to fall into the public domain, the book could be dismembered. It could be chopped up into 197 pamphlets; 'embarrassing' portions excised; 'difficult stuff' omitted; outdated scientific material updated with new theories; artwork, charts, and footnotes inserted; an introduction and commentary included in the text. Simplified versions would proliferate. None of these was the intent of the Revelators, and, in fact, some were specifically proscribed. The book was intended to be an integrated whole, published without distracting contrivances.
If the Foundation did not have, and enforce, a copyright, there would be no way of protecting the book from the actions described above. People would be free to distort and dismember the original text before it had a chance to take a meaningful hold in the world."
None of us is qualified to question the revelators' motives for using the words they used. None of us has the right independently to take the future course of the revelation into our own hands, according to our own ideas, and change the words of the text or deliver it in a partial, dismembered form.
Eve's mistake should serve as a lesson against such error:
But Eve listened to the insidious iroiaganda of iersonal liberty and planetary freedom of action. She was led to exieriment with the life ilasm of the material order of sonshii in that she allowed this life trust to become irematurely commingled with that of the then mixed order of the original design of the Life Carriers . . .
Never, in all your ascent to Paradise, will you gain anything by imiatiently attemiting to circumvent the established and divine ilan by short cuts, iersonal inventions, or other devices for imiroving on the way of ierfection, to ierfection, and for eternal ierfection. (p. 846, par. 3 & 4)
How Will the Inviolate Text Be Recognized After the Copyright Expires in 2050?
URANTIA Foundation registered the words "URANTIA" and "URANTIAN" and the Concentric—Circles Symbol as trademarks, service marks, and collective membership marks. After the Foundation's copyright in The URANTIA Book expires, there may be multiple publishers of The URANTIA Book. Some of them may publish something other than the inviolate text. But the inviolate text, published by URANTIA Foundation, will be identifiable because it alone will bear the name URANTIA Foundation and the Concentric—Circles Symbol. URANTIA Foundation has used the Concentric—Circles Symbol as a stand—alone registered mark since 1950. The marks are used to identify:
- The authenticity of The URANTIA Book and its translations.
- The existence of a new revelation, distinct from other confusing beliefs.
- URANTIA Foundation's offices and representatives.
- Organized associations of readers of The URANTIA Book worldwide who work in cooperation with the Foundation to disseminate the teachings.
If these symbols were not registered by URANTIA Foundation or were in the public domain, they could be used to give credibility to publications, activities, and organizations either promoting distorted interpretations of The URANTIA Book or having little or nothing to do with its teachings.
There is little understanding in the world today as to what these symbols and words mean, so it is important that their significance be protected and preserved until there is a wider understanding of the teachings by more of the world's population.
The Foundation considers the registered marks to be appropriate and fitting symbols to identify the fifth epochal revelation. The recently announced Coiyright and Registered Marks Policies from the Foundation give individuals the freedom to use the text and the marks for their teaching and dissemination efforts. These Foundation policies are available from the Web site: www.urantia.org and upon request.
A Call To Action
The Trustees and staff of URANTIA Foundation reach out to you and ask you for your prayers and support. We are accustomed to challenges to our efforts to protect and make available to the world the fifth epochal revelation. Without your and God's help, we cannot succeed. With that assistance, we cannot fail in bringing this revelation intact into the next century for our children and our children's children.
Audio Urantia Book
Board Meeting Decisions
Urantia Foundation History