LDS CHURCH SUES MINISTRY
How We Got the Handbook - Our Web Site - David and Goliath - The Temporary Restraining Order - Contributory Infringement - Motion to Dismiss - Court Makes Photos of Chapter 10 - Final Settlement - Letter from a LDS Member - Extracts from Letters and Email
At approximately eleven in the morning, October 13, 1999, Sandra Tanner was working in the Utah Lighthouse Ministry Bookstore when she was surprised to encounter two well-dressed men who turned out to be representatives of the Mormon Church's law firm. They served legal papers on Utah Lighthouse Ministry and the Tanners, ordering us to immediately remove some material that was posted on our Ministry's web site [www.utlm.org]. The material in question was limited portions of the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1 (1998). This handbook is the updated version of the instruction manual given to local bishops in the Mormon Church. Various editions have been published over the last 100 years. This manual contains, among other topics, instructions on excommunication and discipline procedures against erring members.
As a non-profit organization concerned with providing clear and accurate information to people desiring to terminate their LDS membership, we posted portions of the Handbook on our web site. These legal papers, served by Intellectual Reserve Inc., demanded that we immediately remove any material from the Church Handbook of Instructions from our web site and post their statement regarding the matter by 2 p.m. of the same day. Intellectual Reserve, with offices in the 28 story LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, is the legal entity that holds the church's copyrights.
While we did not think that we had violated their copyright, by 1:00 p.m. we had removed the material and posted their letter to us, in the hope that it would avert a costly lawsuit. This did not satisfy the LDS Church. Later the same day they filed their copyright lawsuit against the Ministry in the U.S. District Court for District of Utah, Central Division, Case No. 2:99-CV-0808C. They made NO effort to discuss or negotiate the matter with our attorney or us prior to filing.
The Mormon Church is very careful to restrict access to the Handbook. It is given to bishops, stake presidents, and various church leaders. When someone leaves their position they are to give the manual to the next officer. When a new edition is printed the old edition is to be destroyed.
In the latter part of June, 1999, when Sandra went to get the mail out of the mailbox at the front of the store she found a computer disk with no explanation as to its origin. Later, she received a telephone call from an anonymous man. He asked her if she had received the disk he had left. When he was informed that we hadn't looked at it for fear that it might contain a computer virus he informed us that it contained the LDS Church Handbook.
After checking the disk for any viruses it was concluded that it was safe to examine the contents. Just as the man had said, it contained the 1998 Church Handbook of Instructions! Prior to this we had acquired earlier editions of the Handbook, but we did not have the 1998 edition.
Later we discovered that there were a large number of people involved in disseminating copies of the Handbook. The Mormon Church was desperately trying to stop this underground movement among its own people but found it almost impossible to detect who had copies of the files. Moreover, many people were distributing email copies to their friends. These copies could be instantly sent on the Internet throughout the world.
On July 15, 1999, we posted on Utah Lighthouse's web site [www.utlm.org] a page called "How to Remove Your Name from the LDS Records." Included with this entry was most of chapter 10 from the Church Handbook of Instructions, along with a few quotes from two other chapters. This was done strictly as a public service to answer the many questions we receive on this issue. There was no charge for this information.
While copyright laws are somewhat complicated we felt that what we had posted from the Handbook was within the guidelines of fair use. On page 54 of the book, A Copyright Guide for Authors, Robert E. Lee wrote the following regarding fair use:
Since we (1) are a non-profit organization, offering the material free as a public service, (2) the Handbook is a factual procedural manual, (3) only 17+ pages of the 160+ page book were posted on our site, and (4) the LDS Church does not sell the book, many people felt that we were within our rights. Clearly the LDS Church was not hurt financially by our posting of those few pages.
The Church is also maintaining that the Handbook is an unpublished work. Yet the copyright notice on the front does not identify it as such. To the contrary, the title page states that it is published by the LDS Church. Further, the work is distributed to over 55,000 people, who have been given the authority to copy portions and to give permission to others to copy portions as needed.
While Utah Lighthouse Ministry has only five full-time employees and a limited budget, the Mormon Church has vast resources. For example, the book Mormon America: The Power and the Promise has a whole chapter on LDS finances and wealth. The authors report:
Further on, the Ostlings observe: "If the LDS Church were a U.S. corporation, by revenues it would rank number 243 on the Fortune 500 list." (Mormon America, p. 124)
From the information given above it is obvious that the Mormon Church has nearly unlimited resources to use in their legal battles while we have very limited assets.
