Copyrighted Dharma books

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Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:15 pm

I don't mean to upset people with this post at all. But lately it came to me that Buddha had taught Dharma for 49 years of his life, but he never claimed that what he taught came from him. Today, there are Dharma books that have personal copyrights that require permission from the publishers or writers for redistribution. Should Dharma teachings be freely available to all sentient beings? Please shed some lights and share your thoughts.

Keep in mind that I am not saying copyrighted Dharma books are not helpful. I hope I am not upsetting anyone.

Thank you.
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:28 pm

LastLegend wrote:I don't mean to upset people with this post at all. But lately it came to me that Buddha had taught Dharma for 49 years of his life, but he never claimed that what he taught came from him. Today, there are Dharma books that have personal copyrights that require permission from the publishers or writers for redistribution. Should Dharma teachings be freely available to all sentient beings? Please shed some lights and share your thoughts.

Keep in mind that I am not saying copyrighted Dharma books are not helpful. I hope I am not upsetting anyone.

Thank you.



Buddha also did not need to get paid, he left his family and had no one to support. He lived under trees, did not have a mortgage, wrote nothing down, did not distribute books, etc.
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:31 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Buddha also did not need to get paid, he left his family and had no one to support. He lived under trees, did not have a mortgage, wrote nothing down, did not distribute books, etc.


True. It is understandable that printing books cost money, and people need to make a living. But why copyrighted?
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:33 pm

LastLegend wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Buddha also did not need to get paid, he left his family and had no one to support. He lived under trees, did not have a mortgage, wrote nothing down, did not distribute books, etc.


True. It is understandable that printing books cost money, and people need to make a living. But why copyrighted?


Because a lot of things written about buddhism are people's own intellectual property.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:35 pm

Malcolm wrote:
LastLegend wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Buddha also did not need to get paid, he left his family and had no one to support. He lived under trees, did not have a mortgage, wrote nothing down, did not distribute books, etc.


True. It is understandable that printing books cost money, and people need to make a living. But why copyrighted?


Because a lot of things written about buddhism are people's own intellectual property.


Right. What about teachings that are not intellectual properties?
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:41 pm

LastLegend wrote:
Right. What about teachings that are not intellectual properties?


Every translation is someone's intellectual property. However, there are movements to make everything available for free on the web, like the following:

http://84000.co/
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:44 pm

Malcolm wrote:
LastLegend wrote:Every translation is someone's intellectual property. However, there are movements to make everything available for free on the web, like the following:

http://84000.co/


What is intellectual property?
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:46 pm

LastLegend wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
LastLegend wrote:Every translation is someone's intellectual property. However, there are movements to make everything available for free on the web, like the following:

http://84000.co/


What is intellectual property?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_property
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
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there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:50 pm



So copyrighted for the translation and compilations but not the teachings?
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Astus » Sat Jun 16, 2012 4:04 pm

You can teach a group of people from any book you like, and spread the understanding you gained from books. But, you are not allowed to sell the books under your name for instance.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 16, 2012 4:09 pm

Astus wrote:You can teach a group of people from any book you like, and spread the understanding you gained from books. But, you are not allowed to sell the books under your name for instance.


Can understanding be copyrighted?

Can people re-print the book for free redistribution?
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Lobsang Damchoi » Sat Jun 16, 2012 4:42 pm

This is actually a rather complicated question. To clarify the issues, let's please disregard (for this discussion) the example of oral teachings. I dont think it's a valid comparison, because of the expenses involved in making books, and for other reasons.

A dharma book contains more than just the basic teachings or a traditional text: there's the art work, the notes and other study aids, historical background material and often indexing. There's also contemporary commentaries on the teachings--explanations which update the teachings and help us understand better. Books also have to be printed and bound. All these services don't come free and they need to be done by professionals (but not necessarily by dharma teachers). The more attractive the total "package" the costlier it is to produce.

Copyright protects intellectual property -- original creative work, fiction, non-fiction, artistic -- that is not part of the public domain. After a certain number of years everything becomes public domain. This helps to insure that the contemporary writer, translator, editor or artist gets some compensation for his original work.

Other folks would know better, but I imagine that dharma teachers and translators get relatively little for their labors. With so much excellent dharma material available free on the internet (oral and written), it's hard for me to understand the resistance to copyright--is it a cost issue? A matter of principle? Something else?
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 16, 2012 4:59 pm

Just a thought since we are Buddhists at least most of us are, we often talk about attachment, "I," "mine" and such.

Copyright protects intellectual property -- original creative work, fiction, non-fiction, artistic -- that is not part of the public domain. After a certain number of years everything becomes public domain. This helps to insure that the contemporary writer, translator, editor or artist gets some compensation for his original work.


