Melchizedek v. Holt

Decision Date03 June 2011
Docket NumberNo. CV 09–1815–PHX–JAT.,CV 09–1815–PHX–JAT.
PartiesDrunvalo MELCHIZEDEK, an individual, Plaintiff,v.Ronald L. HOLT and Lyssa Royal Holt, a married couple; and Flower of Life Research, LLC, a Nevada corporation, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Arizona

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Carey Brandt Anthony, Lance Christopher Venable, Venable Campillo Logan & Meaney PC, Phoenix, AZ, for Plaintiff.Jeffrey Lloyd Weiss, Joshua Samuel Becker, Veronica–Adele Dela Roca Cao, Weiss & Moy PC, Scottsdale, AZ, for Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES A. TEILBORG, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 39), and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 41). The Court conducted oral argument on May 31, 2011, and is now prepared to rule on the pending motions.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Drunvalo Melchizedek is an avid believer of a particular form of meditation referred to as the Flower of Life. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 2; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 2.) The Flower of Life is a figure composed of multiple evenly-spaced overlapping circles that are arranged to form a flower-like pattern with a six-fold symmetry like a hexagon with the center of each circle located on the circumference of the surrounding circles of the same diameter. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 3; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 3.) The Flower of Life is believed by the parties to contain ancient religious and scientific value by depicting the fundamental forms of all created matter known in the universe. ( Id.)

Plaintiff is considered to be an expert in the Flower of Life. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 10; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 10), and has authored several books, teaching videos, and DVDs on the Flower of Life (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 4; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 4). Since 1984, Plaintiff has presented lectures and workshops based upon his books and videos to tens of thousands of people worldwide. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 9; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 9.)

In 1992, due to the popularity of his workshops, Plaintiff released a video of one of his Flower of Life workshops, referred to herein as the 1992 Video.” (Dkt. 40 at ¶ 3; Dkt. 59 at ¶ 3.) According to Plaintiff's introduction in the Ancient Secrets of the Flower of Life—Volume 1,

By 1991 my workshops were filled and overflowing, with hundreds of people on the waiting list. I didn't know how to reach everyone who wanted this information. In fact, I could not. So in 1992 I made a decision to release a video of one of my workshops and let it go out to the world.

Within less than a year it was exploding in sales, but there was one big problem. Most of the 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.... Eight-five percent were confused and unclear about the instructions.

Immediately I took the video tapes off the market. This, however, did not stop the video from continuing to be sold. People wanted the information, so they began to copy the existing tapes and give, sell or lease them to people worldwide. By 1993, it has been estimated that there were approximately 100,000 sets of these tapes in the world.

(Dkt. 59–2, Ex. 2, Bates # DM00547.)

In 1993, Plaintiff decided to expand the number of lectures and workshop on the Flower of Life. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 11; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 11.) To accomplish this expansion, Plaintiff established a group of people, referred to as “facilitators,” to help spread his teachings. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 12; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 12.) Plaintiff trained the facilitators to present a part of his Flower of Life workshop concerning an energy field meditation, which the parties refer to as the tetrahedronal Mer–Ka–Ba (“TMKB”) meditation. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 13; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff recorded the Flower of Life workshop that was presented in Fairfield, Iowa in October 1993. (Dkt. 40 at ¶ 5; Dkt. 59 at ¶ 5.) The tapes are referred to by the parties in their briefs by a variety of names, including the “33 hour Iowa Tapes,” “Flower of Life tapes,” and the 1993 Iowa videos.” This Order will refer to the recorded version of this Flower of Life workshop as the 1993 Videos.”

At issue in this action are four works that were created in connection with the 1993 Videos. Specifically:

1. “The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life—Volume 1,” registered as TX 6–629–102;

2. “The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life—Volume 2,” registered as TX 6–597–643;

3. “Flower of Life Workbook Illustrations (Book # 1 and Book # 2),” registered as TX 6–597–658; and

4. “Flower of Life Video Workshop: Volumes 1–33,” registered as PA0001392809.

( Id.) These four works, collectively referred to herein as the “Copyrighted Works,” are all related. The 33–hour long 1993 Videos became The Flower of Life Video Workshop: Volumes 1–33. ( Id.) The photographs, designs and drawings that are in the Flower of Life Video Workshop: Volumes 1–33 are identical those in the Flower of Life Workbook Illustrations (Book # 1 and Book # 2). (Dkt. 40 at ¶ 7; Dkt. 59 at ¶ 7.) The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life—Volumes 1 and 2 include the same photographs, designs and drawings as the Flower of Life Video Workshop: Volumes 1–33 and the Flower of Life Workbook Illustrations (Book # 1 and Book # 2) with added designs included in The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life—Volumes 1 and 2. ( Id.) Further, all of the slides seen in the Flower of Life Video Workshop: Volumes 1–33 are contained in The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life—Volumes 1 and 2. (Dkt. 40 at ¶ 8; Dkt. 59 at ¶ 8.)

