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An open letter to the General Service Board Gary A. Glynn, Chairman [non-alcoholic]
General Service Board
1112 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10128
November 22, 1997 Yesterday I received the Quarterly Report and was appalled at the action of AAWS and the General Service Board concerning the possibility of litigation in yet another instance of a members "revolt" against the AAWS policy of pricing literature. You are not threatening to "sue" an outside entity, you are threatening an AA member who is printing and distributing AA literature, at no charge, to AA groups in order to carry the message. Let me insert here a little background:
In 1993, following the disastrous legal action by AAWS concerning the circle and triangle, the General Service Conference formed an Ad Hoc Committee to look into how best to protect our trademarks and copyrights and stay within the Traditions. This Committee was to report back to the 1994 Conference with their recommendations. The Committee met and, unable to come to a consensus within that Committee, they reported back to the Conference with a recommendation that the Conference allow the entire Fellowship to discuss the issue for a period of two years, to allow a general discussion among the the Fellowshop, and arrive at an informed opinion of what measures should be taken in matters of protecting the trademarks and copyrights. In the meantime AAWS formulated what they called a new policy concerning litigation. That policy, to paraphrase, was that AAWS would enter into litigation only after all other avenues had been exhausted. A "Floor Action" was introduced asking the Conference to accept the "new" AAWS policy on litigation. This "Floor Action" was voted on by the 1994 Conference and was rejected by a vote of 80 some odd opposed and 30 some odd in favor. In spite of the better than two-thirds rejection by the Conference, the "new" AAWS policy on litigation is still in effect.
Since that Conference, two different Areas, in different years, have requested the matter of litigation be placed on the Conference Agenda for consideration by the entire Conference body, and both requests have been rejected by the Trustees Conference Committee. Bear in mind that the General Service Structure Chart shows the AA Groups at the head of all AA Service entities and, as such, supposedly has the authority to ask the Conference to consider matters of concern to them. The Areas who asked for this to be placed on the Agenda were composed of literally hundreds of Groups and were virtually ignored. It is my understanding that just recently a third Area had passed a motion not to litigate to protect copyrights on AA literature. The three Areas I refer to are Maryland, Tennessee and Arizona. In the case of Arizona, it is my understanding that their motion was not passed on to the Trustees Conference Committee, but was simply regarded as a "communication" to the General Service Board.
In my view, the position the Board and AAWS has taken is untenable and will serve to further divide the Fellowship. Further, it seems to violate, in spirit, Tradition Two which states, in part, "Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do no govern." I, for my part, would have no problem with a position of litigation resolved by the General Service Conference in the accepted "Group Conscience" process. However, I find the manner in which this current decision was arrived at is unacceptable. It seems the powers that be in New York have adopted an attitude of "Father knows best" and are determined to not allow the Fellowship any voice in the "important" decisions. I would recommend that the members of the Board and AAWS read Tradition Two, Tradition Ten and Warranty Five along with the Conference Charter.
I find that I can no longer associate myself with a leadership that shows no respect for the Traditions and Concepts and does not trust the good sense of the Fellowship. I respectfully request that my name be removed from the mailing list of the General Service Office and any other list maintained by that office that may reflect my membership on the national level. I shall continue to remain an active member in my Home Group, my District and my Area.
Jesse. L., Past Delegate, Panel 44, Area 46, New Mexico
Copies to: Delegates, Alternate Delegates, Area Newsletters
The 'Quarterly Report' the above 'Open Letter' relates to has the following information: ...please take note if you haven't already gotten wind of what AAWS is up to. Not only does it affect certain AA members in Germany but all those who believe that "sueing" goes against the Fifth Warranty.
Reported in the General Service Board Meeting, Nov. 1, 1997: "The topic of this meeting was European copyrights. Members of the General Service Board, the AAWS Board and the Grapevine Board were provided with background information prior to the meeting. The chairman of the AAWS Board, MaryJane Roy, read and provided copies of a resolution of the AAWS Board which had been accepted unanimously at the October 29th meeting of the AAWS Board.
