Monday, April 28, 2008

The Universe Has Stopped Listening

'The Secret'
can easily lay claim to being the most successful independent book and DVD release in Australia's history.

Whatever you make of 'The Secret' and it claims that you only need to imagine what you want vividly enough and the Universe will deliver it to you, the DVD-that-became-a-website-that- became-a-book has generated hundreds of millions of dollars and more importantly proven that independent book and DVD distributors can do remarkable business outside the major retail chains.

The philosophical mess that is 'The Secret' claims that positive thoughts bring positive change to your life, while negative thoughts attract everything from bad dreams to cancer.

'The Secret', however, doesn't explain what kind of thoughts and emotions attract multi-million dollar lawsuits and extended bouts in courtrooms in Australia and the United States, as the principles behind the book, website and video, fight over 'The Secret's' Harry Potter-esque earnings.

From the New York Times :
Originally scheduled to have its premiere on Australian television, “The Secret” turned into a Web and publishing phenomenon. At one point the “Secret” Web site was selling as many as five movies a minute (either as downloads or DVDs), according to legal papers.

The book version has spent 66 weeks on The New York Times’s Advice best seller list, mostly near the top. Oprah Winfrey devoted two shows to it.

With an alleged $300 million fortune resulting from the phenomenal success of 'The Secret' to fight over, lawsuits are now flying between the DVD's director, the website's designer and Rhonda Byrne, the Australian woman who claims full ownership of 'The Secret' and all its secrets. And most of its earnings.

The suit alleges that Mr. Heriot worked on the screenplay, conducted most of the interviews for the film and supervised its editing and postproduction. The book, much of it a transcription of the movie, is based on documents Mr. Heriot created, the suit alleges.

Mr. Heriot wanted to make it clear that the problem wasn’t his lack of faith in the ancient mysteries. “To all who have been inspired by ‘The Secret,’ ” he said in a prepared statement sent by e-mail through his law firm, “please know that I am not suing the universal principles of ‘The Secret.’ Rather, I am suing the corporate principals behind ‘The Secret,’..."

You'd imagine the Universe would have some hefty legal representation and would not take kindly to being sued. If he truly believes his own guff, Heriot is right to exercise caution in trying to stir up trouble with the Universe.

The legal wrangling over the project began in July 2007, when TS Production applied for the United States copyright to the “Secret” movie and spinoffs. The next month Mr. Heriot applied for copyright to “The Secret,” claiming authorship of the movie and the screenplay.

Soon after that, TS Production filed suit in the Australian courts. Both Mr. Heriot and Ms. Byrne are Australian, and they began working on projects together around 2000.

In the Australian courts, TS Production has asked to be declared owner of all copyrights to the book and movie “The Secret.”

Mr. Heriot, the court papers argue, “directed the film under the terms of his employment under a contract of service” with Ms. Byrne’s company and is not entitled to any copyrights.

In its various forms, “The Secret” makes life look simple. “Ask, believe, receive,” the movie instructs. Legal fights are not always so straightforward. Ms. Byrne herself is scheduled to be deposed May 6 in Los Angeles in a separate case involving Dan Hollings, who helped develop the ”Secret” Web site.

The battle over proceeds seems a far cry from the munificent spirit Ms. Byrne espoused as her movie was first entering the self-help pantheon. In an interview conducted for The Times on the beach in Santa Monica in February 2007, she recalled how she had mortgaged everything she owned to finance the movie because she wanted to give the knowledge it contained to the world. Success was never about profit, she said, but about the journey of discovering what she was intended to do with her life.

“One of the big things in discovering the secret,” she said, “was discovering me.”

Finding her way through these lawsuits will also provide Ms. Byrne with plenty more opportunities to discover herself, particularly when lawyers start shredding her honesty and credibility.

The big question obviously is if 'The Secret' works, why then didn't Ms. Byrne engage her own master-rank "ask, believe, receive" influence over the Universe to get rid of the legal action?

You don't have to know 'The Secret' to know the answer to that question.