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by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Attempt Cutting Off
a Member's Right To Communicate with the Fellowship.
article is written by nationally recognized historian and
oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K., a
witness in the German court case, updating a previous
report on this court proceeding.
though AA's GSO in Germany lost part of the case relating
to translations other than German, they continue to harass
and threaten not only the AA member there and the group
he belongs to (AA Big Book Study Group - BBSG), AAeV (the
German GSO) and AAWS have successfully threatened outside
enterprises in their attempt to bankrupt and destroy this
Big Book Study Group in Germany had a web site located on
the German subsidiary of America On-Line (AOL); they also
had their e-mail address there as well. In a letter dated
August 12, 1999, from the German GSO's lawyer (Frieder Roth)
to AOL Bertlsmann Online, Ltd. & Co. (German AOL) he
stated the following:
represent Anonymous Alcoholics Interest Society, Inc., Munich
(AAeV). Additionally we are empowered by Alcoholics Anonymous
World Services, Inc. (AAWS) in New York." This means
that this lawyer is acting on behalf of, and with full permission
of, both the German GSO and AAWS in New York. The letter
clients (AAeV and AAWS) are owners of exclusive rights in
the literary work ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, and its author is
the Copyright Valid?
Big Book was copyrighted on April
10, 1939 by Bill and registered with the US
Copyright Office in Washington, DC. April
19, 1939. The validity of this copyright is
currently in question and until now has never been challenged
in a court of law. This may change.
the pre-publication manuscript (or so-called Multilith)
was published in February 1939 it contained the following
statement on the bottom of the Foreword page:
multilith volume will be sent upon receipt of $3.50, and
the printed book will be mailed, at no additional cost,
as soon as the book is published."
statement shows that the Multilith was sold to the general
public without any statement of copyright or copyright intent.
It also had no statement that the Multilith was a loan copy.
According to a prominent copyright attorney who was consulted
in this matter, this means that there was no legal copyright
in effect and that the book was in the public domain since
February 1939. His legal opinion follows:
response to your question regarding publication of a work
in the United States under the 1909 Copyright Act without
notice, please be advised that this would inject the work
into the public domain. Affixation of the notice to publicly
distribute copies was a condition to copyright protection
under the 1909 Copyright Act and also under the 1976 Copyright
Act prior to March 1, 1989 when amendments became effective
to conform to the Berne Convention. As a general rule, copyright
protection was forfeited if the notice was not affixed."
if there was a valid and legal copyright on the AA book,
AAWS allowed the 1st Edition copyright to lapse in 1967
and the copyright on the 2nd Edition lapsed in 1983. Thus
placing both editions in the public domain forever.
has always stated that their primary interest was in the
preservation of the integrity of the text. Despite the fact
that the translations and English version published by BBSG
for free distribution worldwide held to the original text
and there was no loss of integrity, AAWS continues to litigate
has been proven that the current litigation is not about
the integrity of the text, but about the financial interests
of AAWS. Frieder Roth's letter to AOL continues:
our clients, that book is of enormous importance for business
(note: economic value). Considerable parts of financial
resources, which are at the command of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
for the good of alcoholic addicts, come from sales revenues."
is threatened by the free worldwide distribution of the
Big Book to those alcoholics who cannot afford to purchase
them (including those in European countries where their
GSO's charge upwards of almost $50 - US for each copy).
Again, it is not about the integrity of the text - it is
about money and property.
to the book, TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS (12&12),
"Then our Trustees wrote a bright page of A.A. History.
They declared for the principle that A.A. must always stay
poor." (Page 165)
its declaration of poverty, AAWS maintains an $11 million
dollar reserve and has probably over a million dollars in
legal fees fighting to maintain money and property. AA's
Service Manual and Concepts for World Service is perfectly
clear in relation to litigation issues. It states in the
Twelfth Concept, Warranty Five the following:
the minds of some AA's, 'guardianship' of the AA Traditions
implies the right and the duty on the part of the Conference
to publicly punish or sue every willful violator. But we
could not adopt worse policy; indeed such aggressive public
acts would place the Conference in the position of having
violated one AA Tradition in order to defend another. Therefore
aggressive or punitive action, even in this area, must be
states that Bill Wilson was the sole author of the Big Book.
