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For week ended January 09, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

"> Tanner Suit May Set Internet Law
Salt Lake Tribune 5Jan00 N1
By Steven Oberbeck: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The LDS Church's copyright infringement lawsuit against critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner has caught the attention of Internet and Free Speech advocates and may set copyright law on the Internet, should it result in a final ruling. The case is receiving a lot of attention from the press covering the Internet. The Tanners have appealed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which would resolve the issue for much of the Intermountain West.

"When this all began I never dreamed it might have such far-reaching impact," said Sandra Tanner. "It is amazing to me this case has been expanded to this degree." The Tanners are alleged to have infringed on the LDS Church's copyright when they posted 17 pages of the Church's Handbook of Instructions, Book 1, in an attempt to tell visitors to their site how to remove their names from LDS Church records.

The Church, through its Intellectual Reserve Inc. subsidiary, which holds its intellectual property, filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement in October. The Tanners then removed the pages to comply with a temporary restraining order, but later posted an e-mail message with the URL (Internet address) of where the entire handbook was available. In response to the Church's complaint, Judge Campbell then ruled that the Tanners must also remove this address because they knew the address linked to material infringing the Church's copyright.

It is this last action that caught the attention of Internet and Free Speech advocates. "It has never been illegal for someone to say 'Go down to Joe's warehouse. He has pirated CDs down there'," said Robin Gross, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "These restrictions represents a huge leap (in the law)." Copyright lawyer Jeffrey Kuester agrees, "The Internet is all about linking [Web sites together]. [This result] is going have a chilling impact on anyone who wants to tell someone else where something can be found on the Web."

These advocates fear that webmasters will stop linking to other pages, fearing that they may be contributing to copyright violations. They also fear that this lawsuit, and another filed against news websites linking to DVD copy protection breaking software sites, will start down the slippery slope to major restrictions on the Internet. "What if I link to a page that links to a page with DVD secrets? Or if I tell you how to find a renegade site through a search engine?" complains ZDNet columnist Kevin Poulsen.

But LDS Church attorney Berne Broadbent argues for a more limited view. He says that the restriction should simply be if the site is known to contain copyright violations.

However, it is also possible that this lawsuit will never resolve the question. Last week the Tanners asked Judge Campbell to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that the material they posted came from a 1989 version of the handbook, which was not covered by the copyright law. They say that the 1989 version was never registered with the copyright office. "Until such time as the 1989 General Handbook is registered with the copyright office, the church can not sue the Tanners for displaying portions of the 1989 work on their Web site," said the Tanners' attorney, Brian Barnard.

Attorneys for Intellectual Reserve disagree, saying that the material was from the newest (1998) edition. While much of the material is the same, the newer edition included additions and editing, which was found in the material that the Tanners posted. "They have not, in fact, just copied from an earlier work," said IRI attorney Berne Broadbent.

But the Tanners' attorney Barnard disagrees. "It is not a changed work. It is simply a rewritten version of the 1989 work," he said.

Judge Campbell took the matter under advisement.

See also:

Tanners ask judge to dismiss copyright infringement suit Deseret News 5Jan00 N1,1249,145016774,00.html By Jim Rayburn: Deseret News staff writer They say 1989 version of church handbook not under protection

What do the Mormon church and the movie ZDNet 29Dec99 N1,3700,2412908,00.html By Kevin Poulsen


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