Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wikimedia Foundation receives copyright infringement claim from Mormon Church

There are more legal wranglings about online copies of the Church Handbook of Instruction, which continues to make its way onto  websites despite the church's efforts to remove copies from the internet. currently has published two PDF copies of the handbook.  The source of those copies was from ''  However it reports that has been "censored" with the text no longer available.

Wikinews has also removed a link
to the wikileaks page after threats from the church's legal department.

"The Wikimedia Foundation has received a copyright infringement claim from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon Church or LDS Church. The infringement claim is in reference to a URL used as a source in a Wikinews article about Mormon Church documents leaked to the website Wikileaks, titled "Copy of handbook for leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints obtained by Wikinews". The URL was originally cited as a link in the sources subsection of the article. The Wikimedia Foundation is a donor-supported non-profit organization which runs Wikipedia and Wikinews. This is the first time that the Wikimedia Foundation has received a copyright infringement claim regarding an article published by Wikinews."

"The Wikinews article, originally published on April 19, described material in the Church Handbook of Instructions. The work is a two-volume book of policies and is a guide for leaders of the Mormon Church. Wikinews obtained the Church Handbook of Instructions from Wikileaks, a whistleblower website which publishes anonymous submissions of sensitive documents while preserving the anonymity of its contributors. Wikileaks describes the material as significant because "...the book is strictly confidential among the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka LDS in short form) bishops and stake presidents and it reveals the procedure of handling confidential matters related to tithing payment, excommunication, baptism and doctrine teaching (indoctrination).""

The article goes on  discussing the church's successful efforts to have a published portion of the handbook removed from anti-Mormon activists Gerald and Sandra Tanner's website.

The LA Times asks "why is LDS making an attention-drawing stink about its publication?" and notes that the church has apparently joined ranks with the Church of Scientology's paranoia about the publication of some of it's documents.

Others have been contacted about removing the handbook from their sites.  Some have successfully resisted such efforts including a Netherlands site has included the text of the handbook after some time.  Zenon Panoussis is listed as the contact for the site -- who has caused the Church of Scientology some grief by publishing their documents resulting in a protracted legal battle.  He  reasons that he will keep the Church Handbook of Instruction available because "the religious and other practices of any church are a public matter; they are everybody's business and everybody has the right to know and debate them. This is not only the natural consequence of the respect that religion enjoys in our Western democracies, but also a pre-requisite to it."

One has to wonder if the negative press outweighs the benefit of keeping the document secret.  I doubt the church will be able to successfully remove all copies, which can be found without much effort through google.

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