Who Owns the Writings?

Who Owns the Copyrights on Yogananda’s Writings?

In the 1946 first edition of the Autobiography of a Yogi, and also in the 1951 edition, Paramhansa Yogananda says on the first page of Chapter 39:

“In March, 1935 I had the Self-Realization Fellowship chartered under the laws of the State of California as a non-profit corporation. To this educational institution go all public donations as well as the revenue from the sale of my books, magazines, written courses, class tuition, and every other source of income.”

For the 1956 edition, SRF edited Yogananda’s words so now he gives SRF all his “possessions in America” and also “the rights to all books I have written.” For the 1981 edition, SRF edited Yogananda even more. Now Yogananda is donating all his possessions to SRF, without regard to which country they are in, and also the “rights to all my writings,” not just his books.

In a letter dated November 1995, SRF says “Ananda has asserted that SRF edited in its favor the passage about SRF owning the rights to Paramahansaji’s writings. They imply that the Guru intended only the proceeds from the writings to go to his organization, but not the copyrights.”

SRF never denies editing this passage; self-evidently they have. Nor does Ananda have to “imply” anything: Yogananda’s words speak for themselves.

In the same November 1995 letter, SRF also reprints an announcement from a 1939 SRF magazine. That announcement says that, in 1935 when SRF was incorporated, Yogananda gave SRF all his possessions, including “the rights to and income from” his books and writings. These are not, however, Yogananda’s own words. SRF tries to strengthen its case by alleging that the “notice appeared at his request.”

However, in both the1946 and 1951 editions of the Autobiography, years after this announcement was put in the magazine, Yogananda says he gave to SRF only the “income” and not the “rights” to his books. It is absolutely clear. So clear, in fact, that later SRF had to edit Yogananda’s own words to make him conform to the position SRF is now taking.

This question—”Who owns the rights to Yogananda’s writings?—is at the heart of SRF’s eleven year lawsuit against Ananda. Repeatedly the court has reviewed the issue. SRF has submitted every bit of evidence it has. Repeatedly, the trial court and the Appeals Court have ruled against SRF. Yogananda’s own words and actions do not support SRF’s position.

For details, see “Why Has SRF Spent Millions Suing Fellow Devotees?”


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