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Intellectual Reserve v. Utah Lighthouse

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Citation Edit

Intellectual Reserve, Inc. v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Inc., 75 F.Supp.2d 1290 (D. Utah 1999) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

The plaintiff, Intellectual Reserve, Inc., is a Salt Lake City, Utah-based corporation that owns the copyrights and has the rights to other intellectual property assets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS Church”). The defendants, Utah Lighthouse Ministries, Inc., operate a website that publishes materials critical of the LDS Church.

The LDS Church had printed a work of text called the "Church Handbook of Instructions" (the “Handbook”). This work had not been published, and had been prepared only for use within the church. The defendants obtained a copy of the work and published parts of it on their website without reproducing the Intellectual Reserve, Inc. copyright notice. The copyrighted text had also been disseminated to other websites that had published the material, to which the defendants' website linked.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Plaintiff claimed that unless a preliminary injunction issued, defendants would directly infringe and contribute to the infringement of its copyright in the Handbook.

Plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction and argued that they had a valid copyright to the Handbook posted on the defendants' website, that they were likely to establish at trial that those who had posted the material on the three websites had infringed the plaintiff's copyright, that anyone who browsed the three websites was infringing the plaintiff's copyright by making a copy of the material, and that the defendants actively encouraged the infringement of the plaintiff's copyright. Plaintiff also argued that they had demonstrated a likelihood of success and that there was a presumption of injury, and the plaintiffs would suffer "immediate and real irreparable harm" if the defendants were "permitted to post the copyrighted material or to knowingly induce, cause or materially contribute to the infringement of plaintiff's copyright by others.”

Defendants did not oppose a preliminary injunction, but argued that the scope of the injunction should be restricted to only prohibit direct infringement of plaintiff's copyright.

The U.S. Copyright Act allows a court to “grant temporary and final injunctions on such terms as it may deem reasonable to prevent or restrain infringement of a copyright.” In determining whether plaintiff was entitled to the injunctive relief, the following factors were considered by the trial court:

(1) substantial likelihood that the movant will eventually prevail on the merits: (2) a showing that the movant will suffer irreparable injury unless the injunction issues; (3) proof that the threatened injury to the movant outweighs whatever damage the proposed injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) a showing that the injunction, if issued, would not be adverse to the public interest.

To prevail on its claim of direct copyright infringement, plaintiff must establish both: (1) that it possesses a valid copyright and (2) that the defendants copied protectable elements of the copyrighted work. The trial court found that the plaintiff owned a valid copyright on the material defendants posted on their website. Plaintiff has provided evidence of a copyright registration certificate and the certificate “constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright.” Defendants did not advance any affirmative defenses to the claim of direct infringement. Therefore, the court found that there is a substantial likelihood that plaintiff will prevail on its claim of direct infringement.

Because this was a copyright infringement case and plaintiff has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, the court stated that there was a presumption of injury. In addition, the court concluded that plaintiff would suffer additional immediate and real irreparable harm if the defendants were permitted to post the copyrighted material or to knowingly induce, cause or materially contribute to the infringement of plaintiff's copyright by others.

Defendants argued that their First Amendment rights would be infringed by a preliminary injunction. However, the court stated that the First Amendment did not give defendants the right to infringe on legally recognized rights under the copyright law. The court also stated that it is in the public's interest to protect the interests of copyright holders.

The trial court granted the preliminary injunction. The defendant was ordered to remove the allegedly infringing material from its website and to refrain from reproducing or distributing verbatim material, which allegedly was a copyright infringement. The court also ordered the defendants to remove from the website any addresses to websites that defendants knew, or had reason to know, contained material alleged to infringe the copyright.

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