If Jesus told you to sue for copyright infringement to protect the purity of your religion, would you? At least one person has answered “yes.” If someone stole your “secret” religious text and criticized it on the internet, would you sue them for copyright infringement? Scientologists certainly have. These are not isolated incidents: different religious organizations are bringing claims of copyright infringement. In one sense, there’s nothing extraordinary about these lawsuits—after all, religious organizations are entitled to use the protections of the law just like any other individual or entity. But in another sense, there’s something unique about these lawsuits: the religious organizations’ motivations for suing aren’t typically economic.
My Article, In Search of (Maintaining) The Truth: The Use of Copyright Law by Religious Organizations, explains why and in what context religious organizations sue others who use their religious works. It shows that religious organizations frequently sue for copyright infringement to further their own religious goals, such as preventing negative publicity and squelching dissent or criticism. The Article argues that these motivations (and others explained in the Article) are antithetical to copyright law’s underlying purpose. It also demonstrates that current copyright doctrines stifle, rather than facilitate, religious claims. The conclusion reached from this analysis should not be surprising: religious organizations should not use copyright law to achieve their religious objectives.