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Responds to Jada Bharata
By Nrsimhananda das
I appreciate Jada Bharata's inquiries, and I think that the truth will help shed light on the entire copyright issue of ITV and other ISKCON-related institutions such as BBT, Archives, etc.
Yadubara and Visaka dd were the filmmaker sand owners of most of the footage of Srila Prabhupada. He sold the copyrights to ITV. Their service to film and sell their productions at a profit was authorized by Srila Prabhupada himself. Actually, Yadubara was instructed by Srila Prabhupada to sell his films at many times the actual cost of the film print. Prabhupada wanted him to produce more films through income derived from sales. Of course, this same principle applied to the books. Srila Prabhupada instructed the BBT Trustees to sell them at more than their cost. He gave direction as to what he wanted them to do with the "profit." In fact, Srila Prabhupada never wanted anyone to get his books for free. Even big Indian personalities were expected to pay for books despite their exalted standing in the material world.
You ask why the videos are owned. Firstly, understand that the "owner" is a non-profit charitable organization, ISKCON Television, Inc. No person owns the copyrights. Second, the films were acquired from persons who did own them just as a television company that filmed Srila Prabhupada owns the rights to their footage. Try and convince them that they can't own footage of His Divine Grace. Yet, you are saying that everyone was a right to copy Srila Prabhupada's videos. Where do you draw the line? Can we rationalize the pirating of the BBC footage of Srila Prabhupada? Maybe you would have us do it, but it is immoral and illegal. Moreover, you didn't purchase the film, pay for the processing, edit, the footage, and personally assume the entire overhead that such an endeavor requires. The filmmaker took on all those responsibilities. You want to deny such an entity their right to market those goods by pirating them in the name of preaching or whatever. However, the fact is such activity would be stealing from such persons who invested in all of that work and toil.
Even if the footage were in the public domain, which it most certainly is not, you nor anyone else would not be entitled to edited works like Your Ever Well-Wisher, Acarya I- V, The Final Lesson, etc. You would have to edit your own programs because the editing most certainly is copyrighted in and of themselves. The editing is the creative input that has been invested in the original material, and that aspect of the footage cannot be copied even if were premise that all the footage of Srila Prabhupada is "publicly owned" were true - which it is not.
You ask why ITV thinks it owns the footage, and the question is a good one. The International BBT also inquired into that issue. Madhava Puri das who is in charge of copyright protection for the IBBT reviewed the contracts that ITV has with Yadubara, etc. ITV paid tens of thousands of dollars to ISKCON Cinema for those rights. We didn't even think of ripping off Yadubara and Visaka. After a detailed investigation, the IBBT recognized the ITV copyrights. You can contact Madhava Puri about this event for further clarification.
This pirating problem has only come about in such a big way due to the years of abuse of these rights by Brahmananda and Gargamuni. Now a few others like Madhuvisa have joined this brigade of pirates utilizing this bogus philosophy that rationalizes such immoral behavior. Funny thing is that Brahmananda and Gargamuni recognized ITV's copyright for a number of years. They quit their pirating and bought directly from us. But their difficulties with the US authorities have forced them to leave the country. Unfortunately, they brought their cheating mentality along with them. I must add here that the continued pirating of the "Animated Ramayana" is a threat to ISKCON since the Japanese producer, Yugo Sako, has explicitly ordered that the film not be copied or distributed in any way by anyone. Anuttama dasa has contacted Brahmananda and Gargamuni, the order to cease and desist has been broadcast on CHAKRA and VNN, and I have personally written to the brothers to stop. But, then, this is the cheating mentality at work. So many people have to suffer due to someone's greed.
As far as the profit from selling the videos, I am sorry to report that there is none. We, like the Archives, must support the production, maintenance, preservation, and general overhead through the sales of the videos - just the formula that Srila Prabhupada gave to Yadubara. Unfortunately, the market for videos about Srila Prabhupada is very small. Good marketers like Brahmananda and Gargamuni have abused, rather than cooperated, with ITV, Archives, etc., to partner in marketing the goods. They sell the VCD's at prices that our distributor in Vrndaban cannot compete with because they don't have to pay for any of the above-mentioned costs. Our distributor there of the VCD's, Isvara prabhu, is bullied by the two brothers and undercut in prices. Laksmi that could go toward further programming development is stifled. There is a lot more that could be done with the footage. Meanwhile, Brahmananda and Gargamuni - and anyone else who pirates the videos or VCD's - line their own pockets under the banner of doing a service to the devotees who can't afford them. The funny thing is that we are only talking about a royalty of 15% of the selling price per VCD or tape at the prices within the country of sale. The way ITV sets up its pricing system, the amount is proportionate to the economy of the country. You can buy PAL videos from our Russian distributor at very depressed prices. So your argument about not being able to afford ITV videos is not valid. However, I defend the right of any entity to price their goods as they see fit. The Archives may be overpriced on their Folio product. So don't buy it. Eventually, in a free market (with an enforceable system of justice), the prices find their appropriate level. I'm always amazed to here the complaint that devotees can't get association of Srila Prabhupada because they can't afford the Folio or videos, or whatever. My God! When I joined there were just a few books available, not even audiotapes. Somehow we got the message. I remember when I first started ITV in 1979; most of the GBC were dubious about its value. We had to persuade temples to get VCR's. European temples didn't want any part of it. Now, in 2001, it's a necessity. I mean it, really.
