(CN) – A copyright dispute over a meditation group’s teaching materials will go to trial after an Arizona federal judge denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment.
Drunvalo Melchizedek is considered an expert in Flower of Life meditation, having authored several books and videos on the practice. He offers Flower of Life workshops to tens of thousands of people worldwide.
The quasi-religious meditation practice is centered on a geometric figure of multiple evenly-spaced overlapping circles that are arranged to form a flower-like pattern with a hexagon-like, six-fold symmetry in which the center of each circle sits on the circumference of the surrounding circles of the same diameter.
Flower of Life practitioners believe the meditation form contains “ancient religious and scientific value by depicting the fundamental forms of all created matter known in the universe,” according to the ruling.
After Melchizedek attracted a surge of followers in 1992, he released a video recording of one of his workshops. Though he says the video “was exploding in sales,” Melchizedek took the tape off the market within a year, worried that “people who were watching the videos could not really understand what was presented because it was outside the context and content of their spiritual understanding.”
Melchizedek then began formally organizing his operation, training “facilitators” to present a part of his Flower of Life workshop called “tetrahedronal Mer-Ka-Ba meditation.” He released and copyrighted four additional workshop videos and incorporated Flower of Life Research in 1995.
When Melchizedek resigned from serving as the company’s president, Ronald Holt took over and reorganized Flower of Life Research into a Nevada limited liability company. Melchizedek licensed the workshop material to Holt and Flower of Life Research, but required them to get his approval before releasing new videos.
Holt soon released a book called “Seed of Life Workshop Student Manual,” using Melchizedek’s old materials. Melchizedek and Holt sued each other, both alleging breach of contract.
Holt claimed that Melchizedek had abandoned his copyright through an oral contract and a letter written to Flower of Life Research about his 1992 video that states: “People have taken everything I have done in my life and even put it in their own books and sold it without giving me any compensation whatsoever. But I have not tried to stop them. The only part that I have stopped, or attempted to stop, is people teaching the Mer-Ka-Ba meditation itself because I have seen what happens when people are not trained and begin teaching.”
An arbitrator awarded Flower of Life Research $50,000 in damages, but could not rule on the ownership of the copyrights.
The remaining copyright claims were bought to federal court where U.S. District Judge James Teilborg denied both sides’ motions for summary judgment.
Even if Melchizedek’s letter was understood as an abandonment of his 2002 copyright, his subsequent copyrights would not be affected, Teilborg ruled.
However, “because there is a material factual dispute between the parties as to whether Plaintiff orally consented to Defendants’s creation of the allegedly infringing works, the Court finds this issue must be resolved by the jury,” Teilborg wrote.
Trial is set for Sept. 20 in the District of Arizona.