LDS Church handbook put online without permission

KSL News, Utah/May 14, 2008

The LDS Church Handbook of Instructions, a confidential manual, has been published on the Worldwide Web. The Church is not happy about the publishing of a book that, among other things, advises Church leaders on how to deal with delicate and sensitive personal and spiritual matters. It's a copyright infringement case that may be much bigger than one book.

The LDS Church has asked that its 'Church Handbook of Instructions', a two-volume guide for church leaders, be removed from the Internet. But the refusal of one Web site to take it off may take the issue into a much broader realm.

Attorney Preston Regehr says, "This case is interesting, not because of the church, it's interesting because it's an unpublished work of authorship that ought to be protected by copyright law."

But it has been published without the permission of the copyright holder. The handbook was originally posted on a document-sharing site called Scribd. Wikileaks, a whistleblower Web site, then picked it up and posted it. Wikimedia wrote an article about the posting with a link to Wikileaks.

The Church wrote a letter to Scribd, which immediately removed the handbook. The Church also filed a copyright infringement claim against Wikimedia, the parent company of Wikinews. Wikinews removed the link to Wikileaks, but maintained the article.

The statement reads, in part, "There is nothing particularly newsworthy in the material. In fact, the Church regularly quotes from the handbook when giving policy positions to journalists. However, the material is copyrighted. In this case, we have simply notified a particular Web site that they have posted copyrighted material illegally and asked them to remove it."

Wikileaks is refusing to remove it. Regehr, an attorney who specializes copyright law, says this could reach far beyond one organization. "That means J.K. Rowling's books can be published on the Internet without her knowledge and permission, and she can't do anything about it. And it means corporations' internal manuals, procedures and handbooks can all be published on the Worldwide Web somewhere, and no one can take them down."

Wikileaks is a self-proclaimed whistleblower Web site that publishes confidential documents without naming its contributors. It is not affiliated with Wikimedia. The aim is to publish material that is not subject to any court. In other words, the sources for the materials from the Web servers come from outside the U.S. That way there is no authority to shut them down.

"That sounds to me like they want to be above any and every law in every jurisdiction. And that sounds to me like lawlessness, and that's a recipe for disaster," Regehr said.

Regehr and others believe this case could set a precedent on how organizations can protect their copyrights on the Worldwide Web, which is worldwide, and not subject to any one country's courts of law.

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