<== Site of the Week for 2005-04-27 ==>
Utah Lighthouse Ministries
On 4/26/2005, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that FAIR LDS had registered several domain names related to the brand Utah Lighthouse Ministry in an apparent attempt to create market confusion over the names. FAIR LDS now owns utahlighthousemistry.com, utahlighthouseministry.org, SandraTanner.com and GeraldTanner.com. Currently, the parked domains point to popup infested ad page (which is why I chose not to link to the sites). Having could allow FAIR LDS to capture traffic looking for Utah Lighthouse Ministry.
I hate when people play dirty tricks. So, I decided to give the Tanner's official web site www.UTLM.org the coveted site of the day!
This is not the first time the Tanner's web presence landed their ministry in the legal spot light. In 1999, the Tanners were involved in a landmark copyright case about linking to the Mormon Handbook.
If you were wondering, the Tanners are a couple that grew uncomfortable with what they perceived as inconsistencies LDS doctrine. After leaving the LDS church, the Tanners compiled and publish criticisms of the conflicting doctrines.
The process of serious criticism is interesting in that it involves a great deal of detailed citations. Such citations involve pushing the fair use clause of copyright laws to the max.
Organizations that do not like criticism often attempt to use the copyright laws to silent dissent.
The various law suits between the Tanners and LDS apologists include some rather interesting concepts. For example, the plaintiffs argued that browsing a web site violates a copyright because a copy is made in the computer RAM as it is displayed in the computer.
There are also questions about deep linking. Deep linking means linking to a page inside a web presentation as opposed to the web site's main page. Exmormon groups created controversy by linking to pages on LDS sites that detailed the process for leaving the LDS Church. There is an argument that deep linking prevents an organization from controlling the presentation of their material. Providing direct access to the process of removing oneself from the roles of the LDS church does direct financial harm to the organization.
The ongoing Tanner/FAIR LDS skiff has a strange tendency to show up in debates concerned with intellectual property. The laws were designed with businesses in mind; however, the whole question of intellectual property also seems to have a spiritual dimension as people in a free land work to define and defend their different sets of beliefs.
Intellectual property laws don't just affect the flow of commerce. They affect the entire flow of ideas through a society.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has its own problems in defending its brand as the March 1st, 2005 news release titled "Mistakes in the News implies. This collection of articles claim that news reports misuse the brand "Mormon" when describing the polygamist cults in the Utah as Mormon fundamentalists or Mormon polygamist. The basic notion is that the legal political entity controls the brand name, and therefore should be able to control the presentation of the name.
Such efforts, of course, are always problematic for the language because they stifle the discussion of important issues as we get mired in semantics. In Utah you have groups that hold the Book or Mormon as its primary doctrines and that split with the main church in documented schism. Should brand protection go so far as to prevent people from referring to the groups that hold to earlier versions of LDS doctrine as "Mormons"? Utah has something like 40,000 people who have beliefs descending from the Joseph Smith's doctrines living in polygamist sects. There has to be a way to refer to this people in discussions.
Language is always a tricky thing, and history is full of groups trying to control the world through transformations of the language. Society at large walks a tightrope as it tries to give groups within that society enough protection to define their own beliefs without stifling debate. For example, the language needs the ability to refer to all of the groups that hold the Book of Mormon as a primary source. You will find many authorative sources including the Encyclop?dia Britannica use the term to refer to the group of religions. Wikipedia (which tends to lean to political correctness) refers to the issue as "problematic".
Anyway, with the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, we see a clear case of an organization trying to create brand confusion. Yet we also find that this is just one of many feints in a long tradition of groups trying frame debates through the control of language.