Regarding the profit issue, ITV's books are open for scrutiny, not that there is much to see. We have had the same accounting firm for 15 years, so there are plenty of quarterlies to review. Sometimes I think that we should axe the accounting company since we have no payroll, and our taxes are pretty straightforward. But, then, I think to myself that there will always be doubting Thomas's around the Movement, so I'd better keep the company paying the $190 per month -just in case. You're invited to inspect them if it'll calm your mind about our misusing any funds. I wish we had enough to misuse. You can also look up the GBC resolutions in 1980 and ‘81, which prohibit the copying of ITV videos. Within our own society, we have prohibited any unauthorized duplication. There is not even a question of copyrights here. So how is it that people who are sitting on Vyasasana's in the Krishna Balaram mandir, or any ISKCON affiliated facility, can preach about our philosophy while not cooperating with the rules made by the institution that Srila Prabhupada left as its "managing authority?" People who pretend to support ISKCON, but flaunt its rules are hypocrites and not worthy of such a seat.
You can also contact Yadubara to confirm what I have communicated above. He has numerous other pastimes with Srila Prabhupada which relate to the questions you posed. He is also very saddened that his footage is being pirated by Brahmananda and Gargamuni, and others. He has told me personally that Srila Prabhupada would be very unhappy about what they are doing.
In conclusion, the videos are available from numerous legitimate sources both as cassettes and VCD's. In Indian, Isvara distributes VCD's. Bangalore temple manufactures and distributes cassettes. In Russia, Bal Krsna distributes. In Australia, Sraddhavan distributes. In Europe, Priyavrata manufactures and distributes; Visnu Murti distributes), the North America, Krishna Culture, BTG, various temple stores, and ITV distribute. We have a web site <wwwitvproductions.net which Manu manages. We are suppose to have some tapes distributed in Hong Kong, but we haven't heard from them in a long time. South Africa always seems to be simmering with a distributor, but so far, after all these years, no luck. However, Priyavrata is working with someone there on distribution.
We would like to develop streaming video of Srila Prabhupada, but we don't have the capital to invest in that project now.
Certainly, the biggest pirating of ITV has been done by Brahmananda and Gargamuni. They are good salesmen, but they have cheated our fledgling institution, Archives, musicians, etc., out of laksmi that could have been invested in more programming, etc. There must be amends made before there can be reconciliation. They owe a lot of institutions in ISKCON laksmi.
I have dedicated over 21 years to the development of the programming at ITV, and I know what it takes to produce shows. We would like to produce more, ie "Diety Worship in the Home," "Diety Worship in the Temple," "How to Become a Vaisnava," "Sojourn of the Vedic People," a documentary on Indradhumya Swami's festival program, "Mantra Mediation," etc. Perhaps you would like to fund one of these programs. That's the only way we can make a show right now given the present circumstances.
Thank you for your interest. If you want to contact me directly with any more questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I beg to remainI
YS, Nrsimhananda dasa
PS You stated that there is a difference between the copyrights on the books and those on the footage of Srila Prabhupada. That is not correct both in ISKCON law and international law. The IBBT has recognized the copyrights, and the GBC has ordered that the videos not be copied. Moreover, the books are media, just as film is media, just as electronic reproduction is media. International law recognizes that whether you produce a book, video, song, etc., - they are all copyrightable. Our minds may make a distinction in terms of how we perceive communication, but the methods are quickly becoming blurred. Since the invention of the Gutenberg press, film, television, computers, etc., have all expanded the definition. For example, now we have electronic books that are sold as modules inserted into hand-held devices. Does the IBBT have copyright protection on these books? They certainly do. Those manuscripts that have been conveyed to a trust by Srila Prabhupada's will remain the property of that trust. What about the paintings? Certainly, they also belong to the trust since they were produced and acquired by that trust. Even if those paintings are electronically displayed, they still are copyrighted by that trust. That's the way Srila Prabhupada wanted his BBT to manage and endure. ITV owns the copyrights on its materials in whatever form it may be presented.
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