The whole world is now flooded with free AA literature?
Recently I became aware of a law suit filed by AAWS, Inc. New York against one AA member in Germany. This thing is dangerous for AA, because our basic principles are knowingly ignored. I could not stand to remain quiet and submit some quotes along with my personal comments [in parenthesis]
Randy P., AA BBSG, Washingtonville, NY 10992-0031, U.S.A., firstname.lastname@example.org
County court Frankfurt
September 2, 1999, received by certified mail September 22, 1999on behalf of
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., A membership corporation under the laws of
- plaintiff -
Power of attorney:
- defendant -
violation of copyrights
value in dispute (preliminary): DM 400.000,-- [about US$ 216,000.00]
In this case we announce that we act in behalf of the plaintiff. We attach a check for advance payment of court cost for DM 8.865,-- and warrant the check being cashed. We ask not to wait until the check is cashed and appoint a trial as soon as possible [date for trial was appointed for December 9th]. We ask for legal action. In the trial we will claim:
I. The accused defendant shall pay a fine of DM 5 up to half a million German Marks [about US$ 286,000.00 at an exchange rate of 1.75), and if he cannot or will not pay he shall stay in prison up to six month according to civil court law §890 for every single case of further infringement. It shall be forbidden for him:
1. to manufacture or give away/distribute the book "The Little Big Book", ISBN 0-9663282-1-3, (Anlage K 1 ) as specified in Anlage K1 [attachment K1 AA BBSG mini edition of the multilith manuscript of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, over 70,000 copies]
1. Defendant shall be requested to give full information to the plaintiff where those book came from and how and through whom they were distributed. This shall include full names and address of the manufacturers, carrier and others who had the booklets before. [this is in fact a commandment to break other AA member's anonymity] He shall reveal the number of book he has received of each title.
2. Defendant shall be requested to give full information about distribution of the books in its entirety according to K1 through K8 of the accusation. He shall provide a separate listing for each title giving the number of distributed books every 3 months.
IV. Defendant shall be requested to give all copies of books as specified above which are still in his possession to the court's marshal, in order to destroy them entirely.
V. Defendant shall pay all cost of this law suit. [including court cost and the cost for the attorneys of the plaintiff]
VI. The sentence shall be interim executable. [ed. note: They mean business! Book burning has tradition in Germany. Without delay AA literature shall be destroyed and the money be paid immediately, even if defendant files appeal.]
VII. In case defendant confesses and admits or delays response, he shall be sentenced as outlined in claims I through VI anyhow -- according to §331 Abs. 3 ZPO [national law regulating legal court procedures].
Reasons and causes:
The court is already familiar with this case. It already was subject of two other law suit: German AA GSO against M____ (Az. 2-03 O 478/97) and German AA GSO against M____ and against Lauer (Az. 2-03 O 9/99).
Bill Wilson is not named as "author" in any of the above books.
However, it is sure he is, because the Forword to the current German Edition says so. [Duhh! Convincing evidence that! LOL!]
b) Though defendant has denied that during other recent law suits, Bill Wilson has authored the text in dispute entirely alone. He has included experiences from many others in AA, but nobody else was involved to form this text. [The text was undoubtedly an group effort with many others involved, as the plaintiff's book AA Comes of Ages tells us. What about honesty here?]. Of the first typewritten version of the manuscript only one single copy exists. [not true.] It was created 1939 and afterwards edited by the author, Bill Wilson, because it had too many references to the God of Christianity. He feared, alcoholics, who belongs to other religions or to no religion at all, could be repelled by the book.
Insofar Bill Wilson executed considerations and conceptions from other AA members. A copy of this first version is submitted by the plaintiff as attachment K 10.
However, this manuscript was never published, neither by the author nor by anybody else in book form, the author wanted to block its distribution because of said reasons. This typewritten version was first published and distributed by AAWS, Inc. many years later, 1978.
As already said, the version that was edited by its author [not true], was published as hardcover book in 1939. The defendant has distributed a reprint of said version in Germany. (refer to attachment K4). From that time on the book has been published in its English original form without any changes [not true]. It has continuous success. The plaintiff and his predecessors have sold over 16 million copies thereof.
evidence: deposition of witness Mrs. McCarthy, AAWS Inc.
