The Lawsuit is Over… and We Won!
The Art of Living Foundation US and the Does of the lawsuit filed by the Art of Living have reached a settlement agreement. Although Klim and I believe we would have prevailed in this case, the settlement agreement is so overwhelmingly favorable to us that there was no purpose in continuing to litigate.
What did I agree to give Art of Living under this settlement agreement? Two things:
- I agreed to freeze this blog, something that I have been wanting to do for a while anyway. That means that every single word will remain as it stands now, but it will be closed for new posts or comments. Nothing prevents me or any other person from starting up a new blog critical of AOL, as my old Master Obi-Wan has already done here. I may leave a comment or two on his new blog, but I choose not to be a part of it. I want to move on, but it makes me happy to see the important work started by Klim carried on there.
- I agreed to publish a “joint statement” on my blog that informs readers of the settlement agreement. (See below).
So what did I give them? Basically nothing. What did they give us?
AOLFUS agrees to drop its lawsuit with prejudice. That means they can NEVER again prosecute me or any other person associated with either KLIM’s blog or this blog for anything that was published on those blogs. Nobody’s identity was disclosed as part of this litigation (or settlement), despite all of Art of Living’s efforts. AOLFUS also dismissed with prejudice a related case they recently filed against another ex-aol teacher.
They pay their own attorney’s fees. And they pay my attorney’s fees.
What has AOL gained?
No doubt they will try to spin this as a victory, in that I agreed to freeze this blog. It will be painfully obvious to anyone except the most die-hard devotees that they have in fact lost this litigation. There is nothing in the agreement that prevents me or any defendant from making any comments, or publishing anything we wish to publish, on other blogs, or to create new blogs. I am done blogging -of my own free will, mind you- but I promise to drop by Obi-Wan’s blog and comment once in a while. And should you wish to contact me for any reason, I will check my e-mail regularly.
Why did AOL decide to sue us? Was it because we published the Kriya Notes? I think that was just an excuse for them to go after us. I think their primary goal all along was to silence the criticism of Ravi and AOL. They sued us for defamation and for “trade libel,” i.e. disparaging AOL’s “product,” the teachings of Ravi Shankar. They not only sought damages, but they sought a court injunction that would shut down the blogs entirely. The Court threw out the defamation and trade libel claims early in the case, and quite clearly indicated that it would not be appropriate to issue an injunction shutting the blogs down entirely.
A self-proclaimed enlightened master claiming to be the embodiment of human perfection cannot tolerate anyone criticising him, and neither can his devotees. Now it seems they will have to anyway. What will he tell his teachers on the next Teacher’s refresher Meeting? I am sure we will know soon, from a comment on Obi-Wan’s blog. Someone always sees through the BS and lets us know.
Below are the most important documents of this litigation, documenting how seven of the original eight causes of action in the Complaint were ultimately dismissed by the court, until only the trade secret case against Skywalker remained. It also shows how the Court refused to allow AOL’s attempts to use subpoenas and legal discovery to learn our identities.
Having won the right to bring the trade secret case to trial, why has AOL decided to settle now? For one thing, the Court declined to allow the disclosure of my identity. Thus I would have gone to trial anonymously. This was an important precedent for the freedom to speak anonymously. It also made it very difficult for Art of Living to intimidate me into closing down the blog.
Second, maybe they finally realized that they would likely lose a jury trial on the alleged trade secrets. Should that happen, the Kriya Notes – a mix of cult mythology and self-explanatory banalities – will be released to the public domain. Then the whole world will see the Emperor with no clothes on.
AOL has made up a myth that these Kriya notes contain “sacred knowledge” and thus should be read only by the chosen few. That is just a way to lure people to Teacher’s Training, promising them secrets untold to the public, and afterwards a way of controlling them. Through this blog I believe I made my point that ‘the Emperor has no clothes’, and that I have been vindicated in that position by the outcome of this lawsuit.
By settling, the question remains open whether the Kriya Notes and other documents that were briefly published on this blog in the summer of 2010 are entitled to any legal protection as “trade secrets.”
Well, enough of that. Let it be known, that in the battle of Guru’s Grace versus Common Sense and Law, the latter wins.
To all of you who expected the Guru’s Magical Powers to overcome this Evil Attempt to Obfuscate the Light of Truth: He failed. His Powers are limited. Maybe even imaginary? Maybe he is just a dude, charismatic and with some wisdom -and with a huge need for power and adoration?
