Copyright on the Dhamma

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:29 pm

Maarten2 wrote:I have skimmed those discussions, but I hope you understand that I could not read every post. Could you be so kind and point me to specific answers to my question? Note that it is not an inquiry about copyright law or morality, but more about whether there is a chance that the copyright holders of those translations would release them in the public domain, either in exchange for money or good kamma.


Hi Maarten,
This inquiry is out side the bounds of the majority (except members who are directly involved in those who hold such copyright) of members here, you would have to ask the copyright holders of the texts in question.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:24 pm

As I pointed out on one of those threads, the decision of how to manage one's organisation and intellectual property is a difficult one. Non-profit organisations, such as the Pali Text Society, Buddhist Publication Society, and Wisdom Publications, have been around for a long time. More than a century in the case of PTS. By careful management, and latterly by collaboration with Wisdom (Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations are also distributed by PTS) PTS has ensured that high-quality English translations of almost the entire Tipitika are available and accessible to all who wish to purchase them or have access to a good library. On-line resources such as Access to Insight are simply not in the same league either in quality or quantity.

Furthermore, the cost of the Wisdom Nikayas is actually rather small in comparison to the amount of use I've got out of them. I've spent hundreds of hours simply listening to Bhikkhu Bodhi's (free) lectures on the MN alone (while, of course, referring to the text).

While I applaud other methods of distribution, it is not clear to me that they would have sufficed to support such efforts as effectively over such a span of time. Research, translation, editing, and production are difficult and time-consuming. Moreover, keeping electronic resources safe is also not trivial. They have to updated in format every decade or so.

Ironically, publications that are produced for free are often more difficult to obtain than "commercial" volumes. More and more are available electronically, which does help, though, as noted above, it does not ensure lasting availability.

The Internet may well change the "business model" of the non-profits such as PTS, BPS, Wisdom, etc. BPS in particular has been starting to proved PDF's as well has hard copies (e.g. the Visuddhimagga), and perhaps others will follow. However, if I were running those organisations I would want to be careful not to lose what has been built over decades/centuries.

:anjali:
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:40 pm

:anjali: :goodpost: :anjali:

it is also worth noting that the quality of the publications we see usually requires professional assistance, and not all professionals are in a position, or have the inclination, to do things for free for such a scale.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Maarten2 » Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:35 pm

Thanks Mike and Banthe for your sincere answers to my question.

When I composed my original post, I was under the asumption that Wisdom Publications is basically a for-profit publisher, who takes a typesetted manustript and basically just prints it (I then looked them up and changed my post a little to indicate that they are a non-profit). I now see that I actually know little about what they, BPS and the PTS do.

I still believe that there is a good business case to be made for releasing the translations of the suttas under public domain or at least free of charge for non-commercial use. I think, I will let the issue rest, do some more research and then follow up on Cittasanto's suggestion and compose a letter to Bhikkhu Bodhi.
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:44 pm

Hi Maarten,
Maarten2 wrote:I still believe that there is a good business case to be made for releasing the translations of the suttas under public domain or at least free of charge for non-commercial use. I think, I will let the issue rest, do some more research and then follow up on Cittasanto's suggestion and compose a letter to Bhikkhu Bodhi.

It would certainly be very good if the model that BPS seems to have adopted of both selling printed copies and releasing electronic versions turns out to be a viable long-term solution. To me that would be the "best of both worlds" as long as it did not reduce the production of high-quality material.

There was a rumour going around that Wisdom were considering releasing PDFs of their translations, but so far that has not eventuated.

