Copyright on the Dhamma

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Maarten2
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by 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.
May you all become enlightened.

danieLion
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by danieLion » Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:51 pm

Hi Maarten2,
FYI:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pali_Text_Society" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_P ... on_Society" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_Pub ... blications" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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.

metta

danieLion
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by 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.

metta

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Hanzze
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by 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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yuttadhammo
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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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tiltbillings
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by 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.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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robertk
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by 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/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) 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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tiltbillings
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by 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/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) 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.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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robertk
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by robertk » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:41 am

yes that is true!

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yuttadhammo
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by 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/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; 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/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; 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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tiltbillings
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:57 am

yuttadhammo wrote: Armchair Buddhism strikes again... try visiting a Buddhist country, eh?
Interesting indulgence in a bit of ugly nastiness from you. But interestingly enough, you make my point:
  • 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.
And such an endeavour requires a considerable amount of funding, which is far easier to accomplish in a country that is 95% Buddhist as opposed to a country where the Buddhists of all sects might be somewhere around a bit less than 1%.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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DarwidHalim
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by DarwidHalim » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:58 am

In the past, dhamma was also not free.

Just to get dhamma, you need to go so far. Xuanzhang traveled to India for 17 years.

Huike stand outside the cave under the snow for many days and cut his hand just to show his sincerity in learning Buddha dharma from Bodhidharma.

Actually now, you still can get it for free. You go to library and make a note. THis is what have been done in the past, isn't it? They wrote down the sutta.

There is always a cost, whether in terms of money or physical form or any other forms.

But it is still not impossible to get it for free by writing it down from library.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!

Nyana
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by Nyana » Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:08 am

yuttadhammo wrote: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/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; 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.
And as you know, ATI offers Ven. Ñāṇamoli's translation of The Path of Purification for free download. And BPS offers many free publications in their Online Library. All things considered, there is a significant number of Pāli texts freely available in English translation.

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yuttadhammo
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by yuttadhammo » Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:21 am

Ñāṇa wrote:And as you know, ATI offers Ven. Ñāṇamoli's translation of The Path of Purification for free download. And BPS offers many free publications in their Online Library. All things considered, there is a significant number of Pāli texts freely available in English translation.
Yes, this is true... but it is more the copyright I was thinking of - the BPS's Path to Purification is copyrighted and copy-protected (you can't copy and paste text from it on Windows). They threatened to sue me simply for putting an unlocked version on my website.
tiltbillings wrote:Interesting indulgence in a bit of ugly nastiness from you. But interestingly enough, you make my point:
I apologize, you are right about the nastiness. I guess I was just responding to your "hand waving and huffing and puffing" - which is nastier?
tiltbillings wrote:And such an endeavour requires a considerable amount of funding, which is far easier to accomplish in a country that is 95% Buddhist as opposed to a country where the Buddhists of all sects might be somewhere around a bit less than 1%.
I disagree... the Path To Purification (the text in question in the link in the OP) was transcribed by Western volunteers at ATI, edited and formatted by Western volunteers at the BPS and then distributed on the Internet by ATI. Wisdom Publications translations of the suttas were translated by a Western monk who ostensibly doesn't need royalties to do his work.

If Buddhists in the West are capable of paying textbook prices for hardbound volumes, they are certainly capable of making them freely available online (or at cost offline) to people who are less affluent (i.e. most of the Buddhist world). At the very least, they could stop threatening to sue people who do.

If your argument is really that Buddhists in the West are just too poor to fund such an endeavour, then by all means, they should be sending their material to be printed in more affluent countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma.

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Copyright on the Dhamma

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:48 am

yuttadhammo wrote:If Buddhists in the West are capable of paying textbook prices for hardbound volumes, they are certainly capable of making them freely available online (or at cost offline) to people who are less affluent (i.e. most of the Buddhist world). At the very least, they could stop threatening to sue people who do.
Whether or not I agree with you regarding what they should or shouldn't do, if the BPS or any other group creates a translation or commentary, it is theirs to give or not give, and the second precept clearly states that we should not take what is not given. Unless you're making the argument that a translation created through the sole effort of those at the BPS is somehow not their property, I can't imagine a justification for ever pirating such material.

I think the man who runs the store I work at should be far more generous with his money, but as long as he does not choose to give, then it's out of my hands. It's the same with the BPS; even if you think they should give it out for free, isn't piracy or other unlicensed distribution still a violation of the precepts?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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