Protecting A.A. copyright and trademarks online

We often get asked by members about the guidelines for using the A.A. name, logo and excerpts from A.A. literature – many of which are protected by copyright.

Tradition Four states, “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.” A.A. World Services (A.A.W.S) holds copyrights in trust for A.A. as a whole and has a responsibility to protect these valuable A.A. assets both in terms of content and preserving the integrity of the A.A. message. The General Service Board of A.A. in New Zealand are the custodians of this copyright in New Zealand.

What is protected by copyright?  All A.A. Conference approved literature including Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book), Twelve Steps & Twelve TraditionsDaily Reflections etc. is protected by copyright. In no case should this material ever be amended or modified.

What can’t you do?  Material protected by copyright cannot be used for novelty items such as bumper stickers, t-shirts, mugs, greeting cards, etc. as these types of items tend to trivialise the A.A. program. Use must not be commercial (i.e., not for sale) or used in any type of advertising.

Can I reprint excerpts on a daily basis from A.A. material and distribute them electronically?  A.A.W.S. does not grant permission for anyone to continuously reprint excerpts of A.A. material through the Internet or electronic devices, etc.

What can you do?  Individual printing or photocopying of a single copy or a brief excerpt of A.A. literature and/or A.A. material is OK. You can also save A.A.W.S literature or other A.A. material on a computer hard drive.

How do I credit A.A. when quoting A.A. literature?  An entire work of A.A.W.S. copyrighted material must not be posted or/uploaded to any website, online discussion boards or any social media formats, whether A.A. or non-A.A., without written permission from A.A.W.S.

Local A.A. publications are permitted to reprint the Steps, Traditions, and/or the Concepts, and to quote a phrase, sentence or brief paragraph excerpted from A.A. literature such as the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, The A.A. Service Manual and Conference-approved pamphlets without a prior, written request to do so.  When this occurs, the proper credit line should be included to ensure that the copyrights of A.A. literature are protected.  After a quotation from a book or pamphlet, the credit line should read: Reprinted from (name of publication, page number), with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.

What about trademarks and logos?  A.A. World Services have registered a number of trademarks and logos including A.A., Alcoholics Anonymous and The Big Book. The guidelines for using them are based partly on legal considerations and partly on the nature of A.A.

Use of these marks on goods or services that do not emanate from A.A. and have not been approved by A.A., both infringes upon and dilutes A.A. marks, in legal terms. The resulting harm is that the marks and A.A. itself, since A.A. is what the marks symbolize, will come to be associated with a variety of products and services that are not part of A.A., and are not consistent with A.A.’s purpose. This will cause the marks to lose their meaning and significance as symbols of Alcoholics Anonymous.

What if I’m not sure?  If in doubt, reach out to GSO. We can all play a part in protecting A.A. and while A.A. doesn’t have any rules, as members of a society we do have to obey the law of the land, which includes Copyright Law.

Nga mihi

General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous