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Copyright Case: A Course In Miracles

Day Three of the trial: Tuesday, May 21, 2003

By Ellie Anderson


Background    Day 1      Day 2      Day 3     A Miracle Story


Trial Notes:

Plaintiffs: The Foundation for Inner Peace and the Foundation for A Course In Miracles

Defendants: New Christian Church of Full Endeavor

Ken Wapnick of the The Foundation for Inner Peace and the Foundation for A Course In Miracles took the witness stand on Wednesday to resume his testimony. He spoke very softly. As had happened the day before, the court stenographer found it difficult to hear him.

On Tuesday, the defense lawyer had established through questioning that a Karl Hatcher had received a non-copyrighted manuscript of A Course In Miracles. As had a John Mundy and Hugh Lynn Cayce (the son of Edgar Cayce).

Ken Wapnick did not remember whether the son of Hugh Lynn Cayce had also received a non-copyrighted copy, and the defense lawyer refreshed his memory.

Jim Bolen and Gerry Jampolsky had also received copies, and a Douglas Dean.

Ken Wapnick recapped the story of the San Francisco meeting given by Judy Skutch in her testimony, and said he had seen no copies of the Course given out at that meeting.

On Wednesday morning, the defense lawyer asked Ken Wapnick about the Foundation for Inner Peace, and there was some information given about this.

The defense lawyer also asked Ken Wapnick whether Jesus were the author of the course and the plaintiff’s lawyer objected. This was over-ruled, and Ken Wapnick said that Helen said that Jesus is the author of A Course In Miracles.

The defense lawyer asked Ken Wapnick about an article in a newsletter published by the Foundation for A Course In Miracles. In the article, Ken Wapnick wrote that Helen and Bill knew the Course was not intended “for their eyes only” and that the idea of copyright was “out of character” for a spiritual document of this kind.

Then the questioning moved to the way in which Ken Wapnick had interpreted the “fair use” provision of copyright law over the years.

In 1992, Marianne Williamson published a book, Return to Love, which was a bestseller. The copyright provisions became stricter after that book. Before 1992, it was “looser,” in Ken Wapnick’s words.

Did the sale of Marianne Williamson’s book increase the sales of A Course In Miracles, the witness was asked. I don’t know, Ken Wapnick said.

The question of having the book published by Penguin was raised. Defense lawyer referred to an opinion on record from Helen Schucman, the scribe of A Course In Miracles, that the book should be published by “a non-profit organization”. Helen Schucman also said that the book should be given to those for whom it is the most important thing in their lives.

The lawyer for the plaintiff established the existence of a series of letters between Hugh Lynn Cayce and Bill Thetford, who had typed up the manuscript of A Course In Miracles in conjunction with Helen Schucman. The purpose of this exchange was to indicate a semi-business relationship between the two men. Bill Thetford said in a letter to Hugh Lynn Cayce: “We look forward to any suggestions or comments you may wish to offer.” A series of quotes from the letters were read out.

Then there was a discussion of copyright and the San Francisco meeting….

The plaintiff’s lawyer emphasized the secrecy with which Ken Wapnick had treated the manuscript. Ken Wapnick had not given a copy to his own mother because of his secrecy. Why then, the plaintiff’s lawyer asked, would Helen Schucman have given a copy to Judy Skutch? Ken Wapnick said that Helen Schucman gave Judy Skutch a copy because she felt that Judy was “the next step.”

The judge asked Ken Wapnick if “your foundation” – the Foundation for A Course In Miracles – holds the copyright. He said, yes, and the Foundation for Inner Peace publishes it.

Then there were some questions about Penguin, and the plaintiffs rested their case.

The defense called two witnesses, Anne Puryear, a minister, and Kevin Rice, a Christian evangelist teaching at Unity Church in Florida. Both witnesses referred frequently to Jesus as the author of An Course In Miracles and the lawyer for the plaintiff objected each time.

Anne Puryear spoke of a dinner with Judy Skutch. There was never a plan to copyright the Course, Judy told Anne. In cross-examination, the plaintiff’s lawyer underlined the fact that the witness had not seen the book before it was published by Penguin.

The plaintiff’s lawyer made an objection to testimony from the second defense witness, Kevin Rice, on the grounds of hearsay, but the judge over-ruled it.

Kevin Rice was asked: Did he know anyone who received an original (non-copyrighted) copy of the Course. The witness said that Edgar Mitchell told him he had received an uncopyrighted manuscript in 1973. Plaintiffs raised the objection: How could he have received it in 1973 when Judy Skutch did not receive it until 1975.

The plaintiff’s lawyer was jubilant, and thanked the witness for the defense.

In his closing remarks, Judge Sweet said that the case was very, very difficult. He complimented both sides, saying that their cases had been professionally presented.

The judge adjourned the case for the taking of depositions. Two weeks have been set to enter depositions then two weeks for the cross-examination on the depositions. The case resumes in the courtroom on June 25th for final arguments.


There will be more information about the specific information which emerged over the three days when we have transcripts. At the moment, we are relying on courtroom notes.

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