In 1998 Utah Lighthouse Ministry received $207,936 from book sales and gifts. In 1999 this Ministry took in $252,893 from gifts and book purchases. The increase was mainly due to gifts for the lawsuit.
Many people who have heard of the lawsuit feel the church's real agenda was to shut down the Ministry.
Over the past forty years we have printed critical books regarding Mormonism, discussing many historical and doctrinal problems. We have also reprinted sensitive documents that the Mormon leaders were trying to keep from their own people. The current lawsuit seemed to be their hope to end our publishing career.
Many LDS have misunderstood the lawsuit and assumed it related to supposed lies in our material. One Mormon wrote:
Ironically, we were sued for printing the truth, not lies. The lawsuit was not for printing "anti-Mormon" literature but for printing official LDS material not readily available to its members.
What the Church has failed to tell its members is that we were not the first ones to post portions of the Church Handbook of Instructions on the Internet. In fact, we have evidence indicating that the entire Handbook had been posted on the Internet by another individual as early as June of 1999.
On June 16, 1999, someone posted the following on an Internet Newsgroup: "It seems someone has scanned the CHI and posted it." The man who gave the information referred to himself as Tom. (CHI is an abbreviation for Church Handbook of Instructions.)
The important thing about this matter is that it proves someone else was responsible for the initial posting of the Handbook. In fact, the Ministry posting of the 17+ pages did not even take place until July 15, 1999. This would be about a month after Tom first reported that someone else had posted the entire Handbook of Instructions on the web.
Another posting from the newsgroup contained the following:
One posting we saw said the following:
Interestingly, David Gerard, who maintains a web site in Australia, seemed to have no fear about posting the Church Handbook on the web. Eventually however, the church confronted him. Gerard wrote the following about this matter:
Gerard later posted an interesting item regarding his encounter with the LDS Church's lawyers:
The reader will notice that Intellectual Reserve did not file a lawsuit against David Gerard! In fact, Gerard even admitted publicly that he had four different versions of the Handbook: the Handbook uncompressed, the Handbook compressed for Unix, the Handbook compressed for Windows, and a WinZip-compressed version of the Folio Infobase version of the Handbook. One would wonder why Intellectual Reserve behaved in the way that it did. Why sue us and yet permit a vast number of other people to continue to spread the Handbook around the world?
Intellectual Reserve obviously wanted to smear our reputation in every way possible. Their arguments presented to the court went so far as to charge that we were responsible for putting the entire Church Handbook of Instruction on the Internet. This slanderous charge is totally false. We had nothing to do with any posting of material, other than what appeared on our web site, from the Handbook nor did we encourage people to do so.
The University of Utah paper reported on the LDS lawsuit:
The initial Temporary Restraining Order [TRO] issued on October 18, 1999, only required that the material from the LDS Church Handbook be kept off our web site until the case was resolved.
On Saturday, October 30, 1999 the Salt Lake Tribune ran an article on the lawsuit and listed the Internet addresses of sites that contained the Handbook. We were certainly not expecting this startling development. Prior to this, Church leaders apparently hoped to contain the spread of the Handbook. As it turned out, however, thousands of people downloaded the Handbook due to the information provided by the Tribune.
The next Tuesday, Nov. 2, 1999, we posted on our web site various emails we had received concerning the lawsuit. Two of these emails contained URL's, or web addresses, purporting to contain all or part of the Handbook. Note, these were never posted on our site as LINKS, they were simply web addresses.
However, on November 3, 1999 IRI complained to the court that we were somehow violating the TRO by listing the web addresses. After the November 10th hearing the judge expanded the TRO to include a restriction against posting web addresses containing material from the Handbook.
On December 6, 1999, the judge disregarded our arguments against the Temporary Restraining Order and issued a Preliminary Injunction, which greatly expanded the issues and charged us with Contributory Infringement. The Injunction was to stay in effect until the lawsuit was resolved.
