What is OIF and what does it claim to own?
Osho International Foundation (OIF) was originally called Rajneesh Foundation Europe (RFE). It was set up in November 1984 by Rajneesh Foundation International (RFI), the foundation that owned the property on the Ranch (rajneeshpuram, Oregaon, USA).
RFE was renamed Neo Sannyas International Foundation and after 1990 renamed of Osho International Foundation and Board changed. OIF has never had a real presence in Switzerland. The address in Zurich is the address of an office service that receives mail and takes telephone messages. There has never been an actual working office there. Even today OIF, Zurich has no office, no staff, no facilities, and no activities like meditations or events.
RFI, USA signed a document in 1985 allegedly transferring RFI’s rights in Osho’s copyrights to RFE, Zurich. The copyright section of this site shows RFI didn’t own Osho’s copyrights at that time, the alleged transfer meant nothing. Nonetheless, that document is the basis for all of OIF’s claims to special status and ownership today. OIF has never received an assignment from Osho himself or from any sannyas-related foundationor group except RFI. The last purported assignment from RFI was in 1986. (See Copyrights for details.)
There’s no evidence that Osho ever knew about the foundation in Switzerland. At the time of the alleged copyright transfer from RFI to RFE, Osho had already left the US to return to India, so there’s no evidence that He knew about that either. The name OIF came after 1990, after Osho left the body.
It is understood that after Osho returned to India form Rajneeshpuram, Rajneesh Foundation, India (RF) began to claim ownership of the “copyrights” (really exclusive publishing rights) again. During the rest of Osho’s life these rights were claimed by India-based entities.
Meanwhile, the name of RFE was changed to Neo-Sannyas International Foundation (NSIF). At around the same time the name of RF was also changed to NSIF. That way, when Osho’s books and recordings had a copyright attribution of NSIF, it was unclear whether the Zurich or the Indian foundation was claiming ownership.
As the copyrights section of this site demonstrates, neither of these foundations actually owned the copyright, since Osho had never transferred more than a conditional publishing license to anyone. The point is that the foundation now known as OIF, Zurich was concealing its claim to copyright ownership. The question naturally arises, was the purpose of this to conceal this claim from Osho, as well?
After Osho left the body the concealment continued. NSIF in Zurich changed its name to OIF in 1990 or 1991, and in 1991 a completely independent Indian trust called OIF was set up. In all publications of Osho’s work in India it continued to appear that it was the Indian foundation, not the Swiss, that was claiming copyright ownership. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that OIF, Zurich finally came out and openly claimed in India to own all copyrights.
So what does OIF claim to own today? OIF stated its claim to ownership of Osho’s work and work related to Osho’s teachings in its applications for trademarks to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). OIF said in several different applications: “Applicant [OIF] is the owner of all copyrights in the writings and oral teachings of the mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.” OIF, Zurich based its claim to trademark ownership on this claim to copyrights.
Is this copyright ownership claim true? No, it’s not even close to true. First of all, no one can own an “oral teaching.” Someone could own a recording of a discourse (though there’s no evidence that OIF, Zurich does), but no one can ever own an oral teaching. Copyrights cover what is called expression. That means the way things are written, said, sung, performed, photographed, painted, recorded, and so on. Copyrights never cover ideas.
That means that anyone, yes anyone, who wants to take Osho’s ideas (or anyone’s ideas) and repeat them as their own is completely free to do so, as long as they don’t quote, paraphrase, or organize material in the same way Osho did. As long as a person puts the ideas in his or her own words and organize in his or her own way, anyone’s ideas are free for the taking. To do that might be rude, but not illegal. This is true of any copyrighted material. Ideas can never be owned, by anyone, ever.
After all, Osho himself did a kind of borrowing extensively. He drew on every major religious tradition and even used quotes from many works for commentary, but He rarely, if ever, got permission from the copyright holders to do that. Osho, at least, never claimed any of that was “His;” He simply pointed out that Existence was speaking through Him. Osho understood deeply that ideas aren’t anyone’s property.
Milarepa, you hear my music; that music comes from the beyond. I cannot claim any monopoly, any copyright on it.
The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to here
Also, no work is copyrightable until it is “fixed.” This means that it is written down, photographed, recorded, put into musical notation, painted, and so on. It has to be in a fixed form so that it can be identified. There could never be a copyright for some sort of ethereal “oral teaching.” There could only be a copyright for recordings, which OIF, Zurich clearly does not own. (See Copyrights)
Aside from the problem of owning oral teachings, there is no evidence that OIF, Zurich owns the copyrights to any of Osho’s work. In fact, that would be impossible, since Osho never assigned ownership of His copyrights to anyone else. He still owned them when He left the body. (See Copyrights)
Based on its claim to own copyrights, to have licensed copyrights in the marketplace, and to have licensed and controlled all Osho centers since 1989, OIF, Zurich now claims to own all of Osho’s work and all the work ever done by anyone else in the marketplace related to Osho’s teachings. This claim, is, of course, absurd. The reasons why it is absurd are discussed fully in the trademark and copyright sections of this site.
OIF, Zurich has registered or attempted to register trademarks for “Osho” in the US, Switzerland, EU, Canada, and Australia etc. OIF, India has registered [or attempted to register?] trademarks for “Osho” in India. It’s important to note that a trademark registration is not proof of trademark ownership. An applicant for a trademark registration merely swears, truthfully or not, that it owns the trademark and pays the fee. No proof is needed. See the trademark section of this site for detailed discussions of this.