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Reply to Sravana
By Nrsimhananda dasa, ITV
In a recent letter to CHAKRA, Sravana das wrote, “There has been some recent controversy over the pirating of ITV videos by Gargamuni and Brahmananda who are selling the videos in India. I strongly disagree with Nrsimhananda's suggestion that they be banned from all ISKCON temples, for the following reasons: 1) Many devotees feel that no one should be able to own a copyright of their spiritual master's lectures, photographs, or video footage. Whether or not it is illegal according to United States and international copyright law many devotees strongly feel that access to these books, letters, video, and audio recordings should not be restricted and that they should be freely available.”
Would Sravana suggest that anyone should be able to publish Srila Prabhupada's books? This is his logic. By his standards anyone can reproduce the books and pictures in Prabhupada’s books without having to had borne the costs of editing, including collecting, preserving, creating appendixes, seps, etc.
In fact, we can pirate anything that has to do with Krishna under this logic. The books put out by Torchlight, Kusakrata, Tamal Krishna Goswami, Satsvarupa, Mandala Press, Narayan Maharaja, etc. - are all targets for duplication without any restriction. All the tape ministries of any guru can be copied and sold by anybody anywhere by Sravana's standards. Devotee musicians are fair game, too.
Of course, Sravana didn't have to come up with the hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the production and rights of all these publications. He is happy to let others bear those costs in the past, present, and future.
Sravana also did not read Srila Prabhupada's instructions on this matter to the BBT Trustees and to ISKCON Cinema. Srila Prabhupada invested the authority in matters such as these to entities - not to Sravana's mental speculation.
Sravana continues, “The prices being charged for the video and audio recordings, and the Vedabase are exorbitant and beyond the financial means of most devotees. Take for example the Vedabase, which is the collected anthology of Srila Prabhupada's books, letters, conversations, and lectures. The entire Vedabase software fits onto one compact disc. A blank compact disc costs less than fifty cents. One can copy a compact disc on a home computer with a CD burner in about ten minutes. Why is the Bhaktivedanta Archives charging $600. 00 for the Vedabase that costs fifty cents and ten minutes to produce? Perhaps they should drop the price of the Vedabase from the ridiculous amount of $600 to a more reasonable price - say $49. 95. Because they charge such high prices devotees are forced to buy the pirated copies.”
Sravana's victim mentality is showing here. "I can't afford it - poor me." If I can't afford japa beads, then let me steal them from the temple store. If I can't afford deities, let me steal from the Jaipur wallah. If I can't afford the Caitanya Caritamrta, let me steal it from the book room. If I can't afford electricity to heat the temple, let me turn back the meter. His logic in this regard knows no boundaries because that mind-set is "cheating" mentality. If you can't afford it, then you don't get it. Krishna will provide another situation designed for the person without means - and it doesn't necessarily mean that you get what you want or think you need. Krishna knows best.
Sravana also wrote, “The BBT, Bhaktivedanta Archives and ITV are all about 2-3 years behind today's media technology. For example - from the Bhaktivedanta Archives you can purchase Srila Prabhupada's lectures with one or two lectures per tape or CD. Why would a devotee spend $5. 95 on one CD disc with two lectures on it when they could get the entire 1200 hours of Prabhupada's lectures, bhajans, and kirtans for only $108? MP3 technology has been available for a few years now yet the archives have been extremely slow to put out MP3 versions of Prabhupada's lectures. The same goes for the videos - DVD technology has been available for several years yet to my knowledge ITV has not released one Prabhupada DVD video yet. Of course when there is an opportunity someone will come and take advantage of it. You can now own a 30-disc set of Prabhupada videos for a fraction of what it costs to purchase the tapes independently.”
Sravana is quite a fault-finder. For example, anyone in marketing knows that the scale of the market has a direct impact on the ability to set prices. Medical videos marketed to physicians are hundreds of dollars each. And they have a much larger market than the one presently existing for Srila Prabhupada's videos. The DVD market is still very limited, but Archives, ITV, etc. are developing DVD products. We can't pay the $90 per DVD disk that it costs to have it done outside. We have too many programs and too little money. We have to slowly develop an inside production facility. Perhaps Sravana can come here and do a better job rather than droning on about what is "missing. " Or maybe he could teach Dulal Candra a thing or two about production and distribution of Archive material. I would certainly like to have him eliminate ITV's $20, 000 debt left over the doing the New Hare Krishna World videos. Meanwhile, pirates like Brahmanada and Gargamuni prey on the moral weakness of aspiring devotees who will buy purloined goods at prices that don't have to reflect developmental and maintenance costs.
“Even GBC members are purchasing these videos and audio lectures,” writes Sravana. “How do you expect the rank and file devotees to follow your instructions when even the topmost leaders of our movement are not willing to follow?”
Here Sravana and I agree wholeheartedly on this one point. Lack of good leadership has shipwrecked much of the society. But it is no excuse for us to choose to become contaminated. Again, Sravana is a VICTIM, unwilling to accept individual responsibility for his own behavior. He is blaming the leadership for his own lack of morality. Most people blame others for their own foibles. Only the staunch and courageous devotee will take full responsibility for the contents of his/her life.
“If you are successful in your mission to punish Brahmananda and Gargamuni,” Sravana says, “other devotees will continue selling the videos. Already there are several websites where you can purchase the MP3 lectures and VCD videos for a reasonable price. If you shut them down - then another one will appear. In the midst of such chaos in the ISKCON movement devotees are hungry to get Srila Prabhupada's association.”
The best way to get Srila Prabhupada's association is to follow his instructions. Sravana has not thoroughly researched his instructions in these matters. For example, Yadubara was personally instructed by Srila Prabhupada to produce new films from the sales of his films. He authorized Yadubara to charge quite a few times more than the cost of duplicating the film. Srila Prabhupada said, "Make films, distribute them widely, and, in this way, get money to make more films. " He was supportive of Yadhubara's service. Later, ITV paid Yadubara for the rights to his films. A trusting relationship was established, and we have been working together for the benefit of the society without cessation due to this mutual respect. Yadhubara also feels that the pirating is against Srila Prabhupada's wishes. I suggest that Sravana is not fully aware of how Srila Prabhupada dealt in these matters. (He is welcomed to contact Yadubara for more specific information firstname.lastname@example.org or the BBT Trustees for a copy of the instructions left by Srila Prabhupada.)
Sravana says that it's time for the devotees at BBT, the Bhaktivedanta Archives, and ITV to wake up and smell the incense. “If you don't get with the times and start offering up-to-date, reasonably priced volumes of Srila Prabhupada's teachings,” he says, “you'll lose everything.”
Sravana is threatening us all with this sarcastic statement. What gaineth a man if he loses his soul? Sravana doesn't understand that when ITV, Archives, BBT go down, there will be no one left to archive, preserve, and develop the technologies he lauds. He thinks that the cow is fully milked, so let's kill it. Or let the cow fend for itself outside the protection of the pasture. But the fact is that the cow will be killed unless given protection. The only protection is sattva guna. If devotees act out of ignorance or passion, these very institutions will perish.
[SEE A FINAL NOTE] Addendum to this article
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