Summary of
Intellectual Reserve v. Utah Lighthouse Ministries
(LDS Copyright Case)

Intellectual Reserve, Inc. v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Inc., Jerald Tanner, Sandra Tanner, et al., U.S. District Court, Utah, Case No. 2:99-CV-808C.

This page was last updated on December 29, 1999.

Nature of the Case.  The Mormon church's intellectual property arm seeks to stop critics of the church from publishing online material from the Church Handbook of Instructions, and to stop these critics from providing information about other web sites which publish the Handbook.

Plaintiff. Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (IRI), is a corporation based in Salt Lake City, Utah, which owns the copyright and other intellectual property assets used by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, Mormon church). The Mormon church is not a party to the suit.

Defendants. Utah Lighthouse Ministries, Inc. (ULM), and its principals, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, operate a web site which publishes criticism of and information about the Mormon church. There are also unnamed "John Doe" defendants.

Amicus Parties. Defense Counsel, Berne Broadbent, informed Tech Law Journal on December 28 that "Electronic Frontier Foundation has indicated they will file an amicus brief. has expressed an interest in an amicus role."

Facts.  The Mormon church printed a work entitled Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1, Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics. This Handbook was not published for public dissemination. Rather, it was prepared solely for use by general and local church officers to administer the affairs of the church. The Plaintiff, IRI, asserts that it is a copyrighted work. The Defendants obtained a copy, and published parts of it in the ULM web site, without reproducing the IRI copyright notice. In addition, other web sites have published material from the Handbook. The ULM web site has provided information about those other web sites, including their URLs.

Issues.  The Complaint alleges two counts: copyright infringement, and removal of copyright management information. Copyright infringement is a very common claim. However, the copyright management information claim is based on a new provision which was enacted into law in October 1998 as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This provision is codified at 17 U.S.C. 1202. It makes removing, altering, or providing false, copyright notices a separate offense.

The Defendants have raised the issue of whether the Handbook is a copyrighted work in their Motion to Dismiss. Defendants have not yet raised the affirmative defense of fair use, but may do so, when they file their answer to the complaint.

However, the most interesting issue in this case is whether, and under what circumstances, contributory infringement can be invoked to prevent a web site from linking to, or provide information about, another web site which is engaged in copyright infringement.

Status. The original complaint was filed on October 13, 1999. No answer has been filed. A preliminary injunction was issued on December 6, 1999. There is a pending Motion to Dismiss by defendants. The trial date has not been set.

Case Chronology with Links to Related Materials.

Plaintiff's Attorneys.

Berne Broadbent, Kirton & McConkie, 1800 Eagle Gate Tower, 60 East South Temple, P.O. Box 45120, Salt Lake City, Utah 84145-0120801-328-3600, .

Defendants' Attorneys.

Brian Barnard, Utah Legal Clinic, 214 East Fifth South St., Salt Lake City, UT, 84111-3204, 801-328-9531, .


Tech Law Journal coverage of other pending cyber-copyright cases.