As many exJW activists know, the Watch Tower Society is in the midst of acquiring subpoenas to compel Google and other hosting sites to produce contact information for YouTube channel owners, myself included.
See: ‘Watch Tower Subpoenas Prove, By Their Words, That Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Not the “True Religion”‘
I have not yet been served legal papers so I can’t offer a formal response, but would like to address Watch Tower lawyers informally, again:
Change of Venue
If and when I am served with court papers, my first response would be to file for a change of venue.
I assume the courts will grant that motion as it’s not my responsibility to pack a bag, book a flight, pay for a hotel room, etc., to answer a court case. If you want to sue me, you need to come here to
That being said, I would wonder if your claim would be worth those costs to Watch Tower, especially considering this assertion:
“With prayerful consideration, the Governing Body strives to be faithful and discreet with regard to how the organization’s funds are used. (Matt. 24:45) The funds that are received are budgeted and spent accordingly. (Luke 14:28) In Bible times, stewards of dedicated funds followed procedures to make sure that donations were used only for their intended purposes. … Imitating the examples of Ezra and Paul, our organization today follows strict procedures when it comes to handling and spending donated funds.”
– January, 2018, Watchtower study edition, pages 17-21, paragraph 12
I doubt the “intended purposes” of a congregant’s donations to the “worldwide work” include pointless and frivolous court cases that will accomplish nothing and stop nothing.
Loss of Revenue
To pursue a copyright infringement claim, I assume a plaintiff is required to show damages, specifically a loss of revenue. This is to protect commentators who use book quotes, media clips, etc. in their work; to help decide if such quotes are “fair use” versus a copyright violation, courts often take into consideration if there are demonstrable damages or loss of revenue suffered by the copyright holder.
If Watch Tower were to make a claim for loss of revenue, I would immediately file a motion for you to produce the last five years of financial records.
I assume the court would support that motion. A plaintiff cannot say, “This person has cost us some money… and you’re just gonna have to take our word for it.” The burden of proof for loss of revenue is on you and that proof is only found in bank statements, tax returns, and whatever else an attorney might advise me to request.
I have a sneaking suspicion Watch Tower would rather withdraw their complaint than produce financial records, especially if that paperwork reveals the value of your real estate holdings, amounts paid to settle liability lawsuits over the past few years, etc.
Viewers to Your Site
I’ve heard that Watch Tower’s legal claims hinge on the argument that activists posting certain materials pull viewers away from your website. Interesting, as the video in question has been published by mainstream media channels; for example, “Jehovah’s Witnesses official says to destroy records because ‘Satan’s coming after us’“. Why are you not suing them for this supposed copyright violation? I suspect I know the answer to that question; more on that below.
How Am I Competition?
I would also argue that the video I posted on my YouTube channel is not, and never was, available on your website. How can you say people chose my website over yours when they never would have gone to your site for that video in the first place? You can’t sue someone for stealing your business by selling hot dogs outside your coffee shop if you don’t sell hot dogs in the first place.
That argument aside, my next response would be to ask what, specifically, is the issue with pulling viewers from your site? Again, you need to show a tangible damage or loss; courts don’t tend to entertain lawsuits over the number of website views alone.
To Get Your Side of the Story
If your argument is that people need to visit your website for a well-rounded view of your practices, another side of the story, or something along those lines, I will point out that the video I posted had no commentary, no criticisms, and nothing else added to it. Nothing was in that video except your representative giving his presentation to elders. Why would viewers need another side of the story if they were presented with nothing but your side in the first place?
I might also add that even critics are not obligated to point persons to another website. Someone who posts online videos demonstrating how well certain snow blowers work is not obligated to send people to the Husqvarna website, and I can’t imagine Husqvarna suing them for pulling visitors from their website. That’s not how the internet works. That’s not how any of this works. (Great, now I’m going to get sued by Esurance.)
Loss of Revenue, Again
If your argument is that you need people to visit your site so they can donate to the religion, and you might have lost donations because someone went to my site rather than yours, we’re back to having to prove loss of revenue.
