Monday, June 14, 2010

Wayne Dyer Sued for Copyright Infringement

Wayne Dyer, the well-known author of the self-help book Your Erroneous Zones, is being sued for plagiarism by another author according to The Hollywood Reporter's THR, Esq. column.

I checked RFC (Recently Filed Cases) Express and found that Stephen Mitchell v. Wayne Dyer, P.H.D et al was filed on Monday, May 24 in California Central District Court. The "et al" in the defendant description includes Hay House, a publisher that specializes in New Age and self-help books.

According to THR, Esq., The basis of the lawsuit is Stephen Mitchell's claim that Dyer "'copied verbatim a significant portion' of his interpretation of the ancient Taoist scripture Tao Te Ching in two separate books."

The books in question are Dyer's p-books and e-books titled Living the Wisdom of the Tao and Change Your Thoughts--Change Your Life.

Mitchell is a well known translator and interpreter of ancient texts, most notably the Chinese Tao Te Ching. According to Wikipedia:
The Tao Te Ching has been translated into Western languages over 250 times ... According to Holmes Welch, "It is a famous puzzle which everyone would like to feel he had solved."

Many translations are written by people with a foundation in Chinese language and philosophy who are trying to render the original meaning of the text as faithfully as possible into English. Some of the more popular translations are written from a less scholarly perspective, giving an individual author's interpretation. Critics of these versions, such as Taoism scholar Eugene Eoyang, claim that translators like Stephen Mitchell produce readings of the Tao Te Ching that deviate from the text and are incompatible with the history of Chinese thought.
Of course, the key point here is that Mitchell's translation represents his unique interpretation of the Tao Te Ching. If Dyer copied Mitchell's text verbatim, he is probably going to have some difficulty in a copyright infringement case.

Writers are familiar with the U.S. Copyright law's Fair Use test. The test has four factors which determine whether the use of another artist's work qualifies as fair use. Those four factors are:
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Under the second factor above, if the artist creating a derivative work "transforms" the original work into something new and different, he has a better chance of winning a fair use case.

Go here to read The Hollywood Reporter's article.

Stay tuned ...


Nifty said...

Hey Reynold your efforts are fantastic.

thanks metrogyl.

Rudy said...

Maya, copyrights infringement is a global issue that cuts across all industries. In the literary sector, plagiarism is a crime that often affects writers. Similar to the case that you cited above, there have been instances of major offenses like copying a section or idea verbatim. In those instances, it would be best to consult an intellectual property attorney. Denver and other states have practitioners that have the expertise in handling IPR related issues. Even big publishing houses invests in an intellectual property lawyer. Denver and other parts of the country have heard of numerous issues about 'idea theft'. Indeed, protecting a product of your hard work would be easier if there is a professional that can help you assert your rights.

I'll be checking for more updates regarding this case. Thanks for sharing!

Stephen said...

The implication is that this makes Dyer a speaker on Spirituality or on spiritual matters but then again, he's also a thief which unqualifies him from writing books at all, which should be no mystery. Whatever came out of it?

Denise Fernandes said...

RIP Wayne Dyer. I just found out the origins of Dyer's scurvy elephant story. Seems he just retold an old story putting himself in first person. A lot of plagiarism and lies.

Jean Knowlton said...

I think the case is still open, but I doubt if Wayne would copy someone's work. It is entirely possible he simply didn't remember reading it or interpreted the work the same way as the person who claims he took his work. That person was commenting on something written by someone else. It is entirely possible Wayne came up with the same interpretation of the original work as this author. As for the scurvy elephant story - it may have been around before but it's also entirely possible Wayne's mom told him that story about himself so his memory would be that it was a first-person story. Wayne Dyer is a powerful teacher and I believe he meant only good by everything he said, wrote or did.