"Following a motion and a second, the trustees of the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous unanimously endorsed and approved the following resolution of the AAWS Board and advised that the resolution be carried out: "Resolved: That the AAWS Board recognizes its responsibility to preserve and protect the copyrights held in [mis-]trust[??!!] for all of AA, both here in US/Canada, and throughout the world. The AAWS Board further recognizes that unchallenged infringement of our copyrighted literature seriously impacts the future growth of AA overseas'.
"Following the adoption of the above resolution, the AAWS Board authorized management, working with the Board's legal advisor, the chairpersons of the AAWS and General Service Boards, and such other persons as the respective chairs might assign, to take such appropriate action, including legal action, as may be necessary to meet the challenge."
Next is part of the General Service Board meeting of Nov. 3...: Communications: A letter received from Bob C., Area 03 (Arizona) Delegate, in which he was relaying a motion by the Arizona General Service Assembly not to litigate to protect copyrights on AA Literature."
It is interesting to note that this "motion" by Area 03 wasn't passed on to the Trustees Conference Committee to be decided whether or not it should be placed on the Conference Agenda...it is now stuck away as "communitcations" to the GSB. Also interesting to note is that Arizona is the third Area to put forth this request. At least Maryland and TN's request got as far as the Trustees Conference Committee and "then" dropped...
AAWS Minutes (in part) presented at the GSB weekend: (repeat)
| "Copyright Violations in Europe: Management provided the AAWS Board with substantial background concerning serious copyright violations, in several languages, by an individual in Germany. The same individual has also indicated his intention to do the same respecting the Russian translation. The Board then adopted the following resolution: Resolved: that the AAWS Board recognizes its responsibility to preserve and protect the copyrights held in trust for all of AA, both here in US/Canada, and throughout the world. The AAWS Board further recognizes that unchallenged infringement of our copyrighted literature seriously impacts the future growth of AA overseas.|
"Publications Francaises: A meeting was held during the Special Forum in Val d'Or with the four Quebec delegates, the eastern Canada regional trustee and the General Manager of GSO, in attendance. This was in accordance with AAWS' offer in their August 6, 1997 letter to members of the Board of Publications Francaises that the AAWS Chairperson or GSO General Manager were willing to meet with any or all that Board's members. The four delegates and trustee agreed to a proposal for restructuring the Publications Francaises Board.
| "Following the adoption of the above resolution, the AAWS Board authorized management, working with the Board's legal advisor, the Chairpersons of the AAWS and the General Service Board, and such other persons as the respectibve chairs might assign, to take such appropriate action, including legal action, as may be necessary to meet the challenge.|
"Publications Francaises' full Board met on Sept. 11, 1997; however, they did not consider AAWS' August 6th letter as an Agenda item, because no one asked that it be placed on the Agenda within 15 days of the meeting.
"At the Sept. 18th AAWS Board meeting , a proposed letter to the Chairman of the Board and the Chairman of the Management Committee of Publications Francaises, copying the other Board members, was presented to the the AAWS directors for review. A motion was made, seconded and passed authorizing this letter to be sent over the signatures of MaryJane R. and George D.
"The Publications Francaises Board met again on Oct. 17, but reached no agreement.
"The original problem was brought to the attention of the AAWS Board as a result of two letters: one signed by three Quebec delegates and the Eastern Canada trustee and a second letter signed by four members of the Management Committee making conflicting requests concerning revocation of the Publications Francaises Board's license. Later it was discovered that Publications Francaises' By-Laws did not conform to Quebec law according to the Quebec counsel whom we consulted.
"As of October 30, 1997 AAWS meeting, no progress was reported resolving the issue between the Management Committee and the delegates and Eastern Canada trustee. Another letter had been received signed by three delegates and the Eastern Canada trustee again requesting termination of the license. Following discussion, the Board adopted a resolution to issue a notice of termination of the licensing agreement between AAWS and Les Publications Francaises AA du Quebec (1979), effective April 1, 1998, along with a transmittal letter expressing the views of the AAWS Board that we remain hopeful that their Board can resolve its disagreements prior to that date.
