Mormons The Latest To Make Their Secret Documents More Popular By Trying To Take Them Down

from the is-streisand-a-mormon? dept

A couple months ago, in discussing The Streisand Effect with a reporter, the reporter asked if I thought lawyers would one day be accused of malpractice for not informing their clients of the potential implications of demanding some content be pulled off the internet. While I doubt it will reach the point of malpractice, it certainly does make you wonder what some lawyers are thinking when there are such clear examples of what happens when you try to suppress material online. Earlier this year, the lawsuit that brought plenty of new attention to the concept of The Streisand Effect was when a Swiss bank, Julius Baer, convinced a judge to shut down the site Wikileaks for hosting some documents related to a lawsuit Julius Baer was involved in. Of course, not surprisingly, the attempt to shut down Wikileaks got those documents much more attention (and did the same for Wikileaks as well). Eventually, the judge reversed the order and Julius Baer dropped the lawsuit. But the end result showed how badly the strategy backfired on Julius Baer. Before it demanded the documents be taken down, almost no one saw the documents or even knew that the bank was involved in a case that accused of it laundering money. Afterwards, a lot more people knew about the lawsuit and had seen the documents -- and they were still online.

That situation got so much publicity, you would think that anyone would think twice about going down the same path. No such luck. Last month, Scientology threatened Wikileaks for hosting Scientology documents, and this morning (as a whole bunch of folks have sent in) news is coming out that the Mormon Church is threatening Wikileaks as well, for hosting church documents. In this case, the Mormon Church isn't just going after Wikileaks, but also threatened the WikiMedia foundation and document hosting site Scribd. It went after WikiMedia because WikiNews ran an article about the document and linked to them (which is hardly copyright infringement). Scribd was apparently hosting a copy of the documents as well (since taken down). Wikileaks, however, true to its charter, is refusing to take down the documents.

While you can understand why the Church might not like it's documents being made public, it does seem ridiculous that whoever decided to start threatening everyone didn't do the most basic research to recognize what would happen as soon as they threatened sites. Given what happened with Julius Baer, it should have been abundantly clear that threatening Wikileaks would almost guarantee that the documents were both more widely seen than before and copied widely across the internet.

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  1. identicon
    CommonSense, 15 May 2008 @ 8:57pm

    Re:

    The contents of the handbook are not "secret". Why all this sensationalization of something that is not? Because something is copyrighted does not make it a secret. Libraries are filled with copyrighted works, they are not secrets. Try posting on the internet a full copy of a book such as Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and the copyright owner will come after you to take down the unauthorized copies. This is not a secrecy issues, it is protecting one's copyrighted material.

    The handbook contains administrative directions to the lay leaders of the church. Virtually all members will serve as lay leaders. Go to the public website http://lds.org and search for any of the topics of interest in the handbook and you will find even more information about that topic on that website. They are not secrets.

    It is a sound administrative practice to limit the distribution of administrative operating procedures to those performing the tasks. When administrative procedures change, the old handbooks are turned in and new ones issued so that people will follow the current procedures, not old ones. This practice is followed by businesses across the world and is required by standards such as ISO 9000. It is not a matter of secrecy.

    A copyright also prevents the material from being used in an unauthorized manner such as using it in another work and selling it. If the copyright owner does not enforce the copyright when it is known to be violated, the copyright can later be determined to no longer be valid.

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