How could this be possible when even Bill stated in AA Comes
of Age that he was more of an umpire than an author? It
is widely accepted that Hank P. was the author of the chapter,
TO EMPLOYERS, and that the early fellowship edited and changed
the text both in New York and Akron. It was more of a group
effort than of any individual member - including Bill.
order to gain a legal copyright in Mexico, AAWS had to submit
documentation proving authorship of the Big Book. Mexican
law states that in order to have a valid copyright of a
work, there must be a living author. To circumvent this
legality, AAWS' documents show that Wayne Parks (then General
Manager of AAWS) was reported to be the sole author of the
Big Book. How could this be when they had already falsely
stated that Bill was the sole author? How could there be
two sole authors even though Wayne was not a part of AA
back to Frieder Roth's letter to AOL comes the worst part
of this tragedy. In it he states:
requests of my clients because of copyright infringement
are also directed against your company (AOL) as a provider
of net services. You must be seen as an interfering disturber,
and therefore you are subject to claims of my clients
are assured that our clients will immediately take legal
" if AOL fails to remove all of BBSG's
web sites and e-mail accounts.
capitulated to the legal threat by AAWS and on Wednesday,
August 18, 1999, they dropped the BBSG accounts and they
are no longer available on the Internet through AOL. A similar
letter by Frieder Roth was sent to the printing company
who printed the translations of the Big Book by BBSG. They
too capitulated and ceased printing the books scheduled
for free distribution. Thus for now, AAWS has succeeded
in silencing BBSG and removing them from carrying the message
of recovery as does any other AA Group - unless of course
they choose to purchase high priced AA literature (at a
much higher price than is charged in the US).
the litigation now in appeal is lost, they won't even be
able to purchase AA literature even at the higher price.
One of the stipulations is that they cannot purchase any
AA or recovery literature, sell any AA or recovery literature
or give away any AA or recovery related literature. This
will effectively stop this AA group from carrying the message
of recovery and therefore, cease to exist.
primary target is to stop the free distribution of literature
to those who cannot afford it. Frieder Roth's letter states
can download the text of the work to his computer. Besides
this, people interested in the printed book are offered
the possibility to order it and get it via post office mail
free of charge."
did not - YET - go after any of the other sites on the Internet
who offers downloadable versions of the Big Book. They only,
for now, attempt to destroy this one site. Eventually, for
purposes of money, property and prestige, they will go after
all Internet sites related to recovery that threaten their
financial and business entity. The availability of reading
the Big Book on-line is in jeopardy even as you read this.
have stopped AOL from hosting web sites, they have stopped
a printer from printing free books financed by 7th Tradition
member contributions and they will continue until they have
control of everything AA members read and/or see on the
Internet and elsewhere. If these are not the actions of
a dictatorial government rather than a spiritual entity
I don't know what is!
has proven by their actions that they are not attempting
to save the integrity of the basic text. They have proven
that they are all about money and property. They have proven
that they are against carrying the message of recovery to
the still sick and suffering alcoholic unless they can make
money off of it.
for one, do not wish to make money off of AA or the sick
and suffering alcoholic. I also feel just as strongly that
AAWS should not be about making money off of the still sick
and suffering alcoholic. AA should be self-supporting through
member contributions and NOT literature sales. AA should
be a spiritual entity, founded upon spiritual principles
and not a business continued upon a profit motive. A profit
motive at the expense of the fellowship of AA in its attempt
to carry the message of recovery based upon the basic text.
Ruth Hock, AA's first secretary stated in PASS IT ON (Bill's
biography published by AAWS) that the book was always intended
to be given away free of charge after the initial expenses
were paid off.
was just fulfilling that intent and has been stopped (for
now) by a business intent on profit and control. Others
will take up the printing and distribution of free literature
to those who seek recovery. When they are forced into bankruptcy
by AAWS, others will take their place.
are those in AA who still believe that profit should never
be a motive in AA recovery despite the fact that AAWS is
only interested in profit and that the integrity of the
text is not in question in this case. Our way of life should
be available to ALL who seek it, not only those who can
afford to buy books.