http://emptyelephant.wordpress.com/2010 ... i-plaques/
SUMMARY (The Cold Facts, and the Main Point):
Lillian Too used my translation of the Mahashri Sutra to sell plaques for $96 each. She did not ask my permission, offer me any compensation, or credit me as translator, even though she knew knew me personally. After I exposed her illegal and unethical use of my translation for her business, she refused to communicate with me.
Lillian and I had a previous translation deal lasting for about two months, which Lillian had ended suddenly, angrily, and seemingly irrationally, and she did not really give me provide me with good reasons as to why she was ending the project. Then, she actually asked for the money back that I had already worked for. During the time I was working on the project, she insisted on paying a very minimal price and was basically very cheap (especially for a multi-millionaire), was very demanding in general, and worst of all was very dishonest in her true intentions of having me translate one of the Zungdus or “Compendiums of Dharanis” — it was solely so that she could make money by using the mantras and sutras for profit, selling Feng Shui items by marketing the Buddha Dharma.
For those of who you don’t know Lillian, she is a multi-millionaire, quite famous Feng Shui master and author.
When I asked her about the Mahashri Sutra Plaques, she said that Lama Zopa Rinpoche had given it to her years ago. This was not true, as it was obviously my translation. Lama Zopa’s was nothing like the plaque. She had written me emails talking about my translation of the Mahashri Sutra specifically in the past, and it was actually one of the reasons that she originally wanted me to work for her. She was quite taken with my translation of the Mahashri Sutra (obviously). There is a not a speck of doubt that it is my translation.
After this, I never received another response from her personally again, and her company was not helpful either. Her company actually wrote to me and said that the use of the work did not violate copyright law (which it does), and basically said that they didn’t owe me anything, not even an apology, or a promise not to do it again — later as I found out, because she still had intentions to use my work — she is still selling keychains that presumably have my translation of the Mahashri Sutra in them (using a different name for the same sutra)!
Lillian later removed the Mahashri Sutra Plaque from her online website. There was some information that the item had been retracted completely, although this has never been completely verified. Again, I have received no information about the item from Lillian or her company, not even a notice about the status of the item.
Thus, Lillian did indirectly admit to using my translation, both through 1) taking the product offline (and presumably discontinuing it) after I exposed it, and 2) through her company’s response that their use of it “did not violate copyright law”.
Since the original writing of this article, I have since attempted over email to apologize to Lillian Too for my part in whatever led her to these actions. I have assured her that I have no big agenda here, other than a thoughtful and fair reponse to my very valid concerns.
At the very least, I need a letter from her company stating that they will not use my intellectual property in the future. Of course, compensation would also be good and appropriate.
If there is anyone out there who knows Lillian personally, or gets the chance to meet her, I urge you to ask her about this issue. I have had no success in my communications with her, her company, or any of her associates. You can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
What baffles me is Lillian’s refusal to address the issue. She has already basically admitted to doing it, so why not give me the courtesy of an apology, promise to not do it again, and maybe even some fair compensation? Or perhaps even work out a business deal that could benefit both of us?
I truly think that my concerns are real, valid, and transcend any narrow grasping at my own translation work. These issues are very real and of concern to everyone.
In particular, I think that this is a case of translators needing to be made more aware, and to stand up for their rights.
What’s the most sad about this whole issue, beyond having anything to do with me, is that there are influential Buddhists out there who think it is acceptable to do these kinds of things to Dharma translators.
It’s a sad microcosm of the overall attitude of a lot of people, who have no real appreciation for the immense work that translators do, and feel it is their right to utilize the work of translators while showing no respect or sensitivity to their legal and moral rights to their work, even to the point of making hundreds of thousands of dollars off their work without even offering them a single cent or crediting them as translator.
O You Translators (and artists and writers of all kinds) out there — be careful who you work with, and try to protect your work!
Erick Sherab Zangpo
PS In response to some of the negative responses I have received over this article… it is not my intention to harm Lillian Too. If you think deeply about this issue, I feel that you will see that it is the right thing to do to continue to spread the message about this. As I mentioned above, this has to do with much more than just me. It is a matter of ethics and principles that apply to everyone. I will gladly drop the whole thing and take down this article the moment that Lillian Too resolves this issue in a normal fashion. I feel it is actually the compassionate thing to do for Lillian Too’s sake as well — keeping this article up until she acts responsibly for her own actions.