Watch Tower Society Sues Canadian Site For Posting Religious Text

The Watch Tower Society, used by the Jehovah's Witnesses to promote religious worship, has sued a Canadian website for posting religious works online. The statement of claim (TIFF format) argues both copyright infringement (for the materials posted online) as well as trademark infringement (for the use of the domain

A quick review of the site suggests that the creator is very aware of Canadian copyright law as it features dozens of quotations but only limited full-text.  Moreover, the full-text that does appear on the site seems to be older works that are now in the public domain.  The site provides a full disclaimer and features a copyright notice that the materials are for private study and research purposes.

The Statement of Claim outlines six reasons why the Society believes the content on the site should not be treated as fair dealing.  These include (i) alleged trademark infringement with the domain name; (ii) alleged misleading conduct with use of trademarked terms in the meta-tags; (iii) the reproduction of thousands of pages of materials; (iv) the reproduction of dozens of articles; (v) the absence of restrictions on the use of the site; and (vi) the creation of a search engine to search materials on the site.

It is difficult to speculate whether this case will proceed to trial, but, if it does, it would provide an interesting opportunity to see how the principles articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada with respect to user rights are treated in the online environment.  In breaking down the fair dealing argument, it is difficult to see how the trademark complaints are relevant to the analysis.  Similarly, the absence of restrictions on the site and the availability of a search engine don't provide compelling reasons to lose a user right.  The remaining two issues, which amount to claims of too much copying, will likely be the bigger questions and they turn on a legal analysis of evidence yet to be presented.  A cursory review suggests that much of the content would be viewed as fair dealing since there are a large number of limited length quotations that would benefit from the SCC's liberal interpretation of fair dealing.

One side note: there should be no surprise that a claim was not launched under CIRA' s CDRP since this is clearly not a case of cybersquatting.  Despite claims that the site is being used to embarrass the religion, the CDRP would likely treat this site as a good faith (no pun intended) use of the domain.  


  1. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    Well, the next time they come knocking on my door on a Saturday afternoon, I may just have to invite them in and ask them about the lawsuit.

    Should be an interesting conversation.

  2. DEW in Ottawa says:

    This seems awfully familiar somehow…
    Wasn’t there an IP battle somewhere within the last decade or two involving the Scientologists?

  3. Asinine
    If they want the benefits of copyright law then they should have to pay taxes.

  4. The Informant says:

    even if the search engine produces a secondary copy or portion of the quote, ‘…nevertheless, the search engine is used only to accomplish the result for which it was created…’ ‘…that the materials are for private study and research purposes.’

  5. What about recorded music online?
    What about a scenario where a religious organization posts MP3 or podcasts of the singing that is part of many religious services?

    The copyright act says (in my read) that it’s OK to use music/songs from other artists in live performance (section 32.2.2) but I find nothing about posting the recorded version of same.

    Is that a copyright issue or a seperate royalty issue?

  6. Asinine…believe me, we certainly do pay taxes…check your facts next time! 🙂

  7. Michael
    The authors of the BIBLE never copyrighted their material…oh, that’s right i almost forget, this is about “THE NEW WORLD TRANSLATION”, these new authors have a point about copyright issues.

  8. Watch tower quotes many others in their publications without consent.

  9. Watch Tower Society.
    Here is a quote from Studies in the Scriptures Series 4. Written in 1897 by Paster Russell.Page 613,under heading DISPENSING OF FOOD TO THE HOUSEHOLD.Direct quote in part…………….”we may be sure that whoever the Lord will so use, as a truth-distributing agent, will be very humble and unassuming, as well as very zealous for the Master’s glory; so that he would not think of claiming authorship or ownership of the truth, but would merely dispense it zealously, as his Master,s gift, to his Master’s “servants” and “household.”
    Russell’s words …”as a truth distributing agent,…..would not think of claiming authorship or ownership of the truth, but would merely dispense it…..”

  10. Watch Tower Society
    Peter Mosier could use the quote above.
    If Paster Russell is the tree and the Watch Tower Society is the apple.
    My how far away from the tree the apple has fallen.
    Claiming authorship and ownership of the truth will be treated seriously by the Master.Remember you recieved free give free.Revelation 22:17.says… “And the spirit and the bride keep saying: “Come!” And let anyone hearing say:” Come !” And let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” He did not mention anything about $100,000.You dispensed it as truth are you going to claim money for it now !!! Or are you going to listen to the Master.At John 8:31.”And so Jesus went on to say to the Jews that had believed him:”If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples,” Are you going to sell your soul for $100,000 dollars !!!