:anjali:
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Hanzze » Wed Jun 06, 2012 3:33 am

Dear friends,

maybe some additional thought to the issue and I like to start with some sentences form „The Awakening of Compassion and Wisdom“ by Ven. Master Chin Kung (founder of Budaedu.or) about teaching and supplying Dhamma:

In order to teach other, we practice cultivation as well as encouraging others to do likewise. We do so to sincerely introduce Buddhism to other people. What is our driving force? Compassion. But if we do so for wealth or fame, then it is purely business and this is totally wrong for it totally violates the very spirit of Buddhism.
In fact, the circulation of the teachings, including sutras and reference works should be unconditional. Copyrighted material do not accord with the true spirit of Buddhism. Every time I am presented with a Buddhist book, I first check for the copyright page. If it says “This book is protected by copyright; any unauthorized printing of this book shall lead to punishment”, I will not read the book. If asked why I do not want to read it, my answer is that any true and good knowledge should benefit others unconditionally and that reprinting should be allowed. It would be a waste of time and energy to read copyrighted book. Only the writings of those who are broadminded and kind-hearted and who sincerely practice what they teach deserve to be read and studied. How can we expect a narrow-minded, profit-seeking to write good things and conclude them with the great perfection?...


Some would now say, yes that's the point (bearing in mind, the main task in Dhamma practice is to help)

I guess the real problem (like always when we do not find a good solution) is deeper. Our practice of Dhamma should generally have the intention to turn usual or common into the way of Dhamma and we need have some faith that our commons are not so pure that the way it should grow to.
So our general inspiration should be to turn in direction of the Dhamma and not to turn Dhamma into the direction of our commons.

There is an important borderline of orientation and that is the acting according to Vinaya and the a good common acting.

When we look at mikenz66 statements for example - "To me that would be the "best of both worlds" as long as it did not reduce the production of high-quality material. " - they are very according to the teachings of the Buddha to layman in regard of possession, and knowledge is also possession.

"Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones — using the wealth earned through his efforts & enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained — wards off from calamities coming from fire, flood, kings, thieves, or hateful heirs, and keeps himself safe. This is the third benefit that can be obtained from wealth.

Adiya Sutta


So there is no problem, if somebody publishing Dhamma Books and makes a livelihood (The running/, working of/for non profit organizations is also a kind of livelihood) out of it.
But even here we have one important addition, which we should keep in mind and protect us from suffering:

"If it so happens that, when a disciple of the noble ones obtains these five benefits from wealth, his wealth goes to depletion, the thought occurs to him, 'Even though my wealth has gone to depletion, I have obtained the five benefits that can be obtained from wealth,' and he feels no remorse. If it so happens that, when a disciple of the noble ones obtains these five benefits from wealth, his wealth increases, the thought occurs to him, 'I have obtained the five benefits that can be obtained from wealth, and my wealth has increased,' and he feels no remorse. So he feels no remorse in either case."


Different is it in regard of somebody following the Vinaya as there is no more such thing like possession and no more exchange of it. There is no more "mine" and there is no more aspiration to put other intentions higher as virtue. Actually in the Vinaya there are a couple of rules in regard of teaching Dhamma: how, whom, in which conditions and so on.
They have proposes: To protect the reputation of Dhamma and Sangha, to make a teaching event not to something wasted, to protect the teacher himself, to transport the real meaning also in a surrounding which does not suggest that Dhamma is something hypocritical and theoretical.
One other thing is, that there is a reason why Dhamma was original an oral tradition, because it would be difficult to turn a line between producing (and with it additional harming) literature for entertainment or for Dhamma. So we would have the old taking for the sake of giving problem.
One more thing is, that in the common ways, the Dhamma easily degenerates to something that is written but nobody really lives according to it. It’s also very humanly that secrify our live for the welfare of others (help) rather than to actually practice it honestly. So there are manifold projects beside the practice project and countless organizations beside the Organisation Sangha.
I guess it was after the council of Rangoon, that Buddhist monks started to use new technologies to reproduce the Tipitaka. From a honest view on the Vinaya, it was not so good and I guess an act out of seeing the Dhamma and Vinaya fading away in Asia. But we do not need to adopt fearful reaction to commons but establish more trust into the teachings of the Buddha.