The only interesting topic reported in the Trustees' Conference Committee minutes (since they didn't have to deal with Arizona's request) is that "the committee agreed that a 'casual-dress day' was a good idea and asked the secretary to select the day of the week, with help of other staff and support personnel."
|If you want to express your private opinion or report your group conscience -- great! Talk to your delegate! Call GSO New York 212-870-3400. If you send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org it will be forwarded to the Chairman of the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous.|
Some of the mentioned background information follows
1. Charge and demand for stated penalty (Click here to view the original document) From: Attorneys Frieder Roth ...,
80538 Muenchen, [Germany]
phone 011-49-89-222-383 fax 011-4989-226360
date: April 7th, 1997
Ref: 46/97 FR-ri D3\D159
To: Attorneys of State at Court, Zeil 42, 60313 Frankfurt [Germany]
1. [full name and address of the accused individual]
2. Other presently unknown members of the AA group Big Book Study Group
known postal address [AA BBSG], PF1104, 61218 Bad Homburg [Germany]
on behalf of
| unlawful commercial profit making by means of copyrighted works according to article 106 and some following articles of German Copyright Law|
| slander and gossip according to articles 186 and 187 of the Criminal Law|
| violation of the Fund Raising Law|
| violation of the Daily Papers and Periodical Press Rules Law|
| violation of protected trademarks|
| violation of Federal Data Protection Law|
| violation of Common Business Order Rules Law|
| and other punishable offenses|
- page 2 - (Click here to view the original document)
1. We are authorized by the Alcoholics Anonymous Interest Society Incorporation [AAeV], located at Lotte-Branz Str. 14, 80939 Munich. Attached you will find two "Power of attorney" forms.
2. The charge is brought against [name and city of the accused] and other individuals unknown to us, who have committed criminal offenses and unlawful actions subject to fines.
3. [name of the accused] and the other accused individuals are not members of the Board of the AAeV. But they form one of the about 2,500 so-called AA groups in Germany, a self-help-society of alcoholics, who try by means of the rules and steps as directed by AA to gain control of their alcoholic addiction. This group calls itself "Big Book Study Group", abbreviated as "BBSG". Recently it started also to use the [German translation of the English] name "Blaues Buch Studien-Gruppe".
The group meets on a regular basis on Sunday at 4:00pm in the building of the town hall office in 6576 Eschborn- Niederhochstadt. This is listed in the "Meeting Directory of English speaking AA groups in Germany". As one of the contact persons for the group the accused [name] is listed there with his first name and phone number [number]. A copy of the said page from the [confidential AA] directory is enclosed as attachment1.
The accused [name] has stated the following when he talked with the General Manager of Alcoholics Anonymous in the USA, which took place in November last year and whereof the accused [name] has published a report himself in the newsletter of his group:
- page 3 - (Click here to view the original document)
"The BBSG has more than 100 people on its mailing list, some of them supporters, some just interested and the rest of them members ."
A copy of the whole interview as given in the BBSG newsletter is enclosed as attachment2. The quoted passage is on page 8 and marked with a text marker.
4. In Alcoholics Anonymous the maintenance of personal anonymity is an important rule. That's why all individuals who feel they belong to AA usually only use their first names if they talk one to another. Also in the meeting list, published by the AAeV himself only first names and phone numbers are used. One copy of the recent meeting list is enclosed as attachment3. Nevertheless this could only explain partly why the investigation and exposure of the criminal individuals is difficult.
