ALL the News about
Mormons, Mormonism
and the LDS Church
Mormon News: All the News about Mormons, Mormonism and the LDS Church
For week ended December 19, 1999 Posted 18 Dec 1999

Most Recent Week
Front Page
Local News
Arts & Entertainment
·New Products
·New Websites
·Mormon Stock Index
Letters to Editor
Continuing Coverage of:
Boston Temple
School Prayer
Julie on MTV
Robert Elmer Kleasen
About Mormon News
News by E-Mail
Weekly Summary
Submitting News
Submitting Press Releases
Volunteer Positions
Bad Link?
Ruling against Tanners could have effect on Internet (Copyright Ruling Targets Web Links)

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Ruling against Tanners could have effect on Internet (Copyright Ruling Targets Web Links)
PC World News (IDG) 13Dec99 N1
By Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service

U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell's injunction against LDS Church critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner could have wide-ranging implications for the Internet, according to observers. They say that the decision could limit the ability of websites to link to other sites, shutting down linking when it is not known if the site is violating someone's copyright.

Judge Campbell's ruling was meant to prevent the Tanners from placing a link on their site telling visitors where they could get electronic copies of the LDS Church's Handbook of Instructions. The electronic copies were being distributed in violation of the copyright law.

The Tanners had posted parts of the book themselves, but agreed to take them down in the because of an earlier restraining order by Judge Campbell. The Church then objected when the Tanners posted information on how to get the Handbook at other websites, claiming that the Tanners were guilty of "contributory infringement" of the church's copyright.

Now Internet Law experts say that the ruling may make website operators more cautious about what links they provide. "This could have some far-reaching, chilling effects if people are worried about liability," says attorney Robert Gorman of the law firm Fulbright &Jaworski, in New York. He says that while the ruling seems reasonable on it face, its impact could be much broader. "On the surface it's not totally out of line, in the sense that the judge has the legal background to say that people who are encouraging unauthorized reproduction of copyright materials are liable to charges of contributory infringement," he says.

But Gorman says that the Internet is a different medium and traditional copyright law may be difficult to apply there. "To restrict access just because there could be something unauthorized in the greater scheme of things will potentially have a much greater chilling effect," Gorman says.

Another expert, Thomas Lipscomb of the Institute for the Digital Future, condemned the ruling, saying that simply providing addresses or links is free speech, not a crime. "If I tell you that you can fly to Taiwan and buy $50,000 worth of pirated software for $1000, and you do it, what am I guilty of?" he asks. He says that "Once the assorted Jurassic Park of conventional publishers starts to try to make money in this area, they're going to enforce their copyrights vigorously."

But traditional publishers have argued that the difficulty in enforcing copyright on the web is keeping them from making material available. They claim that copyright infringement on the Internet is rampant.

Even among LDS websites and e-mail lists the situation sometimes seems out of control, with graphic images regularly taken from the LDS Church's website and scanned from LDS sources. The text of LDS-related articles regularly appear, sometimes without even attribution, in violation of the copyright law.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information