However the history was, we are here and we are able to change things more into direction of Dhamma and the most necessary condition to force the flourish of Dhamma is teaching the value and the meaning of Dana as well that supporting somebody walking a holy path is not made to get something back. That would be not easy if the teachings are not in balance with the idea of economy beside of direct exchange, somebody not doing very strict in regards of Dana, would not be able to teach it correctly or would give a suggestion that it is just something theoretical.
There is no such Dana for teaching relation inside the way of Dhamma Dana.
I guess it is good when we support people who take care of free given Dhamma as well it is good to support Bhikkhus in a way that they neither need to be involved in worldly business nor need to step over some rules.
It’s also needed to see that (like many things today) Dhamma translation and Dhamma distribution and teaching is in the Hand of people who often do not really live a holy life, so it’s natural that the own ways and kind of thinking penetrates the teachings with time. And Buddha Dhamma does really not need theoretical conservation to survive, those things decay much faster as we might think.
As long as there are people putting main effort into practice rather than to enjoy times in “how it could be” Dhamma and Vinaya will not be gone even if it is not public available on demand.
It might sound very naughty and in-compassionated, but if one likes to help a Bhikkhu or others, take them away their projects and jump into their old shoes. You can learn and do better while you give those in front of you more freedom to make an additional step.
Otherwise it will lose its dynamic very soon.

I guess this Dhamma Dana AṬṬHAKAVAGGA (Sutta Nipāta, 4) shows well the cave of projects even if they are for a "higher" (?) propose:

II. GUHAṬṬHAKA SUTTA
II. EIGHT-VERSED DISCOURSE ON THE CAVE

1. Holding fast in a cave, much obscured,
A man stays plunged in confused stupidity.
He, being of such a type, is far from detachment.
Objects of desire in this world are indeed not easy to abandon.

2. Founded in desire, bound to the pleasures of existence,
People are released with difficulty and indeed cannot get release
from another.
Hoping for what is after or before,
Longing for these desirable objects or former ones,

3. Greedy, engrossed, confounded over objects of desire,
Miserly, they are entrenched in the way of inequality.
And brought to an uneasy end they lament,
“What will become of us when we have passed away from here?”

4. Therefore a person should train himself right here and now;
Whatever he would know in the world to be a way of inequality
Not because of that should he go along the unequal way.
The wise say this life is but a little thing indeed.

5. I see in the world this race of men
Thrashing about with craving for existences.
Inferior men cry out in the jaws of Death
With craving not gone for this or that existence.

6. See them thrashing in the midst of what they call “mine”
Like fishes in a dried-up stream with little water.
And having seen that, one should go the way of “not mine,”
Not working up attachment for existences.

7. Having dismissed preference for either extreme,
Having thoroughly understood stimulation, not greedy for
anything,
Not doing that which would lead to self-reproach,
A wise man is not stuck to by the seen or the heard.

8. Having truly understood perception he would cross over the flood.
A sage is not mired with possessions.
With the spike pulled out, going with mind unclouded,
He does not wish for this world or another.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Maarten2 » Wed Jun 06, 2012 9:52 am

Thanks for your reply, but I am afraid you miss my point somewhat. I also think it is legitimate to make a livelihood selling translations of the Pali Cannon, but it does not need to be protected by copyright for that. Take the Pali Cannon itself. It not protected by copyright (because it predated the concept of copyright), but it still gets sold in printed form by the PTS.
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Hanzze » Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:22 am

Maarten2,

There is no business if there is no kind of protection, that goes hand in hand. So this or that. Both is nice but not possible. If you do not protect your business its gone, today faster as ever before. I guess this are the actual occupy spirits dreaming of a wonderland who create such ideas.

Actually I guess its better to turn to the direction Dhamma Dana, Dhamma does not have a wholesome base for business. But therefore one needs to learn gratitude first. The illusion of rights are working very efficient against gratitude, who ever claims right. The publisher as well as somebody thinking that he has a right on Dhamma.