The judge reasoned in the Preliminary Injunction that when a person merely went to one of the sites containing the Handbook they made an illegal copy, as the text would have been temporarily copied in their computer's RAM (memory). By our posting web addresses where such a person might be able to find the entire Handbook we were contributing to their copyright infringement.
Carl S. Kaplan of the New York Times, wrote:
The article went on to examine the judge's ruling:
The article also interviewed Jessica Litman, a law professor at Wayne State University:
CNN.com also became interested in the trial. On December 14, 1999, Steven L. Lawson wrote the following:
On Saturday, January 29, 2000 the LDS Church owned Deseret News incorrectly reported that we had "added links" to sites containing the Handbook to our web site:
As noted earlier, we only posted an email letter (along with other emails we received about the case) containing the addresses of sites purporting to contain material from the Handbook. These were never "links." Interestingly enough, the Salt Lake Tribune had listed other sites containing the Handbook three days before the Ministry posted the email containing the same information. The Internet site for the New York Times article on Dec. 10, 1999, not only provided the Internet address where the Handbook could be found but also provided an actual link to the site. (Since that site has moved the link no longer works.)
Since the LDS Church had already stated to reporters that they would not sue the Salt Lake Tribune for printing and posting the URL's (addresses) of web sites containing the Handbook, they obviously were not as concerned about web addresses being contributory infringement as they were intent on damaging Utah Lighthouse Ministry and the Tanners. Also, we were informed that the entire Handbook continued to be offered at various sites on the Internet. This was all being done by other parties. We had no connection or control over any such actions.
As far as we are aware, the LDS Church, as of January 20, 2001, has NOT filed lawsuits against any of the people so involved.
Judge Tena Campbell had to admit that there was no conclusive evidence that we were involved in the current posting of the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions on the Internet. She wrote the following in the Preliminary Injunction:
Unfortunately for us, however, Judge Tena Campbell felt we were possibly contributing to copyright infringement by helping others go to such web sites. Because of the judge's extreme ruling in the Preliminary Injunction, we found it necessary to file an appeal with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. This was done on December 24, 1999.
The Salt Lake Tribune printed the following:
At the beginning of January we filed a motion to dismiss the case with Judge Campbell. Our position was that the LDS Church had not filed a proper copyright on the Handbook and thus the case should be dismissed. In our January 2, 2000 News Release we stated:
The judge disregarded our arguments on the validity of the copyright filings, and refused our motion for dismissal.
Interestingly, the Federal Court records of our case contain multiple copies of the disputed pages from the Church Handbook of Instructions from both the 1989 and the 1998 editions.
Since the LDS Church was claiming "irreparable harm" from our posting of the 17+ pages of their Handbook on the Internet, one would think that the church would have requested the judge to seal the exhibits in the case. This, however, was not done. On October 23, 1999, a man wrote to Judge Campbell, telling her that he was able to go to the Federal Court House at 4th South and Main, in Salt Lake City, and simply purchase the offending pages of the Handbook from the court filing. Several other people have informed us that they also purchased copies at the courthouse.
It is ironic that the LDS Church's lawsuit to suppress access to the Handbook actually resulted in placing chapter 10 in a public government record where anyone can purchase a copy.
With the failure of our Motion to Dismiss we were back to the issue of our appeal on the Preliminary Injunction. The Federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals requires the parties involved in a lawsuit to work with a court mediator to see if a solution can be reached before setting a court date. We entered into negotiations with the 10th Circuit Court Mediator and the LDS lawyers in February of 2000 and finally reached an agreement on November 30, 2000.
The Salt Lake City Weekly reported:
One suspects that the LDS Church realized that with the upcoming 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City it was a bad time to be getting negative publicity and agreed to settle the lawsuit to get it out of the news. Otherwise, the appeal on the Preliminary Injunction would have probably been going on in the court at the same time as the 2002 Olympics, generating unwanted attention to the LDS Church's secret Handbook and disciplinary procedures.
In agreeing to settle the lawsuit we did not pay any money to the LDS Church nor did we admit to any wrong doing. We simply agreed not to quote more than 50 words from any one chapter of the Handbook in any one article. We also agreed to destroy all versions of the Handbook in our possession. While we believe this was an unreasonable demand from the Church, we agreed to destroy all the copies we had. Since various libraries have multiple versions of the Handbook available, it was not critical that we retain copies.