5. Mister [name] and others with criminal intent violated copyrights according to article 106 ff. and thus made themselves legally punishable.
a) the AAeV is the owner of the exclusive copyrights of the German version of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous", AAeV itself sold [the book] for many years. One copy of the book -- 8th printing 1994, is enclosed as attachment4. The book consists of three parts, the life story of Bill Wilson (pages 1-192), the life stories of other alcoholics (pages 193-403) and of an appendix with various helpful tips and a reprint of the 12 Traditions of AAeV. This current charge complains against the violation of the rights
.... it continues for some more pages, but let's take a break from that and read the answers:
2. Answer from Attorney of State (Click here to view the original document) From: Attorneys of State, Frankfurt/Main Ref: 92 Js 12913 l/97 date: Apri118,l997 subj: 43/97 FR-ri D3/D158
To: Attorney Frieder Roth, Gewuerzmuehlstr.5, 80538 Muenchen subj: 43/97 FR-ri D3/D158
Answer to the charge and demand for stated plaintiff: Alcoholics Anonymous Interest Society Incorporation [AAeV],
in: Munich [Germany]
on: April 7 1997
against: [full name of the accused] in [city] cause violation of copyrights.
This demand is refused, a criminal investigation not undertaken. Reasons and causes: As far as the charged person is accused of having reprinted the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" without permission, the explanations in the letter of the plaintiff already show that a commercial action as described in article 108a German copyright law does not apply here. Whether or not it is a businesslike manner is not determined by the number of printed copies, the method of production or the system of distribution of the reprint of a copyrighted work. The point is, if the culprit gets considerable money over a considerable time through the use of a copyrighted work or if he has the intention to do so. You wrote nothing about that. On the contrary you wrote in your charge, that the accused gives those -- as the plaintiff sees it-- pirated copies for free or gives them away for free and asks for a voluntary contribution. As far as this might be a violation of copyrights or trademarks you are advised that this is [not a crime but] a simple disorder then and you might want to deal with this by means of a private lawsuit at the civil court.
Concerning secret data protection you get an answer with another letter.
page 2 (Click here to view the original document) We advise you that you can make a complaint against this answer towards the General Attorney of State at the Supreme Court in Frankfurt/Main within 2 weeks after receipt of this answer. If you submit the complaint to the Attorney of State at the Court of Frankfurt in time, that is also permitted.
Dr. Brandau Attorney of State
3. General Attorney of State refers to AA Tradition (Click here to view the original document) From: General Attorney of State at the Supreme Court in Frankfurt/Main
Ref: 92 Js 12913.1/97
date: April 18, 1997
To: Attorney Frieder Roth. Gewuerzmuehlstr.5, 80538 Muenchen
subj: 46/97 FR-sh D2/D632
in matters of charge and demand for stated penalty on behalf of violation of copyrights
the complaint from "Alcoholics Anonymous Interest Society Incorporation [AAeV], in Munich, supported by attorneys Roth and Wiedemann in Munich, of May13, 1997 against the answer of the Attorney of State of April 18, 1997 is denied. Reasons and causes
The refusal to undertake criminal investigation is confirmed.
The complaint does not lead to a different decision.
- page 2 - (Click here to view the original document)
1. The Attorney of State has correctly pointed out, that there are no real facts which would indicate a commercial action of the accused in the sense of article 108a copyright law.
According to the guidelines for crimes and fines, article 105.3.3, the attorney of state had written:
The German Supreme Court defines "commercial" as follows: "commercial" is a professional, continuous or repeated work; it must be done in order to make a profit [money] out of it. Something is a business if you continuously or repeatedly do a certain work or job in order to create a source to earn money from and if the whole manner of the work matches the commonly usual impression or manner of a business. The accused has not sold the said books, but given them away for free. In connection with that there was a flyer asking the receiver for voluntary contributions [to cover the sender's cost of] 2 DM regarding the book and 1.30 DM regarding the booklets.
It is true that indirect advantages may be considered to be a kind of income, therefore even voluntary contributions may be commercial. But there is no such subject here. This is why you need an intention in a technical sense to make a profit.
- page 3 - (Click here to view the original document)
To make an action "commercial," it is necessary that the man wants to repeat it in the same manner and thereby create a section of his commercial or professional job.
