|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 claim.)
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, Zurich. 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 has claimed.
There is one other theory that OIF, Zurich 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, Zurich 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 instead.
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.
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