LOS ANGELES – The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International announced yesterday that devotees wishing to cite scriptural references during classes, campus lectures and even home programs will have to begin paying usage fees.
“What this amounts to is thievery,” says BBT International legal spokesperson Clarence Richards “Do these people really believe it is right to quote copyrighted scripture during these lectures without the express written permission of the BBT International? It’s stealing.”
BBT International charges that illegal citations of Srila Prabhupada’s books are costing Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Richards continues, “44% of BBT International’s revenue loss has been due to illegal citation.”
Earlier this year, the BBT International claimed a “phenomenal increase” in book sales. They now admit that the increase was due to accidentally counting Srila Prabhupada books printed in India by non-BBT International book trusts.
“Originally we believed reports that claimed sales were up,” said long time book distributor Pitha das. “But then I remembered that I haven’t distributed a book since the 2001 Rainbow Gathering and figured that their math must be a bit fuzzy.”
The usage rates that BBT International is slated to charge are very simple. The basic rate of $.36 per word will apply. Long hyphenated sanskrit words do not count as one long word, rather as several shorter words.
There are provisions for high-volume users such as gurus or professional lecturers. These devotees may buy rights in bulk, depending on their speaking schedule.
While similar “kickbacks” are seen as greedy in the karmi world, the BBT’s kickbacks are generally seen as Srila Prabhupada’s desire. “ISKCON is Srila Prabhupada’s body,” said BBT’s GBC representative, Vani-kauta das. “Whatever ISKCON does must be Srila Prabhupada’s desire.”
Former sastra-sharer, Durmadha das agreed, “I used to recite verse after verse in Bhagavatam class. I now see how this stealing is wrong. From now on, all I will do is tell funny stories.”
For independent speakers, a 20 word limit per class will be imposed. Anyone violating the 20 word limit will be subject to hefty fines and possible arrest.
“While we believe it is nice that so many devotees want to quote nice scripture, we have a few guidelines we are asking them to follow,” said BBT International’s public relations spokesperson Anrita devi dasi, adding “We also request that, if possible, these be short words and that copyright notices are somehow displayed when verses are quoted.”
Though the vast majority of devotees support BBT International in this decision, there are a few fringe groups of devotee who claim to be in opposition.
“The quoting of scipture falls under ‘fair use,’” says rogue shastra sharer Caura das. “We’re not reprinting the books or making money off of it, we just want to quote Srila Prabhupada and the Vedas.”
But that is where the shastra sharers are mistaken, asserts Richards. “For it to fall under fair use, the quote must be attributed to the original artist. Many of these criminals do not even say ‘uvaca’ before quoting.”
He added, “Besides, the botched sanskrit significantly impairs market value of BBT International’s books, further drawing it away from the ‘fair use’ category.”
To prove to the devotee community that they are serious, BBT International has sued Mugdha das brahmacari $108,000 for running a Bhagavad-gita study group out of his ashrama room since 2004.
“We wanted to take out the most hardened criminals first and Mugdha prabhu was one of the worst,” said Anrita devi dasi. “His actual fines were in the millions of dollars, but we are offering a manageable, auspicious number as settlement.”
BBT International is preparing criminal lawsuits against thousands of devotees. And though their actions may fully bankrupt Srila Prabhupada’s movement, the changes will more than likely go unnoticed by most devotees.