Read: 1981 Sept 04, Several letters on Copyright Issues

The Universal House of Justice

The Bahá'í World Centre



4 September 1981

Dear Baha'i Friends,

The Universal House of Justice has been concerned of late to note an apparently growing impression among Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers in many parts of the world, that they must obtain copyright clearance before they may quote from the Sacred Texts of the Faith in any publication. It has now instructed us to make it clear that Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers are free to quote in their publications from any of the Writings of the three Central Figures of the Faith or from the writings of the beloved Guardian, whether in the original language or in translation, without obtaining clearance from the copyright holder, unless the copyright holder in the case of a translation is an individual or is a non-Baha'i institution. It is recognised that this ruling may endanger copyrights, but we feel that this is a risk that must be taken.

The ruling is made to ensure that the Sacred Scriptures of our Faith and the writings of the beloved Guardian may be freely used by the believers; it does not change the existing requirements for individuals believers to submit their works on the Faith for review before publication, neither does it relieve Spiritual Assemblies of their responsibility to protect the dignity of the Faith and uphold the proper standard of reverence in the use of its Sacred Scriptures. Thus, if an Assembly sees that one of the friends is making use of any of the Holy Texts in an unbefitting manner, it should remonstrate with him and, if necessary, require him to stop doing so.

With loving Baha'i greetings
Department of the Secretariat

The Universal House of Justice

The Bahá'í World Centre

Department of the Secretariat

December 1988

Dear Baha'i friends,

Your letter and its enclosure on teaching the Faith through participation in electronic conferences were received on 13 November 1988 and were referred by Mr. Hugh Chance to the Universal House of Justice, which has instructed us to convey the following comments.

The House of Justice sees no objection to the utilization of electronic forums for personal teaching activities. Indeed, it feels that developing communications systems will, in time, present numerous opportunities for dissemination of information about the Faith, including initiatives to be undertaken by Baha'i institutions.

It feels that your National Assembly has been wise in suggesting the use of quotations to minimize personal interpretation in presenting the tenets of the Faith. Given the relative anonymity of this form of teaching, the House of Justice would further encourage you to remain mindful of the potentially large audience which the forums involve and of 'Abdu'l-Baha's counsel to "be wary of disputation". In this connection, we are instructed to provide the following quotation from a letter dated 29 November 1937, written on behalf of the beloved Guardian to an individual believer.

...refrain, under any circumstances, from involving yourselves, much less the Cause, in lengthy discussions of a controversial character, as these besides being fruitless actually cause incalculable harm to the Faith. Baha'u'llah has repeatedly urged us not to engage in religious controversies, as the adapts of former religions have done. The Baha'i teacher should be concerned above all in presenting the Message, in explaining and clarifying all its aspects... He should avoid all situations that, he feels, would lead to strife, to hair-splitting and interminable discussions.

The House of Justice was pleased to learn of this new teaching effort and of the transmission of "The Promise of World Peace" to various forums. You may wish to contact the office of the National Teaching Committee to obtain recommendations concerning other materials which might be posted to the forums, when appropriate, and to inquire about the availability of electronic documents which might be suitable for this purpose.

With loving Baha'i greetings,
Baharieh Ma'ani
For Department of the Secretariat

cc: The International Teaching Center National Assembly of the United States

National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States

May 24, 1990

Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Friends:

The National Spiritual Assembly asked us to respond on its behalf to your letter of March 12, 1990 regarding the Baha'i Faith on the Cleveland Free-Net. We share your concern that the Baha'i Faith Forum will be able to preserve the integrity of the Faith while developing into an effective method of teaching.

In general, your policies seem sound. In addition, we propose the following for your consideration:

1. The copyright laws state that extracts from published works may be quoted without permission; this is called "fair use." The length of the "fair use" extract is not defined: for example, a one page extract from a two hundred page book may be "fair use" but a one page extract from a three- page poem may not be fair use. We have forwarded a copy of your letter to the Baha'i Publishing Trust so that it may provide you with the current copyright policy.

2. We have received a legal opinion from a law firm on putting Baha'i literature on electronic bulletin boards. They have advised us that any publication of Baha'i writings or literature by Baha'is on electronic bulletin boards should carry a copyright notice. For example, the Peace Statement should include "Copyright 1985 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. All rights reserved." Pleased be sure that the owner of the copyright and the date of the copyright are correct for each item on the Forum. They added that placement of the copyright notice was "discretionary," but suggested that, if the electronic bulletin board is of the type where the text might be modified by its customers, the Baha'is check the text periodically to determine whether it had been changed.

3. Pamphlets, articles from World Order, and other statements by Baha'is might be placed on the Forum once copyright permission has been obtained and if a copyright notice accompanies the text.

4. Any unpublished essays should be submitted to the National Spiritual Assembly's Literature Review Office for review before placement on the Forum. While Local Spiritual Assemblies are authorized to review materials for strictly local distribution, the Forum presumably is of the sort that anyone with access to a telephone and computer can call it. Hence review should be carried out by the National Spiritual Assembly's Literature Review Office.

Currently, review of articles of five to twenty pages' length takes two to five weeks, depending upon the complexity of the work. In "emergency" situations the review can be accomplished faster, and fax machines can be used to receive the essay and send the review.

5. Replies to questions, inevitable, will involve the discretion of the Forum's sysop and the Cleveland Spiritual Assembly, since they should not be delayed. Your suggested policy-that the sysop use his discretion to decide whether a question is simple enough for him to reply to, or whether it requires consultation with others -- seems wise. Any replies should carry the disclaimer that the reply is a "personal opinion." We will leave it to the discretion of the Cleveland Spiritual Assembly to set, monitor, and review policies regarding replies to questions posted on the Bulletin Board.

6. You may wish to use materials from the Office of Public Information since such material is not covered by copyright and has been used on other bulletin boards.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please contact our office, or Dr. Robert Stockman, of the Literature Review Office.

The National Assembly is very interested in the progress of the Baha'i Faith Forum and commends you for your initiative and forethought. We would appreciate future correspondence from you so that we can stay informed of its development and can share your experience with others.

With warm Baha'i regards,
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