The LDS Church agreed to our demand that the Preliminary Injunction be dissolved so that it would not affect future Internet cases.
Another point of irony is that the Church's lawsuit increased public curiosity about the Handbook, which led to many people downloading copies from the Internet. Also the international attention given the lawsuit helped quadruple the number of people coming to our web site.
While the lawsuit is over, many questions still remain:
We received this from a member of the Church who works in the Information Technology field.
I am writing to say that I read about your story in the Salt Lake Tribune and I commend you on your efforts to make the Mormon Question accessible to as many people as you can. I am a Catholic and am 22 years of age. I have often dealt with Mormons as just another Christian denomination until I really started to look into the heart of their religion and their various beliefs. I have come to realize that the lie they are perpetuating is grand and centered on disinformation. I never knew that there is a website where you can get so much information to challenge the self-riteous all-knowing Mormons who point to their religion as the one true religion. They almost always point to the Book of Mormon as the alpha and omega of their doctrines and beliefs, while knowing full well that it is only a small portion of what they believe. I want to thank you and once again commend you on your efforts to curb this Great Lie and make information more accessible to the public who get bogged down by Momon rhetoric. (Oct. 1999)
Thank you for having such a wonderful and informative web site - I came across it after reading the article in the on line version of the SLC Tribune. Many years ago I asked to have my name removed from the "records" and it took two years of harrassment, wanting me to go to bishops court, etc before I finally got a letter of excommunication. I had done nothing wrong but felt so terribly guilty. Finally their actions are being brought to light by your work. (Oct. 1999)
Hi: I'm a 30 yr. old mother of two and a Christian. I saw you on the news last night and I applaud your efforts. I'm not surprised that the LDS church won this round. (In this state nothing surprises me). We are from the east coast and knew nothing about Mormonism when we moved here. We have been bombarded with people trying to convert us. I read your website last night and it cleared up a lot of questions I've had. The blessing that has come out of this lawsuit is the publicity and the people who will now visit your website (like I did). Keep up the good work. (Oct. 1999)
I left the church because of your book... I was a very active convert to the church. I was sealed in the temple and my children were born under the covenant. I started having doubts if the church was true. They became stronger. About that time a friend gave me Mormonisn Shadow of Reality. I read the first 100 pages and knew the church was never the true church but had been something Joseph Smith dreamed up. There were just too many inconsistencies for me. Thank you for writing the book and helping me out of the church by showing me the things that were altered and misleading to me as a member of the church.
Thank you for the help to find the truth. (Oct. 1999)
your newsletters helped me get free from my doubts about leaving the church! i would have defended the church to the death a year ago. i was so involved in the lies...i defended the lies when i was confronted! now i have the truth and i am soooo glad you have made all of this history available. (Nov. 1999)
I feel so very sorry for both of you and for those who have been duped by you. To deny truth and flaunt it. As so many who have gone before, your reward will come. (Nov. 1999)
I'm very sorry for you. I don't understand where all hate comes from? I will pray for you and your salvation. Thank you for strengthing my testimony. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints IS TRUE. (Nov. 1999)
I just read about the Injunction proceeding in the LA Times. .... My gut thought says that copyright law is to protect commercial uses of writings, not privacy of gangs. As an ex-Mormon who was shown the light by your ministry I cannot imagine anything that you would publish that would not be fair use and protected free speech. (Nov. 1999)
Your work has assisted our exodus from a life of valiant service to the religion we no longer are members of and to freedom in our Lord & Savior. I just wanted to take a moment to thank you once again and to wish the work to continue & flourish in the upcoming New Year in bringing more mormons to the true light of Christ. (Dec. 1999)
Lets see, the LDS Church obtained main street for their own use, sues the Tanners. What is next "Blood Atonement," for anyone who gets in their way? It did not surprise me that an Utah Judge ruled against the Tanners concerning the LDS Handbook. The Tanners had to go to the "Tenth District Federal Court," to receive justice over publishing the Clayton Diaries. (Dec. 1999)
Thank you! My wife has already begun to compose the letter [to withdraw from the LDS Church]...she's going to explain her reasons in detail!
