Wikimedia Foundation receives copyright infringement claim from Mormon Church
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
|This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.|
The Wikimedia Foundation has received a copyright infringement claim from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon Church or LDS Church. The infringement claim is in reference to a URL used as a source in a Wikinews article about Mormon Church documents leaked to the website Wikileaks, titled "Copy of handbook for leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints obtained by Wikinews". The URL was originally cited as a link in the sources subsection of the article. The Wikimedia Foundation is a donor-supported non-profit organization which runs Wikipedia and Wikinews. This is the first time that the Wikimedia Foundation has received a copyright infringement claim regarding an article published by Wikinews.
The Wikinews article, originally published on April 19, described material in the Church Handbook of Instructions. The work is a two-volume book of policies and is a guide for leaders of the Mormon Church. Wikinews obtained the Church Handbook of Instructions from Wikileaks, a whistleblower website which publishes anonymous submissions of sensitive documents while preserving the anonymity of its contributors. Wikileaks describes the material as significant because "...the book is strictly confidential among the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka LDS in short form) bishops and stake presidents and it reveals the procedure of handling confidential matters related to tithing payment, excommunication, baptism and doctrine teaching (indoctrination)."
The material was released on the Wikileaks website on April 16, and according to the site was first made available on the document sharing website Scribd. A message at Scribd now states: "This content was removed at the request of copyright agent B. S. Broadbent of the Intellectual Property Division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
On May 5, the Wikimedia Foundation received a copyright infringement claim from Intellectual Reserve, Inc., the legal entity that owns the intellectual property of the Mormon Church. The infringement claim is addressed to Jimmy Wales, the designated agent of the Wikimedia Foundation, and requests that access to the link to Wikileaks be removed. The link was removed from the article on May 5 by a Wikinews administrator, and the article remains available without the link. The infringement claim was sent by Berne S. Broadbent, president of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and director of the Intellectual Property Division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Mike Godwin, general counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation, the Mormon Church has not filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice with the foundation.
In 1999, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, prominent critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released material from the Church Handbook of Instructions to the Internet through their organization Utah Lighthouse Ministry, without including the copyright notice of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. or obtaining permission from the church. The website of the Utah Lighthouse Ministry describes as its purpose: "...to document problems with the claims of Mormonism and compare LDS doctrines with Christianity." The Tanners had received a copy of the 1998 edition of Church Handbook of Instructions from an anonymous sender in October 1999. They published 17 pages of the 160-page handbook on the Utah Lighthouse Ministry website.
The church sent the Tanners a letter threatening a copyright infringement lawsuit if the material was not removed, and the Tanners removed the material from their site the same day, and posted the church's letter to their website. The website still contained links to other locations that had the material, and an article in the Salt Lake Tribune listed addresses of these links. The church sued the Tanners through its company Intellectual Reserve, in the 1999 case Intellectual Reserve v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry.
The plaintiffs filed their complaint on October 13, 1999, and the United States district court issued a preliminary injunction on December 6, 1999 barring posting of the material by the defendants as well as posting links to other websites which contain the material. The New York Times and other news publications called the injunction a "chilling effect". In November 2002, the church dropped the lawsuit against Utah Lighthouse Ministry, on condition that the Tanners destroy all copies of the Church Handbook of Instructions, and not include more than 50 words at a time from the handbook in any of their future articles.
|WikiLeaks will not remove the handbooks, which are of substantial interest to current and former mormons. WikiLeaks will remain a place were people from around the world can safely reveal the truth.|
Wikileaks has received copyright infringement claims from organizations including the Church of Scientology's Religious Technology Center and the Swiss Bank Julius Baer, and the Chinese government attempts to censor every website with the word "wikileaks" in the web page address. Bank Julius Baer sued Wikileaks after sending cease and desist letters in January 2008 which cited the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As a result of the lawsuit, the bank obtained an injunction preventing the site's domain name registrar from associating with Wikileaks, but this injunction was lifted in March 2008 and Bank Julius Baer dropped the case.
As of May 13 Wikileaks had not taken down the material on the Church Handbook of Instructions, and a second webpage at the site with a different version of the material was also still available. In a statement to Wikinews, a Wikileaks representative commented on the material hosted at the site: "WikiLeaks will not remove the handbooks, which are of substantial interest to current and former Mormons. WikiLeaks will remain a place where people from around the world can safely reveal the truth."
- "Copy of handbook for leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints obtained by Wikinews" — Wikinews, April 19, 2008
- "Church of Scientology warns Wikileaks over documents" — Wikinews, April 7, 2008
- "Huge interest takes Wikileaks offline" — Wikinews, March 29, 2008
- "Church of Scientology's 'Operating Thetan' documents leaked online" — Wikinews, March 26, 2008
- "Wikileaks spokesperson discusses recent court case with Wikinews" — Wikinews, March 3, 2008
- "Representative for ACLU tells Wikinews their opinion on lifting of Wikileaks court injunction" — Wikinews, March 3, 2008
- "Wikileaks.org restored as injunction is lifted" — Wikinews, March 1, 2008
- "Wikileaks claims ‘abuse of process’ in court case that resulted in wikileaks.org being taken offline" — Wikinews, February 29, 2008
- "Rights groups: Forcing Wikileaks.org offline raises 'serious First Amendment concerns'" — Wikinews, February 28, 2008
- "'Wikileaks.org' taken offline in many areas after fire, court injunction" — Wikinews, February 18, 2008
- Mike Godwin (reply post to [Wikinews-l] mailing list). "DMCA from the Mormons" — , May 13, 2008
- "Official Website of Utah Lighthouse Ministry" — , retrieved May 13, 2008
- "The document "LDS Church Handbook of Instructions" has been removed from Scribd" — , retrieved May 13, 2008
- Andrea Moore Emmett. "The Notorious Tanners: Longtime Mormon critics look back as they contemplate retirement" — , March 27, 2003
- "Summary of Intellectual Reserve v. Utah Lighthouse Ministries (LDS Copyright Case)" — , December 29, 1999