The Supreme Court requires that a craving for profit must be observable, and that it must have a certain intensity regarding the making of additional money or the continuance of the attempts with an emphasis on this or that from time to time.
According to the Supreme Court such intention is required to gain a direct or indirect advantage in riches for himself or those who give him directions. But in this very case the distribution, free of charge to people who reach out for help or others certainly interested in the matter, speaks out against the suspicion that he might have the intention to create an income source.
One of the bylaws of AA says, in "Tradition 7," to be self-supporting, and it is pointed out there, solely through voluntary contributions of its own fellowship, in order to maintain independence from outside sources.
Here the contributions do not even cover the cost of production and distribution of the books, let alone providing a regular source of income. The distribution of said books is therefore not driven by financial or commercial interest, but in order to help people who got in contact with the accused man or his self-help group BBSG. This proves that the accused and his self-help-group intends to carry the message
- page 4- (Click here to view the original document) according to the bylaws of AA and not to gain profits from sales. That the accused is driven by higher motives is definitely acknowledged by the plaintiff.
If it is not in question that the action is taken on behalf of non-material, spiritual motives, the Supreme court --already because of this reason-- denies any intention of a commercial action in such case. An applicable decision of our highest court reads: "If the culprit lacks the intention to gain a profit for himself, even a indirect one, then he does not act commercially. (BHGSt 29,187,191)"
Even the possibility of indirect advantage is not available here. Because for indirect advantage he, must be recompensed or reimbursed in some possible way from the fees or any other money which comes from sales, or by regular fixed wages as paid for a job, or by commissions (percentage of sale). Again there is here no case of paid prices or revenues. "If the man gets only very little or nothIng this is not a business," says the Supreme court on another occasion.
It is necessary [for me as General Attorney of State] to support this consideration and comment concerning the charge and the complaint [of the plaintiff].
2. A punishment according to article 107 of German copyright law is impossible, because nothing has been done in violation of this law. The reprints distributed by the accused are not matters of fine, graphic art. Article 107 only deals with artificial paintings and sculptures.
- page 5 - (Click here to view the original document) Contrary to what is written in the complaint, it is proper to tell the plaintiff that he should deal with the accused on the level of private civil lawsuits to determine whether the accused is legally responsible for such criminal offenses as described in articles 106, 143 [trademarks] and 107 as well. It is referred to article 376 StPO and 261, 86 RiStBV.
It can be presented and considered, that according to the bylaws of the plaintiff [AA "headquarters"] -- Tradition 5 and 9 -- the fellowship of AA does not tend to make profits. As a result of that there can be no such thing as a "commercial damage" according to 261 RiStBV which would justify public interest [in punishment]. Such manner of argumentation [by the plaintiff] appears to be far off the beam. As already explained above, there is nothing here which would indicate that the action of the accused is intended to gain riches anyhow.
Moreover a public interest for punishment depends on whether there is a disturbance or damage to the state of "legal peace" according to article 86,2 RiStBV. Public interest can only be claimed if this "legal peace" is PROFOUNDLY disturbed in the whole public society and not only within the circle of persons directly involved, and if the punishment is in the indispensable actual interest of the whole public. This has to be denied, already because both the plaintiff and the accused are members of the fellowship of AA. If there really is such violation of protected rights as is claimed by the plaintiff -- it has taken place exclusively within the limited range or area of the fellowship [of AA] itself, and the public has not been offended by that in any way. It is also impossible to claim that a punishment would be in the indispensable, actual interest of the public. It is evident, that the 10th Tradition of AA demands, that the AA name should never be drawn into public controversy, thus making clear that an internal difficulty cannot be a public matter. It should be resolved within the fellowship of AA.
