Thing 001079 (Concordance Study Aid)

In 1911, a Chicago physician, named William Sadler, treated a man who had an unusual sleeping pattern. The patient purportedly spoke through his sleep in an unusual voice that claimed to be a visitor from another planet. Sadler studied this man for over eighteen years, during which time his patient dictated numerous messages while being asleep. With the help of a stenographer, Sadler transcribed the statements over 209 sessions. In 1925, Sadler also found handwritten documents in his patient’s house. These documents were then compiled by the so-called Contact Commission (William, Lena and William Jr. Sadler and Anna and Wilfred Kellogg) and a larger group of people called the Forum into the Urantia Papers. In 1934, a group of volunteers edited and compiled the Urantia Papers into a book The Urantia Book. In 1950, this group formed the Urantia Foundation, a charitable trust and in 1955 published The Urantia Book. That same year the foundation registered a copyright. The certificate stated that the Foundation was the “proprietor of the copyright in a work made for hire”.

From the summer of 1989 to the summer of 1990, the Son Worshipers, an Urantia Book study group in Tucson, Arizona, made a study aid to the The Urantia Book. They scanned the text of the book, transferred it to a computer text file and made a search index. In 1990, Kristen Maaherra, who was a member of the Son Worshipers, presented the Concordance Study Aid at a Urantia conference in Snowmass, Colorado. She distributed the Runtime Folio Views file of Concordance Study Aid on disks.

On February 27, 1991, the Urantia Foundation filed a complaint against Kristen Maaherra, alleging that she had copied the text. Kristen Maaherra claimed that the Urantia Papers were a revelation and couldn’t be protected under copyright. On February 10, 1995, the court case The Urantia Foundation v. Kristen Maaherra took place at the United States District Court of Arizona. Judge Urbom held that:

[...] [T]he crucial question is whether there is sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that there was an employment relationship between Dr. Sadler’s patient and either Dr. Sadler or the Contact Commission. I find that there is not. [...] [I]t is the patient from whom, ultimately, The Urantia Papers came. [...] [T]he instant case, suggests the absence of an employment relationship. [...]

The court concluded that the copyright in The Urantia Book was invalid, cause the book was not a work made for hire. The Urantia Foundation appealed the decision. On June 10, 1997, the court case The Urantia Foundation v. Kristen Maaherra took place at the United States Court of Appeals. Judge Schroeder held that:

[...] In this case, the belief both parties may have regarding those origins, and their claim that the Book is a product of divine revelation, is a matter of faith, and obviously a crucial element in the promotion and dissemination of the Book. For copyright purposes, however, a work is copyrightable if copyrightability is claimed by the first human beings who compiled, selected, coordinated, and arranged the Urantia teachings [...]. [T]he Contact Commission may have received some guidance from celestial beings when the Commission posed the questions, but the members of the Contact Commission chose and formulated the specific questions asked. These questions materially contributed to the structure of the Papers, to the arrangement of the revelations in each Paper, and to the organization and order in which the Papers followed one another. We hold that the human selection and arrangement of the revelations in this case could not have been so mechanical or routine as to require no creativity whatsoever. [...] The question is whether those humans transferred that copyright to the Foundation. [...] Because the intent to transfer ownership of the plates to the Foundation was clear [...] we hold that the members of the Contact Commission also intended to transfer, and did in fact transfer, their copyright in the Papers to the Foundation. [...]

The court concluded that the other-than-humans couldn’t be considered authors, that the Urantia Foundation’s copyright was valid, and that Maaherra had infringed upon it.