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Photographs are copyrighted by the person who takes the photograph. The copyright “affixes” to the photograph the moment when it is taken and becomes fixed. Like with other artistic endeavors, the photographer owns the copyright to his or her own photos unless he or she has assigned the rights to others. The only limitation is that while the subject of the photo is alive, no one can use the picture for commercial promotion. That’s no longer an issue with Osho.

It was “common wisdom” in the community at one time that whatever creative work, like photography, artwork, editing, writing, and so on, that was done in an Osho commune or ashram legally belonged to the commune or ashram. Saying that doesn’t make it so, and in many cases it wasn’t so. This is clearly untrue in the US, where the individual owns his or her own work unless a valid written work-for-hire agreement has been signed. Everyone should check the laws of the countries where they did creative work to see what ownership rights they have.

At one point OIF, Zurich claimed to own all photographs of Osho and to have the power to control who used them and how. OIF reportedly once threatened to sue a sannyasin-owned magazine in Europe for $25,000 for using a picture of Osho on the cover. (If this kind behavior occurs, it needs to be reported as harassment. See Your options)

It’s unclear whether OIF, Zurich owns the rights to any photographs at all. No Indian entity has assigned its rights in photographs to OIF, Zurich . This means that OIF, Zurich clearly does not own rights to any photographs taken pre-Pune I, in Pune I or Pune II, or on the World Tour.

RFI, the US foundation did assign rights in photographs to OIF, Zurich , but its unclear what rights RFI actually owned. In order for RFI to own rights in photographs it would have to have obtained work-for-hire agreements from the photographers before the photos were taken. Then it would have needed to keep track of who took each photograph or group of photographs, so that photographs could be matched to the work-for-hire agreement.

It’s very unlikely that OIF has this kind of information for the Ranch-era (Rajneeshpuram, USA) photographs, which means that the 1986 assignment from RFI to OIF was meaningless as far as the ownership of copyrights in individual photographs is concerned. If OIF claims to own “all photographs of Osho” anyone can feel confident in completely ignoring them. If OIF claims to own a particular photo it needs to produce the identification of the photographer, the work-for-hire agreement, and the assignment of rights to OIF. If OIF has all that, simply choose a different photo.



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