If I don't like to give you something, what will you do? You can jump around what ever you like, there are no right but there are task to walk according to the natural law without violation it.

If some like to have to whole copyright of all Dhamma teachings of the Buddha, let him and wish him that he might find peace in this way.

Let them sell, wish them much success and also those who buy it. Its good to discover the own intentions. What does it change for you? Why do you lift up this topic?

Dhamma is about following tasks and watch for ones own responsibilities, it not about right. Rights are pretty trivial from a Dhamma view.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Maarten2 » Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:56 am

Hanzze wrote:There is no business if there is no kind of protection, that goes hand in hand.

I think there two reasons why you would think that:

1. The market will get flodded with cheaper prints.
2. People won't buy books anymore, if they can also have it for free.

If it is 1), I think you are underestimating how expensive it is to print a book. Printing cheap books is really only possible if print them in large quantities. I don't think the profit margin that Wisdom is making on each book (or any publisher really) is actually that large.

If it is 2), there are two options a) you are right, b) you are wrong. I would personally say b) is the case. For example Mindfulness in Plain English is available online for free, but I still bought the book after I read the first few chapters online. I didn't do so out of compassion for the author (then I would have donated directly), but because I like to have a good book in my shelve and because it is more pleasant to read on paper. I think others would feel the same.

If, however, b) is the case then I would like give the example for Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the 6th largest website in the world. It has expenses of millions of dollars. All these are accounted for by donation. Or take kickstarter, a website where people can seek funding for their projects:

wikipedia wrote:As of April 2012, Kickstarter had more than $175 million dollars pledged and more than 20,000 successfully funded projects.[...] The Pebble E-Paper Watch raised more than $10,000,000 to become the most funded project in Kickstarter history. In fact, the Pebble achieved this only six days after launch (April 17, 2012) as it surpassed [video game] Double Fine Adventure, which only raised a little more than $3 million.

Given these examples, I think it is not naive to believe any potential losses from book sales can be compensated by donations. This a cause I would be willing to donate as much money for as I can personally afford to. Part of why I raised this question was to see if other felt the same way about it.

If I don't like to give you something, what will you do?

I was planning on sending a polite and carefully worded, well researched letter to state my case.

Actually I guess its better to turn to the direction Dhamma Dana, Dhamma does not have a wholesome base for business.

The Buddha did not expect all his disciples to become Monks and Nuns. If someone has the choice to make a living publishing Buddhist books or regular books, they choose the former and as a result more people get in contact with the Dhamma, I think we should applaud them instead of criticizing them. Like Mike said, these books are worth much more then anyone could ever charge for them.
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Hanzze » Wed Jun 06, 2012 12:54 pm

Maarten,

you have been right, I totally miss the point. Actually I do not see any reasonable point any more. Maybe you like to recollect your real problem, or better recollect that there is actually no.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:For those who want to support the Buddhist publication Society, you can Donate Here.


Your intention will make it to real Dana or not.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Maarten2 » Wed Jun 06, 2012 2:47 pm

Okay, I tried to compress my point of view into a single sentence:

It would be beneficial if there were a good English translation of the Pali Cannon (or parts therefore of) which may be reproduced with or without modification [1], with or without compensation [2], with or without attribution [3], commercially or non-commercially [4], so that more people can benefit from the Dhamma.

This is a cause that I could commit myself to, because I benefited from the Dhamma immensely already and fell other people should as well. Since English is not my native language, I can never accomplish this alone in this lifetime, so my only hope is to convince others.

That said, I try not to get attached to it and I am also aware that others might not assign this cause huge significance. Thanks to your replies, I can understand that people might even think that it is counterproductive, either for practical reasons (it might become more difficult to fund publishing projects, wrong translations might float around) or principle reasons (people would not assign the teaching huge value if they were available for free, people should not be able to earn money from the Dhamma/work of others, translators might not get proper attribution).


