Why the Mormon Church Sued the Tanners

In July, Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministries posted to the web a document published by the Mormon Church. The document, The Church Handbook of Instructions is a limited-distribution book that instructs Mormon leaders on how to handle certain situations which arise within the Church. One of the areas the book discusses is how to handle those Mormons who wish to resign from the Church. The Tanners thought it would be insightful for people to see how the Church deals with this matter.

So the Tanners posted the material. The Mormon Church sued them on the ground of copyright infringement and got a restraining order forcing the Tanners to remove the offending material, which they did. However, they posted the web addresses of other sites throughout the world where the offending material was also posted.

The Mormon Church then attempted to get them to remove the links from their web sites, saying they had participated in "contributory copyright infringement" by posting the links. In other words, they were not posting the material itself,

but merely information about where the material could be found. Amazingly, the Mormon Church got a judge to go along with this thinking. The judge issued a temporary restraining order, requiring the Tanners to remove the links.

The action of the court raises serious questions. The New York Times quoted and Atlanta attorney who specializes in cyberlaw:
"If that decision ultimately holds up, then linking is definitely dead," said Jeffrey R. Kuester, a copyright lawyer who practices cyberspace law at Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley in Atlanta. "If you can't post an address without running into copyright infringement, how can you link?"
"The Web is all about links," Kuester said. "Without linking, there is no Web."

We agree. <