Update: McMullan/Michael Foundation Lawsuit

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The discovery period ended March 1, 2001 in the lawsuit filed by Harry McMullan III's Michael Foundation seeking to invalidate the copyright in The Urantia Book and trademark rights in the words URANTIA® and URANTIAN®. Urantia Foundation has now requested that the court enter summary judgment upholding the validity of the copyright and trademarks. Those of you who are interested can view a copy of the legal brief on the Foundation's web site at https://www.urantia.org/sites/default/files/newsinfo/SJM030101.pdf, or a copy can be mailed to you upon request.

For close to a decade, Harry McMullan Ill has used his influence, personal wealth, and three organizations to wage an assault on the intellectual property rights held in trust for nearly fifty years by Urantia Foundation. The first time McMullan challenged the intellectual property rights entrusted to Urantia Foundation was through Asoka Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by McMullan. McMullan, directly and through Asoka Foundation, provided over $73,000 in financial support for Kristen Maaherra's unsuccessful legal challenge to the trademarks and copyright in The Urantia Book.

The second time McMullan challenged these intellectual property rights was through the Fellowship, on whose Executive Committee McMullan has sat since 1979. In 1996 Harry McMullan III and others proposed that the Fellowship print its own, unauthorized edition of The Urantia Book. This project was adopted by the Fellowship, and Mr. McMullan helped oversee the publication, known as the Uversa Press edition of The Urantia Book (which is no longer sold to the public).

He also used his influence to persuade the Fellowship to retain Ross Plourde, McMullan's current and longtime lawyer, to file an amicus curiae brief in support of Maaherra. He even personally attended the proceedings before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, unwilling to accept the court's decision in Maaherra, he immediately made the decision to wage another legal challenge.

This time he is doing it through Michael Foundation, which he established in 1995, among other reasons, to publish Jesus--A New Revelation, consisting of Papers 121-196 from The Urantia Book. In this third attempt, he has recently indicated that he may adopt a new strategy, one not raised by his attorneys in any of their previous filings on his behalf.

Based on recent statements under oath by Harry McMullan III, his new strategy apparently is to ask the court to find that the copyright is invalid because the real author of The Urantia Book is the anonymous person referred to on pages 1208-1209 of The Urantia Book. The argument would likely be that this person did not ever formally assign his copyright to Urantia Foundation.

Mr. McMullan stated in a recent deposition that he doesn't know whether he believes that the listed authors in the titles of the papers section of The Urantia Book are the true authors of the respective papers. (2d Dep. p. 11, p. 66-67). He is no longer willing to acknowledge that The Urantia Book or Papers 121-196 contained in Jesus-A New Revelation is a revelation (2d Dep. pp. 65-67). To support his premise that the human subject must have been the author, McMullan cited Dr. Sadler's statement that “automatic writing” was not involved in The Urantia Book. McMullan claims that, if the human subject had been a mere channel for spiritual authors, this would have constituted “automatic writing” (2d Dep., pp. 12-13, 16-17). If it was not automatic writing, McMullan claims, then it must have come from the subject himself. It could have been inspired, but the human would have been the author (2d Dep., p. 17).

Though some have promulgated a contention that Urantia Foundation's rights are based on fraud or by disavowing the spiritual authors listed in book itself, this is simply not true. We are confident that those with insight to value the teachings of The Urantia Book are capable of discerning for themselves whether such sophistries have any basis in fact. Anyone interested in these matters should read for themselves the court's decision in Maaherra at http://lawcrawler.findlaw.com/LCsearch.html?restrict=lp&client=lp&entry=Maaherra+urantia which addresses these issues. The court specifically addressed allegations concerning alleged fraud in obtaining the copyright as follows:

Maaherra asserts that the Foundation did not want to reveal to the Copyright Office that the “authors” were celestial beings because the Copyright Office would have rejected the application.

There is no merit to this contention. The Foundation deposited two copies of the Book with the Copyright Office. The Book clearly describes its own origin as having been created at the instance of” PlanetanJ celestial supervisors [who initiated] those petitions that resulted in the granting of the mandates making possible the series of revelations of which this presentation is a part.” We conclude that there has been no fraud on the Foundation's part, and no prejudicial reliance on Maaherra's part.

We therefore hold that the Foundation's renewal copyright is valid, and that Maaherra infringed it.

The court in Maaherra did not find human “authorship of the Urantia Papers,” but merely the requisite minimal degree of human “creativity” associated with the origination of The Urantia Book by virtue of the Papers appearing as a response to questions.

To support his position that the human subject is the author of The Urantia Book, McMullan is trying to show that in the Burton case, Urantia Foundation claimed that the human subject was the author. Urantia Foundation denies that it has ever asserted that any human being authored the Urantia Papers. Mr. Burton filed a sworn affidavit stating his belief that the original Papers were written by a patient of Dr. Sadler who had no memory of having done so. In answers to Interrogatories, Urantia Foundation stated that it would not assert that the personality through whom the material was transmitted, nor any other person, living or dead, was the author of the papers; instead, Urantia Foundation stated “[t]he personality through whom the material which constitutes the text of “THE URANTIA BOOK” was transmitted is considered to be merely a conduit through whom the contents of the papers was transmitted to those who became the proprietors thereof ....”

The legal criteria for summary judgment require that the facts be considered in the light most favorable to the other party. In its brief in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment in Burton, Urantia Foundation stated that it is immaterial “whether the author is an unknown superhuman being, or the unidentified individual who actually wrote the manuscript in his own handwriting [as claimed by Mr. Burton].” Even if Mr. Burton's contentions were assumed to be true, Urantia Foundation stated that it was entitled to copyright protection for The Urantia Book as the custodian-proprietor entrusted with the manuscripts and printing plates.

It saddens us that some people are unwilling to accept the validity of the copyright and trademarks and move forward, united in service to our fellow man, in an effort to spread the truths derived from the book. This has become such an obsession for some that they appear willing to say or do anything to abolish the copyright. We regret the necessity of diverting precious resources from the work before us, but we are resolved to preserve the rights entrusted to Urantia Foundation.

We appreciate the prayers and support of all those interested in furthering this revelation.

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