Footnotes:
[1] Such as alternative translations, corrections and using it as a basis for translations into other languages.
[2] This is actually the most significant point. Some people might not be able to pay for it. Others might not be willing to pay for it, e.g. because they are not Theravada Buddhists. Even in this case it might prevent misunderstanding of the Dhamma.
[3] This is the least important point, but I don't think attribution should be enforced legally. It might not always be practical.
[4] See my post above.
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby danieLion » Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:51 pm

Hi Maarten2,
FYI:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pali_Text_Society
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_P ... on_Society
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_Pub ... blications

Notice the title of the Main Page on this second link.

Further notice the GENEROUS spirit ALL these groups were founded on.

Also, none of them, including Bhikkhu Bodhi, claims to have copyrighted the Dhamma. AFAIK, most if not all of the canon can be obtained freely (whether it's "legal" or "illegal" I'll leave to you to decide), especially if you can read Pali.

I've seen Thanissaro anthologies for sale on Amazon when inside all his books is a "For Free Distribution Only" statement, and I've also found Bhikkhu Bodhi's Samyutta Nikaya translation free on the internet too.

When I hold my hard copy of BB's translations of the Samyutta or Majjhima in my hands and recall how much they cost, I can't help think, "What a great deal! How do they keep the cost so low?" It fills me with a sense of deep gratitude. The notes alone are worth what I paid for them.

When I was a Christian theologian (many, many years ago), I had a dozen or so free translations of the Bible. Free Bibles are abundant. But if I wanted a study Bible, that cost money, and when I wanted the study Bible that was the most literal translation but still intelligible to English readers (New American Standard), that cost even more money.

And don't get me started on the costs of running a Publications organization. I don't know if their financials are public, but I'd guess they're close to running at a deficit.

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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby danieLion » Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:02 pm

Hi Maarten2,

Maarten2 wrote:It would be beneficial if there were a good English translation of the Pali Cannon....


Obtaining the script is only half the struggle. Then you have to actually read them. Perhaps part of "the problem" here is the sheer volume of the scripts. I'd love to have the whole Pali canon in book form on my shelf (and/or electronically), but would I just be adding some more more books to stare at/say I own instead of actually reading?

Probably.

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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby Hanzze » Thu Jun 07, 2012 2:15 am

Maarten2 wrote:Okay, I tried to compress my point of view into a single sentence:

It would be beneficial if there were a good English translation of the Pali Cannon (or parts therefore of) which may be reproduced with or without modification [1], with or without compensation [2], with or without attribution [3], commercially or non-commercially [4], so that more people can benefit from the Dhamma.

This is a cause that I could commit myself to, because I benefited from the Dhamma immensely already and fell other people should as well. Since English is not my native language, I can never accomplish this alone in this lifetime, so my only hope is to convince others.

That said, I try not to get attached to it and I am also aware that others might not assign this cause huge significance. Thanks to your replies, I can understand that people might even think that it is counterproductive, either for practical reasons (it might become more difficult to fund publishing projects, wrong translations might float around) or principle reasons (people would not assign the teaching huge value if they were available for free, people should not be able to earn money from the Dhamma/work of others, translators might not get proper attribution).


Footnotes:
[1] Such as alternative translations, corrections and using it as a basis for translations into other languages.
[2] This is actually the most significant point. Some people might not be able to pay for it. Others might not be willing to pay for it, e.g. because they are not Theravada Buddhists. Even in this case it might prevent misunderstanding of the Dhamma.
[3] This is the least important point, but I don't think attribution should be enforced legally. It might not always be practical.
[4] See my post above.


Dear Maarten,

so it is a personal "I would love to see many benefiting form Dhamma" wish. Well I guess its enough if we put much effort in our practice and benefit those next to us. I would have not to much sorrows if there are other or more talented people taking care of things one by one self is not able to do, or not.
You can share what ever was given to you in any way and if we think that even one single Sutta at the right time has so much impact we will rather see this tons of books as never used so effectively you personally could act.
If we put much more effort in our practice and let go of this "I need to help"-distraction Dhamma would even be more alive and with it really helpful.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby yuttadhammo » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:12 am

So, who is going to pay for all of this?