This is a big step for her...she's not yet real comfortable sharing her "new" faith in Christ. Feels quite unsure as of yet about her convictions because she was so confident when she was a Mormon and then found out Mormonism is false...so she's moving slowly! Thanks for the help and we'll be praying for you! (Dec. 1999)
I just wanted to say that what you have done in the way of allowing an ignorant father like myself to gather the facts and present them to a son that was still willing to be reasonable and analytical has saved him from the mormon baloney and returned his feet to the path of Christ. Thank you, thank you, a million thanks. (Feb. 2000)
...I would like you to know that I have turned from the Lds religion recently and have turned to the true Jesus Christ who saves. Been reading your site for quite sometime. May you continue in your ministry to the lost ones held prisoner by the lds. Thank you. (July 2000)
We left mormonism on Dec. l991... We left morminism because of John L. Smith and your great book Mormonism-Shadow or Reality. That book really opened my eyes. I ordered it from UMI. When I found out the lies we were told by the [LDS Church] I wept, was angry and I grieved. If I had known the truth we would have never become Mormons. We were really ignorant of the truth when we became Mormons... I ... had been a Baptist all of my life and so had my husband. ...Our daughters husbands both served on a mission ... It was really hard for the one son inlaw who left when he found out the truth. Our daughter told me she had been to your place and talked to you. Our other daughter, her husband and her little family are still very much Mormons. When we left both daughters were upset with us. A miracle happened to one ...Our son also left. Two out of three is great, ....We returned to our Christian Faith on the Lord's Day December 29, l991. We are Free, in The True Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and not Mormonism Jesus the Christ. (Oct. 2000)
I want to let you know that your ministry has helped many of my wife's and I friends who needed help in leaving the LDS church. You will be happy to know that your site alone has turned at least 9 couples that were in our ward to the true Christ and gave them strength to leave the church from all its pressures. (Nov. 2000)
...We have been married in the temple and were active members for over 10 years. After re-examining Mormonism, we decided to leave the church and pursue a spiritual life in a Christian church.... (Dec. 2000)
What do you have against the LDS Church? Isn't it every ones right to believe what they want? What makes you the supreme authority on TRUTH? Why have you made it your personal mission to tear down the LDS Church? Do you really think or believe you are being of service to God? (Nov. 2000)
I stopped by your bookstore last month just prior to closing and Sandra was there, politely waiting while I picked up a hardbound copy of your classic "Mormonism, Shadow or Reality?" (The other paperback copy I loaned out and never got it back) and other selections. The research in this book gave me the empetis to have my name removed from the LDS church in 1999.
While there, I filled my arms with one each of the free "Salt Lake City Messenger" bulletins, not aware of this publication. I have spent the last month reading them and it has reinforced my belief that Mormonism and the BOM is a creation of the 19th century. I too, like Jerald and Sandra, had a hard time letting go of the Book of Mormon, but after reading the bulletins, the doubt has vanished. Your issues #80 and #81 were excellent. ...Since my wife and children still attend the LDS faith, it has been hard for me to break way and attend another Christian service, so I spend my Sundays studying your documentation. I know my children will come to me some day desiring the truth, and I have been preparing myself to teach them. (Nov. 2000)
...[I was e]xcommunicated from the L.D.S. church in 1996 on charges of heresy....I have total empathy with my family and others. After all, I was like them for most of my life, though the seeds of doubt were planted in my brain (and later my heart) when I was a deacon. Now I am a pariah of sorts with those I love best, including the missionaries and members over whom I presided in Argentina (Buenos Aires North and Buenos Aires South, ...) and in Chile (president of Missionary Training Center in Santiago, ..., with missionaries primarily from Chile, Bolivia and Peru). ...I retired from BYU [some years ago]....With sincere congratulations for your important work,... (Dec. 2000)
My husband and I were in Utah just a short while back and we spoke of the Mormon influence and what it would be like to be a Christian in that area. I have, since that trip, been introduced to at least six Mormon families. I am currently communicating with a Mormon friend via email. Your site [www.utlm.org] has been very informative and encouraging. (Dec. 2000)
It is so amazing that people such as yourselves have nothing better to do than to dig for dirt and to find fault with Christ's church. I certainly think your faith is in yourself and that a loving Heavenly Father knows your works of darkness and it will turn back on you when you least expect it. Bitter Bitter people that you are. Go and sin no more. (Jan. 2001)
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