One question still haunts me: how come it took me so long to see Art of Living for the cult it is, Ravi as cult leader? I take pride in my intellect. I should not have been so easily fooled. One answer to that question is obvious: blogs like this one didn’t exist back then. I actually remember googling ”Art of Living Sri Sri Ravi Shankar critique scam” back then. Nothing came up.
Today, people can make informed choices.
These are the highlights of the lawsuit:
It started with this notice from the Indian AOL.
Later, AOL in USA filed an official complaint, and subpoenaed Google and WordPress to reveal our identities, in order for them to prosecute us for defamation, copyright breaches, trade libel and for revealing ”trade secrets”.
Following are the highlights of the case:
Here is the Court’s decision (Doc. 83) in June 2011 in which the Court threw out the Defamation and Trade Libel claims, but kept the Trade Secret claims. As well there are the Motions to Dismiss and Strike and the Oppositions and Replies to each, that preceded that Court decision.
Doc 26 Renoticed MTD
Doc 27 Renoticed MTS
Doc 37 Opp to MTD
Doc 38 Opp to MTS
Doc 66 Reply MTD
Doc 67 Reply MTS
Doc 83 Order re MTD MTS
Here are the pleadings leading up to the Court’s November 2011 decision (Doc. 129) protecting Skywalker’s anonymity.
Doc 62 2d Renoticed MTQ
Doc 64 Opp to MTQ
Doc 73 Reply MTQ
Doc 90 Order Magistrate MTQ
Doc 92 Motion for Relief NDPTO
Doc 96-1 Amici Brief
Doc 109 Opp MFR
Doc 119 Reply MFR
Doc 129 Order Granting MFR
Here are the Motion for Summary Judgment and 2nd Motion to Strike, culminating in the Court’s order of May 1 2012 (Doc. 162) knocking out the Copyright Claim and all claims against Klim. Note that doc 138 was actually filed much earlier, but because of issues about how to publicly file sealed documents it shows up later in the docket.
Doc 111 MSJ
Doc 116 Opp 2nd MTS
Doc 121 Opp to MSJ
Doc 125 Reply MSJ
Doc 138 redacted 2nd MTS
Doc 162 Order on MSJ and MTS
The latest efforts to learn my identity are in these ”letter brief” motions to compel, and our oppositions. These motions were denied by the Court in the “Minute Order” at the end (Doc 165).
Doc 148 MTC Rog RFP
Doc 150 P MTC SW ID
Doc 154-1 Exh A Redacted Letter Brief sw id
Doc 154-2 Exh B Redacted Letter Brief responses
Doc 165 Minute Order CMC Striking 4th ATSD
Comments on this post can be made here, at Obi-Wan’s blog. My lawyer, Joshua Koltun, may also post further information concerning this litigation on his website at www.koltunattorney.com. Thank you Joshua, for your tireless efforts in this case. You are the true hero of this saga, together with Klim, the original Guruholic. Read his final post here.
And thank you Doc, Peaceful Warrior, Whistleblower, The Prosecutor and all other contributors to and readers of this blog. Thank you too to Beacon of Reason, Anne, Harshal, Doreen, Dr. Pete and all other pro-AOL commenters. Some, if not all, of your input has been intellectually stimulating, and has brought depth to the discussions on this blog. As well, you have had the courage to disobey your Guru and follow your heart, by reading the blog -Shankar actively discourages this. That speaks well for you.
I invite you all to continue your discussions at Obi-Wan’s new blog.
May the Force (of Reason) be with you!
Joint Statement of plaintiff Art of Living Foundation and defendants Doe/Skywalker and Doe Klim:
The parties have resolved the case ofArt of Living Foundation v. Does 1-10, (N.D. Cal. 10-5022 LHK) by a settlement agreement. Pursuant to this settlement agreement, the blog entitled “Leaving the Art of Living,” located at <artoflivingfree.blogspot.com> and the blog entitled “Beyond the Art of Living” and located at <aolfree.wordpress.com> shall be frozen as of June 19, 2012. However, nothing in the settlement agreement restricts the rights of Defendants to create new blogs, or to comment on other blogs. Nobody’s identity has been or will be disclosed in this litigation, or pursuant to this settlement agreement.