If the court allowed you to claim loss of revenue in theoretical terms, I would then make a motion for you to show:
- How many individual visitors you’ve had to your site in the past five years, from English-speaking countries only.
- How many individual donations you received through the site during that time, from those countries alone.
- How much money in total you received in donations through the website during that time, from those countries alone.
We’ll then do the math, keeping mind that the video in question was (if I remember correctly) published for perhaps a month and had only had a few thousand views, if that, before it was removed by YouTube. We’ll also stick to English-speaking countries alone since my channel and the video in question are both in English.
Suppose you’ve gotten, on average, a hundred thousand visitors and ten thousand dollars in donations through your website from English-speaking countries every month during that time; your donations then equal one-tenth your visitors.
Using those numbers, the two thousand or so people who saw the video on my channel within that one month might have cost you, theoretically, two hundred dollars. That’s an amount that belongs in small claims, not circuit court.
My Viewers Are Not Your Donors
After doing that math, I would then note that someone visiting the YouTube channel of a critic of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses was probably not likely to donate to you in the first place, and especially since the majority of people commenting on my channel are critical of the religion themselves.
An argument could also be made that the majority of your website donations are likely from active Jehovah’s Witnesses. You’ve outright instructed active Witnesses to avoid channels like mine:
“It would be unwise to engage in debates with apostates, whether in person, by responding to their blogs, or by any other form of communication.”
– July 15, 2014, Watchtower (simplified), pages 12-16, paragraph 10
That would also reduce the number of donors I supposedly pulled from your website by posting that video.
Whatever your argument, it wouldn’t be difficult to counterargue that anyone who saw that video on my site was not likely to have visited your site in the first place, much less make a donation. Any theoretical loss of revenue just wouldn’t hold up.
Truth = Fewer Donations
I would also emphasize that someone watching that video, of your representative telling elders to destroy notes regarding child sex abuse allegations because it gets them in trouble in court, is probably even less likely to give you a dollar. This might even be your entire argument, that someone hearing your confidential instructions would be less likely to donate or become a member.
That might actually win some type of legal argument in court; if consumers knew that a particular computer tends to explode every time you press the Y button, they’re not likely to buy that computer, so the person posting the video of the exploding Y button cost the company some money. Courts are just nonsensical enough these days to buy that argument; however, before you try it, I need to ask … you would openly admit, in court and on record, that someone would be less likely to join your religion if they knew what went on behind the scenes? The media and I both would have a field day with that admission.
Your Embarrassing Copyright Violations
Speaking of copyright violation, I might note that Watch Tower has a long history of violating copyright in their literature. One clear case is in the book, “You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth.” On page 93 you’ll find this picture:
Which we all know was stolen from this cover of Stern magazine, from August 1961:
So you’re okay with people violating copyright since you’ve done it yourself … right?
That aside, Stern is known for its edgy, adult content, and the woman on that cover, Pascale Petit, starred in several risqué movies in her career. I can only imagine what was inside the pages of that issue.
Consider, too, that an artist copying a picture needs that picture in front of them; they cannot duplicate an image that detailed from memory. This issue of Stern and the Live Forever book were both released long before today’s smartphones, so your artist was not browsing the magazine section of a local bookstore, saw that cover and thought, “Wow she’s pretty,” and then snapped a picture with his phone. No, he must have possessed a copy of the magazine itself.
This issue of Stern came out in 1961. The Live Forever book was originally published in 1982. So … someone in the art department at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses had a twenty-year stash of adult magazines in his room? He was so comfortable with his collection that he brazenly copied the cover of one for a picture inside your Live Forever book?
Watchtower violated someone else’s copyright to use the image of a semi-softcore porn star inside the pages of one of its books?
I don’t know if that argument will hold any legal weight but I will repeat, as often as possible, in open court until the judge tells me to stop, that someone at Watchtower headquarters used the image of a borderline-softcore porn star inside one of the religion’s most popular study books, one used by families and even children.
Maybe the exJW community can start a betting pool to see how often I say that in court, on record. (Put me down for eleven.)