- page 6 - (Click here to view the original document) 4. In the charge it was said the accused had offended the plaintiff with rumor and gossip in connection with an anonymous letter. But this is never a subject for criminal investigation by means of the attorney of state. To request more voluntary contributions [for the sake of the plaintiff, AA "headquarters" Munich], which would cover losses in literature sales, if there were any, is not apt to damage the honor [of the plaintiff]. The plaintiff further claimed that he in fact never requested [more voluntary contributions] and that this was easily to verify, because [the anonymous] letter only gave the wrong impression that it came from the AAeV. If so, this also does not lead to scorn or degradation of the Board of Directors [of AAeV]. The letter then says "the Board of Directors would expose members of the Big Book Study Group to criminal punishment"; well this statement is just an opinion and not due to public criminal investigation or punishment.
Besides, the plaintiff has in no way made evident, that said anonymous letter really comes from the accused. The plaintiff also lacks any attempt to prove his accusation or to reveal the true identity of the writer. There are presumptions and suspicion only. In addition to the fact that nothing in said letter is unlawful, it has to be pointed out that plain suspicion is no basis for criminal investigation.
Even if the identity of the anonymous writer were known [which it is not], even then the plaintiff would have to use a civil court law suit according to articles 186, 187 [scorn and public degradation] if he still wants to.
- page 7 - (Click here to view the original document) 5. Concerning a violation of the Fund Raising Law or of a violation of Common Business Order Rules Law, the plaintiff's complaint does not justify a suspicion of such violation [exactly what the accused did which was or could be unlawful]. This situation does not justify the pursuit of punishment or the enforcement of payment of fines. Insofar as the attorney of state has looked through the records and stated correctly:
a) The "Fund Raising Law of Hessen" would have to be stressed in this question. A violation would be unlawful. The collection of voluntary contributions [from AA members] is fund raising in the sense of this law. But it is a fund raising which takes place only between members of the fellowship, the chairman of the event [or meeting] inside a house takes contributions from people who are already personally connected with him. For that no permission is needed.
Also the mailing of contribution requests cannot be considered here, because if there were any requests, they appeared in connection with or after free books or other pamphlets were delivered or given away. There is nothing which would indicate that received contributions would have been used for things other than the declared purpose. Thus a violation of the Fund Raising Law cannot be considered.
b) Concerning a violation of the Common Business Order Rules Law, the plaintiff's complaint again does not justify a suspicion of such violation [exactly what the accused did which was or could be unlawful]. Moreover this law does not apply to BBSG, because such [AA group] is not a business. The plaintiff has suspected violations of articles 146 II, 14 1, II GewO... But plain suspicion on the part of the plaintiff does not justify criminal investigation.
- page 8 - (Click here to view the original document) In the legal comment from Kleinknecht/Meyer-Gossner it says about article 152 of the code of criminal procedure: "A plain suspicion does not justify that someone be accused for criminal offense "
6. Concerning the claim from the plaintiff the accused man would cheat on his income tax, the attorney of state has made this a separate matter and forwarded it to the inland revenue office* [taxman] to be considered there. In the same manner the attorney of state will forward the accusation of violation of the "Law for freedom and rights of the press in Hessen" to the President of the Government in Darmstadt and wait for an answer from there.
[*editor's note: Criminal investigation was made and all business files and even private bank accounts of the accused man were thoroughly checked by the authorities. It was discovered as a result of this, that no such cheating or violation of law was performed by the accused man and the procedure has been stopped and cancelled in
March 1998 ] We inform you about your rights: You can file a law suit and claim a court decision against this answer within one month. This is not possible if you claim public punishment on behalf of unlawful actions which can be considered by means of private law suits at civil court (article 172,2 sentence 3, code of criminal procedure). The same applies if you want the court to take action for payment of fines. The said time of one month cannot be extended.
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The claim for court decision must include facts to justify public controversial accusation and list the pieces of evidence. It must be signed by an attorney.
For governmental help to pay the court cost the same procedures as in civil controversy applies. The request must contain a description of the situation and make clear why the answer shall be challenged. It has also to arrive here within one month. Such request for legal cost aid has to be supplied in two copies. It must not make reference to any other letters, records or files; it must speak and be understandable for itself.
[signed and stamped]
M a u r e r
General Attorney of State at the Supreme Court in Frankfurt/Main