I understand that.

But what is wrong with letting people copying the work? Are they not generating merits for writers, compilers, editors, etc by spreading the understanding or teaching? Strictly speaking of Dharma books.
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Astus » Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:48 pm

LastLegend wrote:But what is wrong with letting people copying the work? Are they not generating merits for writers, compilers, editors, etc by spreading the understanding or teaching? Strictly speaking of Dharma books.


There are always costs involved in any kind of work. For religious books you pay in donation to the church, for writers, editors, publishers, retail shops and government/state services you pay for the book. There are free editions online of course, but even then somebody has to pay for the servers and donate work for editing and programming. For example, there are many sutras available online for free, and the different Buddhist canons are also published. If you speak Chinese for example, you have access to a huge number of Buddhist works and teachings for free and you can copy them as you like.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sun Jun 17, 2012 5:26 am

Astus wrote:
LastLegend wrote:But what is wrong with letting people copying the work? Are they not generating merits for writers, compilers, editors, etc by spreading the understanding or teaching? Strictly speaking of Dharma books.


There are always costs involved in any kind of work. For religious books you pay in donation to the church, for writers, editors, publishers, retail shops and government/state services you pay for the book. There are free editions online of course, but even then somebody has to pay for the servers and donate work for editing and programming. For example, there are many sutras available online for free, and the different Buddhist canons are also published. If you speak Chinese for example, you have access to a huge number of Buddhist works and teachings for free and you can copy them as you like.



Because costs and labors involved, that is how merits generate. Karma is clear in Buddha's teachings-in the sense that is no advantage taken from anyone. Nothing is free because of karma-can't get away with stealing or cheating. Giving nothing will get nothing.

Practice of Dana:
Costs-money
Labors-time and energy
Dharma-Buddhadharma to help alleviate or end suffering

Much merits generate from that.

That's how I've been taught to practice. Like if they want to print a Sutra, they will let Buddhists know how much a Sutra costs to print. Then Buddhists will chip in-$5,$10, $20, $30, $40, $50, or any amount that they can or how many Sutra they want to print. It is not about being rich or poor. Actually most Buddhists in Asia are poor. It's about engaging.
Last edited by LastLegend on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:23 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby LastLegend » Sun Jun 17, 2012 5:57 am

deleted*error*
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Nemo » Sun Jun 17, 2012 10:19 am

Copyright never existed until very recently. For most of history the concept that you could turn ideas into property was not even considered. Ironically it was invented to foster innovation and protect the public from predatory business practices. While now it is often used to stifle it and legally enforce the monopolistic business practices of corporations.

Nothing the Buddha wrote is copyrighted. Allowing translations of someone else's public domain work to be copyrighted is a legal courtesy(not a right) as none of the ideas are original. Life of the author plus 50 is fair I think. That keeps the balance between the public good and the authors need to make a living.
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Tara » Sun Jun 17, 2012 10:36 am

Not sure if this is particularly relevant but here is a wiki page which covers the History of copyright law which some may find interesting.

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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:02 am

Nemo wrote:That keeps the balance between the public good and the authors need to make a living.


Quite often, in the present day especially, the assumption that an author or artist loses money because of piracy assumes that I would pay for the material I otherwise get for free.

The reality is that if I couldn't get the material for free, I wouldn't pay for it. The pdf scans of books I use are books beyond my price range (400 Euros or more for one in a few cases). I would simply have to find it via the library, and in that case as well get it for free (or the small cost of a library card).

The idea that you can claim ownership of abstract knowledge and capitalize on it is largely foreign to most of human civilization, though in the last two centuries artists and writers are not patronized as they once were, and instead have to ply their trade through a commercial market model.

Still, in many cases when it comes to academic works (not meant to be entertainment), the cost is prohibitive for the common person and moreover it betrays the original principle of academia which is edification, not commodification.

Also with academic works quite often the original author will get peanuts for royalties, meanwhile they invest thousands of dollars in acquiring resources to write the thing, nevermind the many hours they put into it.
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Re: Copyrighted Dharma books

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:12 am

Lobsang Damchoi wrote:Other folks would know better, but I imagine that dharma teachers and translators get relatively little for their labors. With so much excellent dharma material available free on the internet (oral and written), it's hard for me to understand the resistance to copyright--is it a cost issue? A matter of principle? Something else?


At the end of the day in our present day it is ultimately quite futile to copyright anything and expect it to not be reproduced without the explicit written consent of the publisher and/or author.

In bygone days it took a lot more effort to pirate a book (and then sell it for your efforts).

Now people scan it and put it online for free, and normally it isn't resold.
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