Who Owns Osho's Copyrights?
page is part
of the historical background relating to "What Is an
Osho?", a slick, sannyas-paradigm-shifting policy paper written by
and circulated in 1998. A deconstruction of Amrito's paper is presented
on this site, introduced here. A large subset of the
background addresses various aspects of OIF's claimed right
to control Osho's legacy, particularly regarding the legal muscle of
copyright and trademark. This page explains
the ways in which someone can acquire copyrights for someone else's
works and shows how OIF has not gone through those steps. It
is sourced from Osho
Friends International. For more legal pages, see OFI or Legal
Did Osho ever transfer His
copyrights to others?
No, He didn't. Two documents have come to light that may (or may not)
have been signed by Osho. These are publishing licenses for some of His
books. (See "What are the documents OIF is
relying on to claim
copyright ownership?" for the documents and a complete discussion
of their legal effects.]
Copyrights are legal rights that must be transferred clearly in
writing. They can't be transferred through inference or oral
statements. There has to be a valid written document that clearly
transfers all legal interest in the copyrights. If such a document ever
existed, which isn't likely, we don't have that document now.
The question of copyright ownership was part of the US trademark case,
but none of the documents produced in discovery or in evidence in that
case over nine years of litigation are assignments of copyright
ownership. In other words, OIF appears to have no such documents to
produce. (Since the Trademark Board did not have direct jurisdiction
over copyrights, it could not decide whether OIF, Zurich owned
copyrights, only how the claim to own them impacted the trademark
A copyright claimant for Osho's copyrights has to have what is called a
complete chain of title linking Osho to it. To really own Osho's
copyrights OIF would have to prove that Osho assigned copyright
ownership to RF, RF assigned it to RFI, and RFI assigned it to OIF, Zürich.
If any link in this chain is missing, OIF gets nothing. The
weakest link in this chain is the first document of 1978 (Document 1),
which not only can't be authenticated, but is on its face a license,
not a copyright assignment. Document 2 is essentially the same as
Document 1 and could, at most, transfer publishing rights in
unidentified works or the eight works for Document 1. (See What are the
documents OIF is relying on to claim copyright ownership?)
This means that OIF does not own Osho's copyrights by assignment, as it
There is one other theory that OIF, Zürich has tried to use to justify
copyright ownership. OIF filed copyrights for books and recordings of
discourses given by Osho with the US Library of Congress for several
titles of Osho's work claiming that OIF owned copyrights through a
work-for-hire agreement with Osho. (It's important to remember that a
registration is not proof of ownership and means nothing if OIF didn't
actually own the copyrights.)
Generally a copyright attaches to a creative work as soon as the work
becomes "fixed," for example, put in writing, recorded, music put into
notations, photograph taken, or artwork made. The person creating the
work is presumed to own the work he or she creates. If someone creates
something on behalf of someone else and is paid for the work, the
copyright might belong to the person financing the project. In the US
this is true if, and only if, the creator of the project signs a
work-for-hire agreement before the project is completed specifying that
the rights in the work will belong to the financer.
Osho was never employed by any foundation, never was paid for giving
discourses, and never signed a work-for-hire agreement with anyone. The
two license agreements Osho was alleged to have signed both specified
that Osho got to choose whether or not He included any discourse in the
publishing license agreement (Documents 1 & 2) In other words, He
kept control over His work and only agreed that He might grant limited
rights (a publishing license) after the work was created (discourse
recorded) and a copyright had been (attached) that belonged to Him.
Neither Theory Can Succeed
The only reason the RFI/OIF, Zürich would have registered copyrights in
the US claiming a work for hire basis for ownership is because they
realized that the documents allegedly signed by Osho were not
assignments of copyright ownership, but license agreements. They may
have hoped that they would have more luck passing off the agreements as
work-for-hire agreements than as assignments of copyrights. In the US
trademark case OIF opted to make the assignment of ownership argument
In truth, neither of these theories can ultimately succeed. The license
agreements allegedly signed by Osho clearly do not transfer any
ownership rights in Osho's copyrights. A transfer of ownership rights
would have been just as necessary for a right-to-hire agreement as it
would be for an assignment of copyright agreement, and there is no
document that transfers ownership rights from Osho.
Though there is no existing original of the document allegedly signed
by Osho in 1978 (Document 1), it is possible that Osho signed this very
limited agreement with RF India. The language of that agreement makes
it absolutely clear that Osho intended to reserve the rights to control
His own work at that point in time. He set all kinds of conditions on
the license He granted and reserved the right to withhold future work
from the license and to revoke the license and give it to someone else.
The fact that no original is known to exist may indicate that Osho
decided to end that license and asked that the original be destroyed.
That isn't the kind of document that would have been lost otherwise.
One more thing is clear, and that is that no document exists that
transferred Osho's copyright ownership to anyone else. This means that
Osho owned His rights during His entire life and OIF has no valid claim
to copyright ownership today.
. . . . . . . . .
. . . . . .
[OFI has several other pages related
to Osho's copyrights and going into more detail re the poor position of OIF, with
some having sub-pages. They are:
The Paper Trail (such as it is): the
documents OIF claims give it ownership of Osho's copyrights, along with
explanations of why they don't.
Osho's ≤1978 Book Titles: a list of all
of Osho's English book titles preceding the date of a document
allegedly assigning copyright to his foundation.
Indian Entities' "Competing" Claims: a
history of other copyright claimants pre-1990, creating further doubt
about OIF's claims.]