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Tanners say LDS suit is settled

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A couple critical of the LDS Church who were sued by the church's legal copyright holder for posting portions of its procedures handbook on their ministry Web site announced Thursday that they have reached a settlement agreement.

But the LDS Church issued a statement late Thursday saying it had not yet signed an agreement. "We are hopeful that a settlement is at hand," the church statement said.

"The church remains firm in its position — as recognized by the federal court — that the Tanners illegally published church copyrighted materials," the statement said. "Any agreement must include a continuation of the injunction against (Utah Lighthouse Ministry) that prohibits unauthorized use of copyrighted materials produced by the church."

Brian Barnard, attorney for Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry, said Friday morning the Tanners signed a settlement offer given to them by the church and thus, "we have a valid, enforceable agreement to settle."

The settlement contains a provision that the couple will not continue to post the 17 pages of the handbook that they had posted on the Internet. Barnard said that should satisfy the church. He doesn't want the prohibition carried out through a court injunction, as the church wants, in order to prevent it from becoming legal precedent.

In a written statement, Sandra Tanner maintained the couple did not violate any copyright law, but said they did not want to spend their resources as a "test case" in Internet law.

Last year, the legal copyright holder of church material, Intellectual Reserve Inc. sued the Tanners, claiming the information in the "Church Handbook of Instruction, Book 1, Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics," is clearly copyrighted and intended only for local church officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a procedural guide.

U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell issued restraining orders that prevented the Tanners from posting the information or the addresses of other Web sites with the information.

The judge then denied the Tanners' request to dismiss the case. They argued that the offending 17 pages came from a 1989 version of the book.

Conditions of Thursday's proposed settlement include several restrictions on the Utah Lighthouse Ministry.

It cannot post any site materials from the 1998 handbook, "or from any earlier or subsequent versions."

It cannot post the addresses of any Web sites of third parties using such materials.

It cannot reproduce, display or distribute, in any medium, materials in whole or in part from the handbook — with one exception. The organization can paraphrase or quote no more than 50 words from a single chapter of the handbook, if it is accompanied by comment.

It must destroy all copies of the handbook, except one, which may be kept as a legal archive copy. In return, ITI's complaint against the Tanners will be dropped and the temporary restraining orders dissolved.

Barnard, the Tanners' attorney, said neither IRI nor the LDS Church received any monetary damages, attorney fees or court costs in relationship to the settlement.

"There is no admission, determination nor agreement that the Tanners did anything wrong," he said.

The Tanners still claim their use of the handbook was protected under the copyright law known as the fair use doctrine.

"We have and will continue to comply with copyright laws," Sandra Tanner added.

"Unlike other churches, the Mormon Church does not make their operating manual readily available to people," she said. "We provided the quotes from the Church Handbook due to the many inquiries we have received from people seeking information on how to terminate their LDS Church membership. People need to be informed that they do not have to be excommunicated, that they can write a letter to their bishop and resign."

E-MAIL: mtitze@desnews.com