The Clear Light Trust (“Clear Light”) and Pure Heart Trust were assigned the rights to the Copyrighted Works. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 7; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 7.) Flower of Life Research, Inc. was then granted the right to licence the Copyrighted Works. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 8; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 8.) Flower of Life Research, Inc., was a non-profit corporation formed by Plaintiff in 1995 to ensure that Plaintiff's teachings would not be altered in any manner and to protect the facilitators using Plaintiff's materials. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 14; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 14.) Through Flower of Life Research, Inc., Plaintiff granted copyright licenses to the facilitators, which permitted the facilitators to use the Flower of Life Video Workshop: Volumes 1–33, and to publicly perform part of Plaintiff's lecture based on TMKB meditation. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 16; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 16.) In 1993, Defendant Ronald Holt (Holt) was one of the facilitators who received a license from Plaintiff. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶¶ 18–19; Dkt. 55 at ¶¶ 18–19.)

Holt worked as a facilitator until 1996 or 1997 when Plaintiff stepped down as president of Flower of Life Research, Inc., and asked Holt to take over as president of the corporation. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶¶ 20–21; Dkt. 55 at ¶¶ 20–21.) In December 1998, Holt closed Flower of Life Research, Inc., and formed Flower of Life Research, LLC (FOLR), a Nevada limited liability company, and a defendant in this action. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶¶ 22–23; Dkt. 55 at ¶¶ 22–23.)

In 1999, Defendants were granted a license to use Plaintiff's materials for workshops. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 24; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 24.) The 1999 License and Agreement for Flower of Life 2000+ Workshop Material provided that [i]f any new videos are to be made from this material other than the FOLR 2000+ Workshop, approval must be in writing.” (Dkt. 41–8, Ex. F at ¶ 5.)

When the 1999 License and Agreement expired in 2001, FOLR was granted a new license to continue using, nonexclusively, the Flower of Life Video Workshop: Volumes 1–33, and the shortened four-hour “Flower of Life 2000+ Workshop” video. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 27; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 27.) On December 4, 2001, Plaintiff, as managing director of Clear Light, and FOLR entered into the Licensing Agreement. (Licensing Agreement, Dkt. 41–9, Ex. G.) Pursuant to the Licensing Agreement, FOLR agreed to “acknowledge publicly and privately that the original material of the Flower of Life 2000+ Workshop was sourced from intellectual property of Clear Light” as presented by Plaintiff. ( Id. at ¶ 4.) The Licensing Agreement provided that “Clear Light will retain its copyrights to all of this intellectual property including the Original Flower of Life Video Workshop (Iowa) (both in English and Spanish) and the Flower of Life Workshop 2000+.” ( Id. at ¶ 5.) The Licensing Agreement also provided that [i]f any new videos are to be made from this material other than the existing FOLR workshop 2000+, approval must be in writing from Clear Light.” ( Id.)

After entering into the Licensing Agreement, FOLR created a written work referred to as the “Seed of Life Workshop Student Manual.” (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶¶ 30, 32; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 32.) Defendants do not dispute that they used some of Plaintiff's old materials in the Seed of Life Workshop Student Manual. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 32; Dkt. 55 at ¶ 32.) However, Defendants contend that Plaintiff gave Holt permission to use these materials. (Dkt. 55 at ¶ 32.) Plaintiff, instead, contends that he did not learn of the Seed of Life Workshop Student Manual until 2008 when the parties were in litigation. (Dkt. 41–1 at ¶ 31.)

In December 2002, Plaintiff sent a letter titled “A Sequel to the Open Letter” to “the Facilitators, Graduates and Friends of the Flower of Life”, in which Plaintiff wrote:

Some people believe that I am protecting my copyrights and don't understand that there are more important issues than copyrights. The most important issue is the proper transmission of the FOL [Flower of Life] material with integrity and responsibility to ensure that no one gets hurt by it or have it empower their ego and personal self-serving agendas, which we have seen happens all too often.

....

So I had one of my workshops videoed and let the video go out to the world unrestrained. No control on the copyrighted material. No money coming back to me from the videos. No control on the meditation believing that anyone who watched the videos (about 33 hours long) would be able to understand the Mer–Ka–Ba meditation and would no longer need me.

....

Now...

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