You’ve Given Me Permission to Share
As I’ve brought out in the column linked above, the June 1, 1997, Watchtower made the bold claim:
“Their book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom correctly notes: ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses are in no sense a secret society. Their Bible-based beliefs are fully explained in publications that are available to anyone.’ … True religion in no way practices secretiveness. Worshipers of the true God have been instructed not to hide their identity or to obscure their purpose as Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
If you don’t “practice secretiveness,” then it’s assumed that you’ve given anyone and everyone permission to share videos, letters, handbooks, etc. You make the claim that you don’t want to keep things secret or obscure your purpose as Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I will argue in court that you’ve given this tacit yet public approval to share anything and everything that explains your purpose in full. Visit that column above for more on that argument.
If You Win
I’m sure I don’t have a snowball’s chance in Florida of winning an actual courtcase with all this amateurish rhetoric, but we both know that you’re not out to sue me for monetary damages anyway. We exJWs don’t have a dime to our names to begin with; my only asset as of this writing is a 2003 Mazda with a serious oil leak. Take it, it’s yours.
Besides, if it was money you wanted, you’d be pursuing those mainstream media outlets for their supposed copyright violations.
No, I have a sneaking suspicion that Watch Tower is trying to build some type of legal foundation in an attempt to get YouTube channels removed altogether. It’s not the supposed copyright violation that bothers you; it’s we activists.
Good. That just tells me we’re accomplishing our purpose. If our work didn’t make a difference, you wouldn’t be chasing after all these subpoenas in the first place.
Getting My YouTube Taken Down
While YouTube does delete channels on occasion, it’s not common. YouTube makes money by selling ad space for videos; the more channels they delete, the less money they earn. However, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend you get my YouTube channel taken down.
Before you gloat, take a step back and consider two points; number one, I don’t rely on the few dollars I make from my YouTube channel for anything, much less is it my living. The threat of having my YouTube channel deleted is nothing more than an imposition, not motivation to stop activism.
Number two, look at what’s on my channel; of all the videos I’ve produced (not mirrored from other channels or sources) all but maybe two or three of them are just me reading blogs on this website. I don’t have interviews, videos of me traveling to other locations, documentaries, etc.
Just me, reading.
It would be a pain in the arse but it wouldn’t be impossible to recreate all my videos from scratch. Set aside a few Saturdays, slap some goop on the face, read my blogs all over again or do a voiceover with graphics or whatever, and *presto* I have fresh content for another YouTube channel.
There are also many other video hosting sites I could use beyond YouTube, including Instagram, Vimeo, Daily Motion, MetaCafe, TikTok, RuTube, Vevo, Twitch, and whatever else pops up over the years. I could even simply embed the videos here on this website and bypass other sites altogether. I don’t know how to do that or use any of those other sites but I’ll sure as hell figure it all out.
Are You Trying to Scare Me?
I also assume you’re just trying to intimidate activists into silence with fancy legal papers and threats of lawsuits and whatever else.
I can’t speak for others but as far as I’m concerned, paper doesn’t scare me. Men in suits don’t scare me. A judge telling me to compensate you those two hundred bucks doesn’t scare me. I’m already estranged from my family so threats of exposure don’t scare me. I live and drive in Florida; I’ve gone numb to fear, basically.
Other than getting into bizarre yoga poses and not being able to get out, the only thing in this world that does scare me is the amount of anger I have toward your policies and everyone who supports them at the expense of women and children especially. You’ve accomplished nothing with this but pull me away from the brink of retirement as an activist, not to mention make me think seriously about how to expand my audience in case my YouTube does get pulled.
In conclusion, I don’t know what you want or what you think you’re going to get but rest assured, none of this has taken me off-guard. I’ve been contemplating and expecting your legal confrontation for years now.
I would almost welcome an audience in open court to talk about the porn star in your Live Forever book and your outright lie that you don’t “practice secretiveness” while demanding secretiveness for your videos. I would also love to chat in court about the instructions in the video in question, to destroy notes regarding child sex abuse in your religion because winning court cases is more important than exposing pedophiles and protecting children.
I would also love all the free publicity to my site and, most importantly, my message.
See you in