About 400.000 German copies were sold. [That is a plain lie. German GSO has sold less than 60 000 since it was founded. The German books have nothing to say in this law suit. I do not see, how AAWS would gain any advantage from such dishonesty.]
evidence: Maximiliane Kowalczuk c/o Anonyme Alkoholiker Interessengemeinschaft e.V., Lotte-Brands-Str. 40, 80939 München as witness [German GSO]
c) Author Bill Wilson entered into several contracts and agreements with the plaintiff and his predecessors. [Because the work was public domain at the time such agreements were entered into, he had no rights. One cannot transfer what he does not have.] Therein he exclusively transferred his rights in the book and was reimbursed by appropriate royalty payments. [In fact Dr. Bob Smith M.D., not Bill Wilson, received such royalties. See letter of
The last of those transfers of rights was accomplished April 19, 1963. Plaintiff submits a copy of said agreement as attachment K 11
Section 2 says:
d) At the time when the book was created in 1939 a copyright registration with US-Copyright Office in Washington was mandatory. Said registration was duly executed by the author himself, respectively by the company "Works Publishing" that was founded by him. However, the plaintiff forgot to apply for renewal, respectively his predecessor did. Therefore the book fell into the public domain inside the US. If that is still true, according to new considerations and convictions, or if the copyright protection for books of US-American writers now also has a duration of 70 years [as worldwide in most countries] is in dispute. (refer to Schricker/Katzenberger, copyrights, 141, Rdzif. )
6 u. 7). Not this [circumstance], but the "public domain status" of attachments K2, K3 and K4 is (and was) the reason, that some versions of the book were published by publishing houses other than AAWS, Inc. While the editions according to attachments K2 and K3 were not published with permission from AAWS (such permission was not necessary), AAWS quietly tolerated manufacturing and distribution inside the US. A permission for sales in Germany was not granted by AAWS and would not have been granted if applied for. On other hand, the Reprint according to attachment K4 is an unlawful reprint of the first edition, a facsimile-Edition. Its manufacturing and distribution violates at least the law against unfair competition.
evidence: deposition of George Dorsey, former President of the plaintiff as witness
a) Defendant considers himself being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. However he is not a member of the membership corporation of the plaintiff. Also, he is not a member of the German membership corporation. Defendant acts as if he were a member of on of the numerous AA groups. This group calls itself "BIG BOOK STUDY GROUP" abbreviated "BBSG". It appears using the German name "Studiengruppe Blaues Buch" also. With its English name it is listed in the group directory of English speaking groups in Germany. A copy of said group directory is submitted as attachment K 13 to the court. As usual with other groups too, defendant's first name and phone number in XXX is listed only. BBSG is
no legal [or corporate] entity. However, the group maintains a P.O.Box 1104 in 61218 Bad Homburg. Defendant takes care of the box. Different from other groups BBSG exists on paper only. While other groups meet on a regular basis - often once a week- to share experiences, BBSG does not hold meetings. [The plaintiff obviously wants to say, BBSG is ugly and bad, a paper tiger that does not really exist. Why then are they so afraid and fight paper tigers? German GSO sent out a spy, proud driver of a white BMW, in spring 1999 to observe our meeting location, investigate AA members and members of other fellowships, he even inquired city hall government authorities about us. We preferred to go underground.] This group only serves as fig leave for the defendants unlawful distribution of copyright protected literature. He floods not only the German market, but the whole world with AA-literature.
... AAWS, Inc. does not tolerate any infringement and has entered into litigation for each and every violation of his rights in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous", regardless where that happened. For example, there were long and difficult law suits in Mexico and Canada during recent past. In both countries the book is still copyright protected.
b) This law suit here is about several different editions of said book. On one hand, there are attachments K 2, K3 and K4. These editions are identical with AAWS' original editions. On other hand he has published own editions, based on Bill Wilson's manuscript attachment K 10. [This was not Wilson's manuscript, it was written by a group of people as the text itself clearly shows.]
He manufactures and distributes these own editions in Germany in English and in other languages as well (German, Swedish, Finnish, Hebrew and Russian). These editions are pretty close to the original text, almost identical. As the court already knows from the other law suits, defendant has made no claims to deny this. Because of that, he violates the rights of AAWS, Inc. Until recently AAWS was hindered/blocked to hunt/follow up regarding measures. The reason was, that it was impossible to prove unlawful behavior on sides of the defendant in Germany.
V. The legal advisors of the plaintiff, attorneys Dr. Roth and Associates from Munich are involved in this law suit too. Signed
Dr. Werner Müller