The "No-Ek" Symbol

Author: David Christopher Lane
Publisher: Alt.religion.eckankar
Publication date: 1996

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The Forgotten History to the infamous "No Ek" symbol on the cover to the 1983 edition of The Making of a Spiritual Movement.....

1. In 1982 Brian Walsh moved to San Diego and wanted to republish a paperback (non-manuscript) version of The Making of a Spiritual Movement: The Untold Story of Paul Twitchell and Eckankar, which he had read in 1979 when he was a graduate student at John F. Kennedy University. In order to accomplish this aim, Walsh put up around 3,000 dollars and essentially founded Del Mar Press in order to distribute the book.

2. In late 1982, he paid a local book cover artist to design a cover for the The Making of a Spiritual Movement. Walsh wanted to have a "no smoking" sign cover the EK symbol and also put on the upper right corner "cult exposed."

3. Since I come from a legal background (my father was an attorney before he died; my sister is currently a managing partner in a large law firm; and my brother works for the court system in southern California), I brought the cover design to the law firm of Rogers & Wells (which used to have a branch in San Diego).

4. I asked Rogers & Wells for their advice on using the Ek symbol and for putting a no-smoking symbol over it. I was assured by my legal counsel at that time that it did not breach any copyrights or trademarks. First, because the symbol was not precisely the same as used by Eckankar; and second, because a significant portion was covered up by the no-smoking symbol. Additionally, the "cult exposed" flap on the cover clearly indicated that the book was not sponsored by Eckankar.

5. In 1983 the book came out in a red cover and sold quite well, especially (of all places) in Lagos, Nigeria.

6. During this same time, FATE magazine carried a letter debate between myself and some Eckists (including Eckankar's main headquarters). FATE Magazine was also threatened with legal action because of my statements about Eckankar, but they did no back down and subsequently published a number of my letters on the issue. I was also the target of a smear campaign by an Eckankar member who wrote several letters to the University of San Diego High School (where I taught for two years) trying to get me fired for writing negatively about Eckankar. The Bishop was even notified and the matter subsequently dropped after he personally read what I had written.

7. Eckankar then proceeded to threaten me with legal action over the book. At first, their threat was all-encompassing, but after I contacted Rogers & Wells, Eckankar shaved down their complaint to the Ek symbol on the cover of the book.

8. Since I had given Walsh the go-ahead to use the "no-Ek" symbol on the the cover of the book on the basis of the legal advice given to me by Rogers and Wells, the law firm decided to represent me against Eckankar for free.

9. For several months, my attorneys and Eckankar's attorneys argued back and forth over the issue. Eckankar had, if I am not mistaken on this, even filed suit in San Diego against me.

10. After thousands of dollars were spent back and forth on both sides, I was asked by Rogers and Wells to settle the issue out of court, thereby ending the matter and saving them thousands of dollars in the future.

11. I did not want to settle, since I sensed that Eckankar's threats against me had no factual basis. Moreover, I sensed that I was being used as a set-up for Eckankar's suit against Darwin Gross. Eckankar, naturally, needed to set a precedent on trademarks and copyrights in light of Darwin Gross since they did not want him and his future organization diluting the market value of their group. Later actions against Gross convinced me that I was not wrong in my predictions.

12. However, I did agree to sign a legal agreement with Eckankar which essentially stated that I would not use the Ek symbol on future editions to the Making of a Spiritual Movement. Eckankar, on its part, agreed to let the remaining hundreds of copies of books with the disputed cover be sold and distributed for at least another year.

13. Since that agreement was made I have never used the Ek symbol on any new cover of the Making of a Spiritual Movement.

14. However, Eckankar has used this agreement to legally hassle me since that time. I use the term "hassle" consciously. In 1992 when Garland Publishers agreed to publish a library, hardback version of the Making of a Spiritual Movement, Eckankar learned of it and legally threatend Garland to back off from publishing it. Garland argued strongly for publishing it, but finally could not afford the legal costs it would incur by printing it and thus regretfully had to withdraw publication. I again say "regretfully" consciously since they informed me that they had tremendous pre-publication interest in the book and had many orders. Garland informed me that they did not have the "deep" pockets necessary to fight such a suit with Eckankar, even though they felt they would eventually win in a court of law.

15. Now for the past two months I have been contaced by Gary Hardiman, who's officially representing Eckankar's legal interests. Eckankar is upset that the 1983 cover is being displayed on the Internet. I informed Gary that I had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Indeed, and this may surprise some folks, I do not even own a copy of the 1983 version of the Making of a Spiritual Movement myself, since I have tended to give all available copies of whatever I possess in this regard away....

16. Eckankar then asked me to contact Mr. Rife and have him take off the disputed cover. I told Eckankar that I would inform Mr. Rife of our conversation, since I did not want to have Rife (who has been extremely gracious to me) go through the hassles that I have had to endure with Eckankar.

17. I also advised Eckankar (in one of my kinder moments) not to press this matter legally, since they would end up getting reams of bad publicity. Keep in mind that the people Eckankar will have to end up suing were long-time members of the group. It is a bit pathetic when the group you turn to for spiritual advice turns around and sues you.

18. Most recently, however, I got the distinct impression from Gary and Eckankar that they believe it is my legal duty to have Mr. Rife and others withdraw the cover from the Internet, even though I had absolutely nothing to do with the cover being scanned in the first place.

19. This is where the proverbial "camel's back" broke. I had tried to be nice to Eckankar, giving them solid advice about how to approach this matter with former members who were disgruntled with them. But it began to dawn on me that I was also being targeted (again!) for something for which I have no control.

20. Eckankar, via Gary, then asked me to withdraw my permission to Dave Rife to carry the contents of the Making of a Spiritual Movement. This, of course, I would not and would never do. Indeed, Rife has done me and other interested eckists and ex-eckists a great service by providing (free of charge) access to the book and related documents.

21. I then proceeded to inform Gary, and in turn Eckankar, that they were out-of-bounds. The conversation turned unpleasant and as of today (March 10) that is where the issue stands.

22. There has been a lot of discussion on this newsgroup about trademarks and copyrights, etc., and I am always amazed by the explanations and justifications one gives on behalf of Eckankar when it comes to "their" legal property. I have always been very conscious of Eckankar's legal trademarks and the like, so much so that I even went to legal counsel (before) the cover was finally printed to make certain that I was doing the right thing legally.

23. I just wish Eckankar (or should I say Paul Twitchell) would have shown the same courtesy to Julian Johnson, Kirpal Singh, L. Ron Hubbard, Schure, Vivekananda, and a host of other authors, when they (or he) published The Far Country, The Shairyat-KI-Sugmad, The Tiger's Fang, Letters to Gail, etc.

24. I have lived up to my legal end of the bargain. I just wish Eckankar would live up to its spiritual commitment to its followers and treat its ex-members with some foresight, some compassion, and, most importantly, some intelligence.

25. I will not ask Dave Rife to withdraw the Making of a Spiritual Movement. Quite the opposite, I want to congratulate him for his courage and integrity and publicly thank him for facing up to the organization he once belonged to.

26. Finally, I have a piece of advice for Gary and for Eckankar: Chant Hu, Don't Sue..... Moreover, what would Gakko think of this legal posturing? Can't we all just get along? Aren't we one in the Big Sugmad? Boy, where's Fubbi when you need him......

written on March 10, 1996: in honor of Rife's homepage and to clarify trademark issues.

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I want to go back to the home base now.