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If you read it anyplace else, it's not Really Legal!
Zick Rubin’s columns on the lighter side of publishing and intellectual property law.
Good Heavens, It's © By God!
So, Neale, I see that our books are still flying high on the New York Times best seller list.
Yes, they are, God. “Conversations With God,” Book 1, has been on the list for a whole year now. It’s a real miracle.
I’ll bet we’ve sold a million copies already.
We’re way up there, God. I can’t thank you enough. Before you started talking to me, I was in terrible shape. I was unhappy – personally, professionally, and emotionally – and my life was feeling like a failure on all levels.
I know. I’ve read the book.
Read it? Geez, you wrote it. Just like I said in Book 2, “On a blank sheet of paper, I would merely write a question – any question … usually the first question that came into my head . . . . – and no sooner was the question written than the answer would form in my head, as if someone were whispering in my ear. I was taking dictation!”
I know. I’ve worked that way a few times before.
Actually, God, that was our hook. Do you think anyone would pay good money for a book by a total unknown?
Not in hardcover, anyway.
You’ve still got that great sense of humor, God. As I put it on the Web site, “Of course, the ‘author’ of the book was hardly unknown. And that is what has made the document so intriguing, so powerful.” I mean, books about God are a dime a dozen. This one is by God.
Neale, I hate to break this to you so abruptly, but I’ve spoken to a copyright lawyer.
Why in heaven’s name did you do that?
With all the talk about copyright in cyberspace, I was feeling out of touch. So let’s get to the point. If I wrote the book, why does it say right in the front, “Copyright 1995 by Neale Donald Walsch?” I talked to you, Neale, but I never assigned my copyright.
But God, you wanted me to have the book published for the good of all humanity, didn’t you? You told me, “You will make of this dialogue a book and you will render My words accessible to many people.”
Sure, I did. But I never said I was giving away my legal rights. It’s an author’s rights issue, Neale, and I’m the biggest Author of all.
I gave you a nice acknowledgment, didn’t I?: “First and last, and always, I want to acknowledge the Source of everything that is in this book, everything that is life – and of life, itself.”
Acknowledgments come cheap, Neale. I’d rather have the dramatic rights.
But wait a minute, God, wasn’t I the one who wrote everything down in my own hand?
Come on, son, if taking dictation makes you a writer then every court reporter would be Hemingway.
It was more than that, God. I was also the one who arranged for publication.
Okay, you were my agent. I’ll give you 15 percent.
That’s still not the whole story. True, you gave me the answers, but I came up with the questions on my own.
Be real, Neale. How many people bought the book for the questions?
God, could you wait just a second? I want to call my lawyer . . . .
Okay, God, here’s the thing. My lawyer says we wrote the book together, with the intention that our contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole. So under Sec. 101 of the Copyright Act, we are joint authors.
Well, that might be OK. We could make it “Copyright 1995 by God and Neale Donald Walsch.” You keep the hardcover English-language rights. I’ll take the paperback, second serial, audio, foreign translation and electronic.
Yes, but there’s another problem. There’s a new case from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Urantia Foundation v. Maaherra, 114 F.3d 955 ) that says that the copyright laws were not intended to protect the creations of divine beings.
The 9th Circuit doesn’t mean much, Neale. When religion is involved, I wait for the Supremes.
But God, look at it this way. Sure, you inspired me. You’ve inspired all of the world’s great authors. But if we can’t copyright the stuff, who’s going to publish it? Do you want New Age publishing to go down the drain? . . . . For God’s sake, do you?
As Jack Benny used to say, “I’m thinking. I’m thinking.”
Copyright © 1997 by Zick Rubin