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Clarification on issues regarding disputes over
the copyright of A Course in Miracles

For more information on the disputes over the copyright of A Course in Miracles see the site map on Joe Jesseph's web site.

Copyright news
June 2004

On April 6, 2004, Judge Sweet of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the first published version of the book A Course in Miracles (now referred to as "the Criswell Edition") was, in 1975, placed into the public domain. Judgment to this effect was entered on April 27, 2004. As a result, the registered copyright protecting that version of the work (No. A693944) was rendered void.

The April judgment does not mean, however, that the document that has been known for the last 29 years as A Course in Miracles -- which consists of the Text (including a Preface), the Workbook for Students, and the Manual for Teachers with a Clarification of Terms incorporated as the last section of the Manual -- is now in the public domain. In fact, the voided copyright did not cover the Clarification of Terms or the Text Preface, both of which were added after copyright No. A693944 was registered (and both of which are covered by a later copyright that is still in force.) What this means as a legal matter is that any portions of the current copyrighted version of A Course in Miracles that are different from the version of the Course formerly protected by copyright No. A693944 remain protected by copyright. Thus, neither the Clarification of Terms nor the Text Preface are in the public domain; nor are the changes, corrections, numbering system and additions that were made in the Second Edition of the Course. (The additions include some paragraphs and sentences -- about 1500 words -- that were inadvertently omitted over many years of retyping. More information on these differences is available at http://www.miraclestudies.net/Errata.html.)

The New Christian Church of Full Endeavor specifically asked Judge Sweet to void a number of Course-related copyrights, including the copyrights covering the version of A Course in Miracles that includes the Clarification of Terms and Text Preface, the Second Edition of the Course, the Urtext, and Helen Schucman's unpublished writings. However, no evidence was presented at trial to suggest (let alone prove) that any other Course-related works were ever subject to a general distribution that might have placed them in the public domain, and Judge Sweet rejected the request to void the additional copyrights. Instead, he limited his ruling to the published work encompassed by copyright No. A693944. Consequently, the Second Edition, the Urtext, and the Hugh Lynn Cayce versions of A Course in Miracles (to the extent they differ from the Criswell edition); "The Gifts of God" (which contains Helen's poetry and a fourteen-page scribing which bears the same name as the book); the supplemental pamphlets entitled "The Song of Prayer" and "Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice"; all of Helen Schucman's unpublished writings; and the current and future foreign translations of A Course in Miracles are not in the public domain as a result of this court decision.

Because we have, for many years now, published the version of A Course in Miracles that contains the Clarification of Terms and the Text Preface, we want to make sure that people understand that this version of the Course has not been placed into the public domain as a result of the lawsuit -- and, particularly, that certain portions of that version of the work remain protected by copyright. It is, therefore, not accurate to indicate that the "Course" (as it has been known for the last 29 years) can now be freely published by anyone who wishes to do so. A Course in Miracles as published by the Foundation for Inner Peace represents the form of publication approved by both Helen Schucman and William Thetford, both of whom lived for many years after the initial publication of the Course, and both of whom, we believe, would have approved of the improvements represented by the Second Edition.

As always, we will be happy to respond to any inquiries regarding this matter.


Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
January, 2000

In light of the misinformation circulating about the early manuscript of "A Course in Miracles" -- referred to as the "Hugh Lynn Version" -- I believe clarification is required. Let me begin by presenting the facts that relate to the history of that early manuscript. I am here summarizing what I have already detailed in my book
"Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schulman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles," and in more succinct fashion in the preface to the pamphlet "Errata for the Second Edition of  A Course in Miracles."
Helen took down her internal dictation in stenographic notebooks, using her own version of shorthand, and dictated these notes to Bill. Helen intentionally omitted some material while dictating to Bill, who typed Helen's dictation. We later termed this the "Urtext," a word usually used to denote the original manuscript of a later published literary work. At that time, Helen and Bill were in occasional contact with Hugh Lynn Cayce, son of the renowned psychic Edgar Cayce, and President of the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach. Helen valued his opinion and he was most interested in her work. For that reason, Helen shared the material with him to secure his advice and comments.
In 1972, Helen and Bill gave to Hugh Lynn a copy of what was then the completed manuscript. This is what has been called the "Hugh Lynn Version. "It was made clear to Hugh Lynn that Helen and Bill were providing these pages for his personal review and comments, and that the manuscript was *not* to be shared with others except for his son, Charles Thomas. Hugh Lynn died in 1983, but Charles Thomas Cayce, current President of the A.R.E., recalls conversations in which this point -- so central to Helen's feelings of privacy -- was understood by all parties involved.
After seeing some of the early and later chapters of the text, Hugh Lynn commented to Helen and Bill that he thought that perhaps more than one source was involved, presumably since the writing styles were so discrepant, especially when one compared the early scribing -- what now roughly constitutes the first four chapters of the text -- with what came later.
Hugh Lynn's observation goes to the heart of the matter of the editing, and how and why it proceeded. Again, "
Absence from Felicity" goes into this in more detail, so that interested readers may wish to consult it if they so choose. There are two relevant issues here, and they bear on what Helen and Bill (and later I) came to refer to as Helen's "scribal uncertainty" or "pedagogical caution" in introducing a thought system that was so alien to the world's thinking:
1) The early months of the dictation -- again, we are speaking of what are now roughly the first four chapters of the text -- were experienced by Helen as a dialogue or conversation between her and her inner Voice, which she identified as Jesus, in which the actual Course material itself was only *a portion* of the dictation. Personal material -- meant only for Helen and Bill -- was part of what she had written down, and it was her very specific guidance that this was not to be included in the published version. This personal material also included many references to psychologists and various psychological issues and subjects, which were also not meant for the public, but rather were to help Helen and Bill make the bridge between their psychological understanding and that of the Course.
2) In addition to the interspersal of the personal material and discussion of various psychological issues with the Course teaching, there is the issue of Helen's "scribal uncertainty" and pedagogical caution. These interferences certainly affected her writing during this period. I provided one such example in "Absence from Felicity," where the story of the so-called "celestial speed-up" message is recounted. This "explanation," which Helen never said came specifically from Jesus, but rather was "given" her, speaks of people losing more than they were gaining, necessitating a "celestial speed-up" in which certain people were being called back -- including Helen and Bill -- to lend their talents on behalf of the "plan."  Helen later insisted upon removing this inconsistent material.
Therefore, what was taken out of the original material was meant to be taken out by Helen, as instructed by her Voice, since it detracted from the actual teaching message of "A Course in Miracles," and could have seemed to contradict that message, thus confusing its students. Helen and Bill had removed most of this material by the time I saw the early manuscript.  However, Helen felt that additional material needed to be removed for the published edition. Helen made these deletions and changes and did not truly consider them to be important, as they were never meant to be part of the published Course.
Further, obvious editorial revisions were also necessary -- punctuation, paragraphing, capitalization, etc. -- all of which are documented in my book. I might also add that the editing that Helen and I completed was Helen's work. Any thought that it was I who did the editing could only be held by someone who clearly did not know Helen. As I have said many, many times, Helen was extraordinarily protective of "A Course in Miracles," and would not have allowed anything to be done with the material without her approval. Indeed, during our long period of editing, I functioned more or less as Helen's secretary, implementing the changes that she wished.
Again, anyone who knew Helen (and Bill), would appreciate the fact that "
A Course in Miracles," as it is published, reflects the guidance that she followed and then implemented. Therefore, readers of the published Course (especially now that the second edition includes the earlier inadvertent typing omissions) can rest assured that they have before them in the published edition the expression of what was given to Helen by her inner Voice, the true teachings of "A Course in Miracles."
In 1990, Louis Schulman, Helen's widowed husband, assigned to me and I then copyrighted The Unpublished Writings of Helen Schulman, which, among other things, included the notebooks and Urtext, as well as all subsequent revisions up to but not including the published version. This was done to protect Helen's frequently expressed wish for privacy, to which she zealously clung and with which Louis identified. Helen, Bill, and I felt that the long process of editing -- from notebook to publication -- did full justice to a public edition of "A Course in Miracles," while at the same time respecting Helen's and Bill's wish and inner guidance that the personal and other material not be included in the public version.
Therefore, even though Helen's guidance was to eliminate both the personal material and confusing language from the final edition, the published Course clearly is intended to be read and studied by all students of "A Course in Miracles." All of us at the
Foundation for A Course in Miracles and Foundation for Inner Peace earnestly hope that Helen's fervent wish for privacy will be honored and respected by all Course students. This can only be accomplished if the early manuscript of "A Course in Miracles" remains unpublished.
                                                         In summary
                1) The early manuscript provided to Hugh Lynn Cayce was the incompletely
                    edited combination of the notebooks, Urtext, Helen's first retyping, and the
                    first complete draft (1972).
                2) This manuscript was given to Hugh Lynn Cayce by Helen for comment only,
                    with the understanding that it would not be shown to the general public.
                3) After 1972, Helen, with my assistance as well as Bill's, personally
                    revised the manuscript to ensure that the final (published) version of "A
                    Course in Miracles" had eliminated:
                         a - personal guidance and information meant only for her and Bill
                         b - contradictory or confusing metaphysical and psychological concepts
                               that she had introduced, especially in the first four chapters of the text
                         c - various other similar material, including awkward, confusing, or
                               inconsistent language
                  4) At Louis Schucman's request, I copyrighted "The Unpublished Writings of
                      Helen Schulman" in 1990.

In the fall of 2001 Ken Wapnick began a series of lectures commenting in depth on each chapter in the ACIM Text. In the initial lectures he explained the relationship between the early scribing found in the urtext and the first chapters of the published Course. See: http://www.miraclestudies.net/urtext2.html

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