A publishing unit of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) will continue a copyright lawsuit against an evangelical ministry that counters Mormon teaching and history. The publishing unit won a decision January 27 against a move to dismiss the action, which claimed that Utah Lighthouse Ministry (UTLM), an evangelical outreach, infringed its copyrights.In December, a federal judge in Salt Lake City ruled that Utah Lighthouse Ministry could not post the addresses of other Internet locations containing text from the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1, Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics. That document is published by Intellectual Reserve Inc. (IRI), a unit of the LDS that holds copyrights to publications and the LDS church's own Web site.Such an injunction could have a chilling effect on the interconnected nature of the World Wide Web. A majority of Web sites offer such addresses, usually as "hot links" a user can click to jump directly to a site.UTLM President Sandra Tanner says that "these were never posted on our site as [live] links; they were simply Web addresses."IRI's lawyer says UTLM violated protections the LDS church has under copyright law. "This is a case of copyright infringement; that's all that it's about," says Berne Broadbent, IRI's copyright counsel and an attorney with Kirton and McConkie, a Salt Lake City firm with LDS ties.Sandra and Jerald Tanner are former Mormons long active in evangelical circles.The IRI suit first sought to make the Tanners remove Web site references to how the LDS handles resignations from church membership."This is not a matter of giving people information," Broadbent says. "They knew [the Handbook] was copyrighted; they took an entire chapter and portions of two others and put them verbatim on their Web site."In a news release, an attorney for the Tanners says the material posted on the UTLM Web site was not from the copyrighted 1998 version of the Handbook, but from a 1989 version that had not been protected by IRI or the LDS church. The January 27 court decision, however, said the earlier version was protected and the IRI case will proceed.Sandra Tanner notes that the LDS church has not sued The Salt Lake Tribune—which published the same Web addresses in its news coverage of the case—or other Web sites that post the same copyright material."Any time a Mormon raises a question [about Mormonism], the LDS church can say 'the Tanners are illegal people, they have no standing,' and use this as a means of discrediting us and then being able to easily dismiss us," Sandra Tanner told Christianity Today.Such tactics may backfire, she says. Publicity about the case "has tripled our book orders on the Internet and brought a host of people to the Web site. This has brought us to public attention and a lot of people our way."
See today's related stories on Mormonism, "A Peacemaker in Provo | How one Pentecostal pastor taught his congregation to love Mormons," "The Mormon-Evangelical Divide," and "Mere Mormonism | Journalist Richard Ostling explores LDS culture, theology, and fans of 'crypto-Mormon' C.S. Lewis."The Utah Lighthouse Ministry site offers news about the lawsuit, court transcripts, and links to news stories about the suit. See related coverage in The New York Times, The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, CNN, and Time.
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