That's a bit of a ridiculous question, considering that the majority of the Buddhist world can and does pay for the writing, translating, editing, publishing, and distribution of millions of copies of dhamma books every day. The dearth of good English translations of the Buddha's teaching is not due to the high cost of such work, it's due to a lack of understanding of basic Buddhist principles like dana among English-speaking Buddhists.

Not for profit organisations like the BPS and Wisdom Books still have to pay staff, printing costs, etc.

Yes, and lawyer's fees, it seems. Sisyphus should have had such lawyers, then he would have been well-paid for his labour. Unfortunately for Sisyphus, it's not the labour but the demand that garners support, as Thoreau writes:

Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood. "Do you wish to buy any baskets?" he asked. "No, we do not want any," was the reply. "What!" exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, "do you mean to starve us?" Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off—that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed—he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man's to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other's while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one's while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them. The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?

-- H.D. Thoreau, Walden


In a time when "one little USB stick can hold what used to fill libraries and books can be published online at virtually for no cost", we have no need for these monolithic book publishers holding the works of dead authors and translators for ransom. That a translator can claim ownership of a work written by an enlightened Buddha is disappointing. That a publisher can claim ownership of a commentary written by an dead monk, translated by a dead monk, edited by a dead monk is nothing less than a travesty.

It's funny how on this one subject one finds Buddhists to be the least enlightened, delivering threats and insults to their fellow Buddhists while keeping the dhamma at arms length. Instead of aligning themselves with libraries and organizations like the Free Software Foundation, the BPS, Wisdom, and Shambala have more in common with the RIAA and Apple. One is forced to look elsewhere for enlightened views on the distribution knowledge, e.g. the FOSS community:

That’s the magical thing about creation and ownership. It creates the possibility for generosity. You can’t really give something you don’t own, but if you do, you’ve made a genuine contribution. A gift is different from a loan. It imposes no strings, it empowers the recipient and it frees the giver of the responsibilities of ownership. We tend to think that solving our own problems to produce a patch which is interesting to us and useful for us is the generosity. It isn’t. The opportunity for generosity comes thereafter.

-- Mark Shuttleworth (creator of Ubuntu Linux)


As Mr. Shuttleworth is often quoted as saying, "be a scientist, not a priest." Meaning, the facts are more important than dogma; simply saying that dhamma needs to be controlled doesn't make it so - the majority of the non-Western Buddhist world already functions in a manner that contradicts such dogma.

For a truly enlightening look at copyright, Richard Stallman's article, Misunderstanding Copyright, is a must-read:

When the government buys something for the public, it acts on behalf of the public; its responsibility is to obtain the best possible deal—best for the public, not for the other party in the agreement.

For example, when signing contracts with construction companies to build highways, the government aims to spend as little as possible of the public's money. Government agencies use competitive bidding to push the price down.

As a practical matter, the price cannot be zero, because contractors will not bid that low. Although not entitled to special consideration, they have the usual rights of citizens in a free society, including the right to refuse disadvantageous contracts; even the lowest bid will be high enough for some contractor to make money. So there is indeed a balance, of a kind. But it is not a deliberate balancing of two interests each with claim to special consideration. It is a balance between a public goal and market forces. The government tries to obtain for the taxpaying motorists the best deal they can get in the context of a free society and a free market.

In the copyright bargain, the government spends our freedom instead of our money. Freedom is more precious than money, so government's responsibility to spend our freedom wisely and frugally is even greater than its responsibility to spend our money thus. Governments must never put the publishers' interests on a par with the public's freedom.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/misinterp ... right.html


Why do these people sound so much more Buddhist than our own Buddhist publishers?
Last edited by yuttadhammo on Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:20 am

yuttadhammo wrote:
So, who is going to pay for all of this?