  11. The Watchtower magazine on its inside cover says,\”The Watchtower, published by Jehovah\’s Witnesses continuously since 1879,is nonpolitical.\” By stating this in each magazine it would be reasonable for people to want to check ealier copies to read about the spiritual food given out in say 1880,1890,1912,1924 etc.It should all be good spiritual food shouldn\’t it.Closing a site that provides watchtower quotes makes it look like the Watchtower doesn\’t want people to read about ealier magazine articles.If this is so why tell others that the magazine has been printed since 1879, if you dont want any research done into back copies.Peter Mosier\’s site was all about research, allowing people to read quotes without commentary for people to be informed.An informed person can make a better decision, compared to an uninformed person.This princple applies to all walks in life, investment,religion etc. As to copyright on religious viewpoint. Copy the Bibles example, no one can put copyright on God\’s Word. So if you claim to be helped by God,s spirit in understanding the Bible, what gives you the right to put copyright on the understanding that you have been freely given. The Christian rule of you received free give free should apply,shouldn\’t it. Claiming authorship and protecting it with copyright is againt the Christian rule. When people read your magazine quotes do they show God\’s thoughts or man\’s ideas.Let the people read them and let then decide , as you state openly the Watchtower has been continuously printed from 1879.So let the people read them. The Watchtower magazine has not been backward in negatively quoting other religious works. So what is all the fuss about.The quote of Paster Russell above is interesting regarding authorship and ownership. Russell layed the foundation for the Watchtower magazine in 1879 so his thoughts about authorship and ownership should carry weight.

  12. Watchtower Society
    There is a saying that, \\\” history has a way of repeating it,s self.\\\”
    This is true regarding the Watchtower Society also.

    By researching the publications printed over the years this can be seen clearly.
    For example read about the expectations printed regarding 1914. Then the expectations in the year of 1925. Also the expectations of the year 1975…….It is important to read the actual publications in and before these years not comments made after those years.

    All of these dates failed to come true as expected.
    This could be said to be \\\”history repeating it,s self.\\\”

    When peoples lives have been effected adversely by an organization.It is reasonable for them to inform others..This is what freedom of the press is all about….People need to make informed decisions. Closing down a site that quotes your words is like taking one weight off the scales of justice…..The scales will not work, because the weight of reason has been taken away…..Therefore you will not get a balanced decision.

    An organization has to confront it,s history.Or they will keep repeating their history, over and over again…..1914…..1925…..1975…..Even one life be it Peter Mozier or anyone else is important to the Master, as Matthew 18:6….Quotes his words……\\\”But whoever stumbles one of these little ones who put faith in me, it is more beneficial for him to have hung around his neck a millstone such as is turned by an ass and to be sunk in the wide, open sea.\\\”

  13. 1975
    Steven is absolutely right!
    My parents were sincere, active, and “zealous” Jehovah”s Witnesses….due to the Society’s relentless urgings, and “build-up to 1975”, the orchestrated urgency to “save lives”….my parents sold their small, but fully paid for home and entered full time pioneer service. Eight years later, penniless and aging, they (and their family) were forced to “start again”. I personally lost 10 years of my life over this debacle,and believed that the WTS should have offered an open apology over the false and misleading information- but no way! The WTS new cliche to deal with the WTS OWN 1975 mistake was “we are NOT serving for a date”
    This effectively gagged dissent, and everyone was left to “get on with their lives”.
    My mother died a few years later, I believe the unecessary stress and anxiety she suffered due to all this, plus exposure to the cheap building materials contaminated with asbestos used in building a replacement home- contributed to her death. Neither of my parents knew the WTS sad history of false prophetic dates, and remained sincere, but I suspect, severely disallusioned Witnesses to their death bed.
    If the Internet was available back then- they would have been fully informed- before making such a foolish mistake!
    I believe the rule of “reap what you sow” is currently applying to the WTS and I doubt they will ever be able to fool innocents like this again!!!

  14. 1975
    The quotes site informed many people of the Watchtower Societies history.New and old members of this organization have left because the history did not add up. To spiritual food at the right time.The written record is there for all to research and read.

    The food that came out of our mothers kitchens was never contaminated because it was prepared with love and care.

    The quotes show the spiritual food to be ill prepared causing spiritual harm to many.

    The Watchtower Society printed these quotes and distributed them worldwide.Now they must take responsibility for the spiritual harm.

  15. anonymous says:

    re;- quotes site.
    Their is another side to the Watchtower Societies embarrassment argument. Most members are aware of.
    Every so often older publications are suggested to to offered to the public.These sometimes have outdated explanations of scriptural interpretation.

    The fact that the Watchtower Society has suggested these be a monthly public offer, knowing they are outdated explanations. Cries out loud and clear double standards…Why ??? Because if the quotes site caused them embarrassment enough to close it down.Why has the Watchtower Society suggested monthly offers of outdated information.[that also could cause them embarrassment] refer…The Greatest Man book,…and others.

    The ethics in business is to take off the shelf any products that are known to be contaminated. Under no circumstances to be offered to the public.

    These suggestive offers are out of step with public ethics and with Bible standard. As a defective spiritual offering is exceptionable when presented to the public, let alone in public praise to GOD. It contains information that is not spiritual food at the right time. And donations are given by the unsuspecting public.

    This is damaging to the public and weakens the ethics of the organizational member.It makes your embarrassment a sham.