LDS copyright, Internet suit settled

Couple to refrain from using Church Handbook for Instruction on Web site

Standard-Examiner Capitol Bureau/December 1, 2000
By Ralph Wakley

Salt Lake City -- Rather than challenge a Utah court-ordered restriction on Internet users, Mormon critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner have agreed to settle a federal copyright lawsuit filed against them by the LDS Church.

"There's a whole bunch of people who are concerned about this," civil liberties attorney Brian Barnard said Thursday because of a ruling by Utah federal Judge Tena Campbell. But the Tanners just wanted to get on with their lives, he said.

The LDS Church last year filed a copyright infringement suit against the Tanners after they put 17 pages of the Church Handbook for Instruction on their Utah Lighthouse Ministry Web site. The Tanners removed the pages but then put a note on their Web site referring to a Web site in Australia containing the entire 160 page handbook.

Campbell then ruled that posting of another Internet address which may contain copyrighted material, "was contributory copyright infringement," Barnard said. "This would have been a very dangerous precedent because that's how the Internet operates. It's success is all based on links from one Web site to another."

"It would have broad, broad impact on the Internet community," he said.

If a person knew the library had a book that contained copyright infringements and he told a friend about the book, he could be just as guilty as the book's author under Campbell's ruling, Barnard said. Under the settlement, which still must be approved by Campbell, the judge would withdraw her order.

"That opinion which affected the rights of people that use the Internet had to be removed by an appeal or by this agreement," Barnard said.

The settlement requires the Tanners to refrain from using Church Handbook of Instruction information on their Web site or referring to other places where it can be found. Both sides will pay their own legal costs. "I'm happy it's settled, but I'm not happy with the terms," Sandra Tanner said.

And Jerald Tanner said, "We have entered into this settlement only to end unnecessary, prolonged and expensive litigation and not because we did anything wrong."

The 17 pages of information the Tanners placed on their Web site explained how Mormons could terminate their LDS Church memberships. "People need to be informed that they do not have to be excommunicated," Sandra Tanner said.

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