Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc. v Truth and Transparency Foundation
On April 30, 2020, in the United States District Court Southern District of New York ,civil action was authorised by the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses against the Truth and Transparency Foundation and its founders over allegations of breaches of copyright laws.
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ACCORDING TO THE COMPLAINT
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, by its attorneys, Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, P.C., for its Complaint against Defendants The Truth and Transparency Foundation, Ryan C. McKnight, and Ethan G. Dodge alleges:
1.This is a civil action for copyright infringement in violation of the Copyright Act,17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. This litigation seeks relief against the ongoing wholesale infringement of Plaintiff’s registered copyrights in 74 original motion pictures. Defendants, without authorization or permission from Plaintiff, have made unauthorized copies of Plaintiff’s motion pictures, and are reproducing, publicly displaying, publicly performing and distributing Plaintiff’s works online. Plaintiff, accordingly, seeks injunctive relief and statutory damages for willful copyright infringement.
12. Watch Tower over decades has created and published thousands of original works of authorship, including literary works, works of visual art, musical works, and motion pictures, and has secured over 3,300 federal copyright registrations for its original works. Under the Copyright Act, Watch Tower has the exclusive rights, among other things, to “reproduce the copyrighted work[s],” to “distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work[s] to the public,” and in the case of its “motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work[s] publicly,” as well as to authorize or license others to engage in such activities. 17 U.S.C. § 106.
13. In mid-2018, Watch Tower learned that 487 of its copyrighted literary works were being reproduced, displayed and distributed without license or permission by Defendants on the faithleaks.org website.
14. On December 31, 2018, Watch Tower’s counsel notified Defendants that their unauthorized publication of Watch Tower’s literary works on the faithleaks site was in violation of Watch Tower’s exclusive rights under the Copyright Act, and demanded that such infringing materials be removed from the faithleaks site.
15. Defendants, through counsel, declined Watch Tower’s demand that its literary works be removed from the faithleaks site. Defendants did not contest Watch Tower’s ownership of valid copyrights, or its prima facie case of infringement of those copyrights, but instead asserted “the defense found in 17 U.S.C. § 107,” claiming that Defendants’ wholesale reproduction and distribution of complete works, unaltered and unaccompanied by new matter, was protected as fair use.
16. In May 2019, Watch Tower learned that a large number of motion pictures created by Watch Tower, including the 74 motion pictures at issue here, had been uploaded to and made available for public performance on Rutube, a Russian online video streaming service located at rutube.ru and available to users worldwide.
17. Watch Tower submitted to Rutube notices of claimed infringement, objecting to the unauthorized posting of its copyrighted works on the Rutube site and demanding their removal. In response, Rutube removed the Watch Tower videos from its site.
18. Shortly thereafter, Defendants posted the Watch Tower videos that had been “taken down” from Rutube to Defendants’ faithleaks.org site.
19. In a May 2019 article titled “2019 Jehovah’s Witness Convention Videos Published Again After Successful Takedown Request,” published on Defendants’ truthandtransparency.org website, Defendants boasted not only about their past infringements and refusals to comply with Watch Tower’s efforts to enforce its copyrights, but also about these new infringements, leaving no doubt as to Defendants’ willfulness.
20. The Watch Tower videos remain available on the faithleaks site to the present day.
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