Mormon Church Tries To Censor MormonLeaks Using Copyright, Streisand Effect Takes Over
from the stop-sharing-our-golden-tablets dept
The Mormon Church has been somewhat flip-floppy when it comes to criticism against it. On the one hand, the notoriously tight-knit Church has been admirably tolerant of many attempts to parody it, including public commentary and a certain Broadway show of world renown. On the other hand, it seems the Church tends to draw a line in the sand when it comes to disseminating official church documents, even when this is done by journalists and organizations dedicated to commentary and news. In the past, the Mormon Church has attempted to utilize copyright law to have those documents removed from such sites as Wikimedia and Wikileaks, which of course resulted in the wider viewership of those same documents as news of the threats wove through the media. The Streisand Effect, it seems, offers no quarter of religious institutions.
A decade later, it seems our friends in Utah have not learned this lesson, as the Mormon Church reportedly threatened the MormonLeaks website with legal action over copyright infringement after the site hosted a PowerPoint presentation.
The site, which has generated past headlines by displaying restricted church papers on topics ranging from the salaries of Mormon apostles to rules governing calls home by missionaries, had taken down the presentation after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints threatened legal action March 1. Based on a copyright-violation allegation, it marked the first time that the Utah-based faith had turned to its attorneys to challenge MormonLeaks' revelations in the four months the site has been up. On Tuesday, the site reposted the material, along with a letter sent Monday to Barry Taggart, a representative of the LDS Church's Intellectual Property Office.
In the letter, MormonLeaks' Las Vegas-based attorney Marc Randazza contends the site "obtained this document lawfully and had a right to distribute it in its capacity as a journalistic resource devoted to discussing facts about the LDS Church."
Readers of this site will be familiar with Randazza and his reputation for repudiating bogus takedowns and lame uses of intellectual property in this matter. His involvement does not bode well for the Mormon Church's prospects for the continued bullying of MormonLeaks through the inappropriate application of copyright law. The site is clearly well within the boundaries of Fair Use. And, while Utah's version of an anti-SLAPP law is horribly neutered, limited only to suits involving "the process of government", Randazza's otherwise congenial notice to the Church hints that there will be consequences of it doesn't walk away from all of this.
"At this point, my client is willing to let bygones be bygones," Randazza writes. "If your client is willing to step back from the brink, and to cease efforts to censor this material, my client is willing to refrain from bringing a claim [of abusing copyright law]."
While it should be clear to the Church that the best move now is to walk away, it would have been far better had it never tried this bullying tactic to begin with. After all, the Streisand Effect has now taken over, with news of the dispute resulting in wider publicity for the site and documents that were targeted for removal.