That's a bit of a ridiculous question, considering that the majority of the Buddhist world can and does pay for the writing, translating, editing, publishing, and distribution of millions of copies of dhamma books every day. The dearth of good English translations of the Buddha's teaching is not due to the high cost of such work, it's due to a lack of understanding of basic Buddhist principles like dana among English-speaking Buddhists.
"A ridiculous question?" Not that you have shown. "Millions of copies every day?" Source for that interesting claim? I see a lot hand waving and huffing and puffing, but no real addressing of the issue.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby robertk » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:35 am

ZOLAG operate a good system. All their books are sold through amazon or wisdom (http://www.zolag.co.uk/) but they also put all their books on pdf for free download for those who don't need hardcopy. The hardcopies are also available for free at the Dhamma study and Supoort foundation in Thailand - if one has the energy to pick them up.
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:39 am

robertk wrote:ZOLAG operate a good system. All their books are sold through amazon or wisdom (http://www.zolag.co.uk/) but they also put all their books on pdf for free download for those who don't need hardcopy. The hardcopies are also available for free at the Dhamma study and Supoort foundation in Thailand - if one has the energy to pick them up.
But there is still a significant cost for all of this, which is being carried by those generous individuals who can afford it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby robertk » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:41 am

yes that is true!
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Postby yuttadhammo » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:48 am

tiltbillings wrote:
yuttadhammo wrote:
So, who is going to pay for all of this?

That's a bit of a ridiculous question, considering that the majority of the Buddhist world can and does pay for the writing, translating, editing, publishing, and distribution of millions of copies of dhamma books every day. The dearth of good English translations of the Buddha's teaching is not due to the high cost of such work, it's due to a lack of understanding of basic Buddhist principles like dana among English-speaking Buddhists.
"A ridiculous question?" Not that you have shown. "Millions of copies every day?" Source for that interesting claim? I see a lot hand waving and huffing and puffing, but no real addressing of the issue.

Armchair Buddhism strikes again... try visiting a Buddhist country, eh?

MMU in Bangkok sells the entire Tipitaka and commentaries (91 volumes) at cost with no copyright (more expensive to photocopy). MCU gives away DOC files of their version. learntipitaka.org has it all in zip format anyway for easy download. My teacher's monastery along gives away thousands of books on his birthday, hundreds on an ordinary day. The nissaya word-by-word-with-excrutiating-attention-to-detail Thai translation is available at cost, the Visuddhimagga Thai translation is available by donation, and that's just getting started in Thailand. Every large monastery that I've been to in Thailand has books either for free distribution or by donation, all sans-copyright. I would put the number of hard-copy books distributed at cost or less per day in Thailand alone at at least half a million - I obviously can't guess at the numbers on digital versions.

http://www.budaedu.org/ must distribute thousands of books daily - I would assume the number is far greater but I have no source besides the books I've received myself. The number of free Chinese dhamma books available alone makes organizations like the BPS look silly. In Burma, they give out Mahasi Sayadaw's books for free both in print and on the Internet; I would imagine there is some charge for scholarly books in Burma, but again no copyright and no profit, all paid for by donors.

Goenka's VRI published a 130 volume edition of the tipitaka, commentaries and sub-commentaries for free distribution. My monastery in Canada paid $400 in shipping to have it sent from Seattle, a group of us carried another copy from India to Thailand, and we have a third set here in Sri Lanka.

On the Internet front, accesstoinsight.org itself offers everything for free as you are surely aware, as does Ven. Thanissaro himself (in hard copy). Metta.lk has English, Sinhala and Pali translations for free download. http://www.buddhanet.net/ offers PDF versions of so many different dhamma books, all for free. ancient-buddhist-texts.org offers both translations and Pali versions that exhibit a great attention to detail, all for free.

Millions? Just a ballpark figure, doesn't mean much I guess, but yeah, the rest of the Buddhist world is embarrassed by such questions.
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