LOS ANGELES (CN) – Carlos Castaneda’s granddaughter says her late grandfather’s company does not hold a valid copyright to ancient shamanistic breathing techniques he taught in classes, videos and a book, and says she has every right to teach, and copyright, her own variation of the so-called “magical passes.”
Calling herself “the only descendent” of Castaneda, Aerin Alexander says she developed “newly created and original movements and sequences of movements” of the techniques after she left defendant Cleargreen Inc., where she taught classes for 14 years. The company sent her a letter asserting its right to the exercises.
Alexander says she developed the exercises with her instructional partner and co-plaintiff Miles Reid. They sued Cleargreen and Laugan Productions in Federal Court, seeking declaration that the defendants’ copyright and trademark claims are invalid.
Castaneda was a Peruvian-born anthropologist. His four books, allegedly based on the teachings of a Yaqui medicine man named Don Juan Matus, have sold more than 8 million copies in more than a dozen languages.
Castaneda and his books became cult heroes beginning with the first volume, “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge,” which was published in 1968. As the books about peyote-inspired wisdom continued and gathered attention, Castaneda became increasingly reclusive. That, and the incidents in the books themselves, led some critics to claim that the books, told in the first person, were invented.
According to Alexander’s complaint, “Carlos Castaneda used a term ‘Tensegrity’ to refer to some movements he called magical passes consisting of a series of meditative stretches, stances and movements that he said were developed by Native American shamans who lived in Mexico in times prior to the Spanish conquest.”
She says the term “tensegrity” was actually coined by R. Buckminster Fuller, as a contraction of tensional integrity.
“Castaneda claims he borrowed the term tensegrity from architecture because the magical passes combine tension and relaxation of the muscles, joints and ligaments in a way that yields a stronger, more flexible, and more ‘aware’ physical body,” the complaint states. “The intent of the movements is to create a general sense of well-being and purpose in daily life. Castaneda claimed that individuals disperse energy in
their daily lives and that Tensegrity is an attempt to help restore this energy to the vital centers of the body.
“The three instructional videos created with the aid of the company Laugan Productions contained the original tensegrity movements.
“Castaneda also published the book ‘Magical Passes’ in 1998, about one year before his death.
“After the publication of ‘Magical Passes’ and after Castaneda’s death, Cleargreen created a fourth instructional video based upon the movements published in the ‘Magical Passes.'”
Citing her grandfather’s claims about receiving instruction from a Yaqui shaman, Alexander says the movements, or magical passes, are not copyrightable.
“The individual meditative stretches, breathing exercises, stances and movements used in defendants Tensegrity and Magical Passes classes, workshops, books, and instructional videos are positions and postures that were developed centuries ago by Native American shamans who lived in Mexico in times prior to the Spanish conquest and are therefore in the public domain,” she says in the complaint.
Castaneda formed Cleargreen in 1995, according to the complaint.
Alexander and Reid say
The duo say they “are in the process of registering a copyright to their new and original movements and sequences of movements that were created solely by Miles Reid and Aerin Alexander and inspired by their training with Carlos Castaneda and his colleagues.
“Once plaintiffs Miles Reid and Aerin Alexander obtain a registered copyright to their new and original movements and sequences of movements that were created solely by Miles Reid and Aerin Alexander and inspired by their training with Carlos Castaneda and his colleagues, they intend to publish those videos.”
Alexander and Reid claim as well that the defendants teach the “new and original movements and sequences of movements” that the plaintiffs created.
“Cleargreen and/or Laugan sometimes use or teach the original Tensegrity movements that appeared in the instructional videos or in the Magical Passes publication, but instead mostly use the modified Tensegrity movements co-created by Miles Reid and Aerin Alexander that appear in the ‘home videos,'” according to the complaint.
The complaint adds: “Miles Reid and Aerin Alexander were the authors and creators of several speeches describing their personal experiences that were affixed and written on a media and which were read by Miles Reid and Aerin Alexander at Cleargreen’s workshops and classes.”
Reid and Alexander say they left Cleargreen to start their own classes in early 2010. Then, they claim, “In an attempt to disrupt a scheduled health workshop in Europe offered by Miles Reid and Aerin Alexander, Cleargreen’s directors, officers, agents and or representatives contacted several of the prospective attendees and disseminated false information urging these individuals not to attend the workshop.”
As a result of Cleargreen’s meddling, people refused to take the workshop, Alexander says.
“By letter dated March 7, 2011 Cleargreen and Laugan wrote Miles Reid and Aerin Alexander asserting various rights and actions that if undertaken by Reid and Aerin would amount to an infringement of Cleargreen and Laugan’s rights including an alleged right in the ‘sequence of movements’ in their Tensegrity or Magical Passes classes; a copyright in recapitulation exercises including written questions used during instructions or as a component in their classes, as well as video recordings, photographs, drawings and written description of such exercises, and rights in the trademarks Tensegrity and Magical Passes,” according to the complaint.
But Reid and Alexander say the Tensegrity movements and sequences in the defendants’ materials “are not assembled in a sufficiently creative fashion to quality for copyright protection,” and that even if the defendants do hold a valid copyright, the exercises the plaintiffs created do “not amount to an infringement of any such copyright of defendants.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Robert Klein. Neither Klein nor Cleargreen responded to a request for comment.