Watchtower purchases CoC copyright for undisclosed amount!
I think the core issue brilliantly uncovered by the OP is that the ethical issues around copyright keeping are relative not absolute.
Here, the dominant ethical norm seems that the Watchtower's copyright is relatively less worthy of protection because they use copyright to do bad things, and the copyright owner's rights are relatively worthy of protection because Ray and Cynthia Franz chose her to carry the copyright forward.
The ethical argument supporting 'bootlegging' is that the copyright owner was ineffectual in making Franz' works available.
One counter argument to that position is that the copyright owner was in fact a highly effective steward of the copyright in self-interest (and the purpose of copyright, the law being so vigorously upheld here, is the self-interest of owners, not consumer's access to material).
The scarcity of authorized copies and moral chatter about the unauthorized copies has generated high levels of interest in an old book and sympathy for the copyright owner is sky high.
On the back of that sympathy, some have even redistributed her general appeal for money, like here: http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/5688224294895616/friends-you-concerned-about-future-ray-franz-books
All this just before a mooted re-release of the book: high publicity in a niche audience, high sympathy, moral labeling of unauthorized distributors.
For me, it's all relative.
Called brilliant twice in one day. I'm blushing.
Here, the dominant ethical norm seems that the Watchtower's copyright is relatively less worthy of protection because they use copyright to do bad things, and the copyright owner's rights are relatively worthy of protection because Ray and Cynthia Franz chose her to carry the copyright forward.That's because there is a clear difference... and one recognised in law too. Let's reframe the substance of the OP to show the problem.
The British PM writes a very, very long letter which calls into question his ability to govern the country. A newspaper gets hold of the letter. Can the British PM expect to be able to exercise his very real and very valid copyright over that letter to prevent publication? If you live in a country where the answer is 'yes', then you should be demanding a change in the law. In Britain, a judge would tell him where to put his complaint about broken copyright. There is no ethical dilemma involved.
That was rude. I deleted it.
Mephis, your proposal addresses both issues - that of harm as well as when "copyright" transforms into "evidence".
The copying and distribution of so-called copyright material becomes moot when it is used as evidence in exposing the harm already done by those copyrighted words.
It is political positioning. In fact, that same copyright establishes that the words of the evidence is "fact". Their true words. So, copyright protection is there not just for the one who holds copyright - it protects the public, too. By establishing that what was said is real/true.
Watchtower would argue that the illegal distribution of their copyrighted work meant only for their BOEs could cause many rank and file members to leave the organization, taking their voluntary contributions to the world wide work with them.
Can you flesh this out a bit?
That's because there is a clear difference... and one recognised in law too.
Yep. The black letter of the law is only one approach courts take. Courts in liberal democracies are usually keen to be more relativist than absolutist.
Hence the PMs letter might not be held back from publication under copyright law in the face of overriding public interest.
GND - only called brilliant twice? Dear, let's make it three times! Brilliant! :-)
Dude they wear wigs when arguing about this stuff.
I once was editor for a rag, only tiny - print run of 2.000, which came across an embarrassing letter about how a public figure was misusing funds. His solicitor sent a very expensive headed letter claiming copyright and seeking damages. Our cheap and cheerful reply was cribbed from Arkell v. Pressdram. It went no further. Seriously though, there are ethical questions about someone making money from another person's copyright (wrong), but the example you give isn't going to be one of them. It's not whether or not the WBTS is likeable or not - they could be cuddly fluffy bunnies - but there'd be a clear public interest defence in preventing them claiming copyright to suppress a work critical of themselves. Much as if a highly critical report which they'd paid for themselves somehow got leaked. Some laws bow to other laws. Because wigs. ;)
@OC - can see where you're coming from, yeah. As far as it goes with the current 'debate' about COC in the real world, not really something I want to play with. Have sympathy for those who make it available outside of what is a clear copyright which should be enforced. Not least because there are those who will not be able to access it otherwise. May salve my conscience by purchasing a couple of copies to 'pay forward' for a couple of others.
Can I flesh it out? Well it was just a stab in the dark. I have no idea why Watchtower is successful in taking down public entries that they claim infringes copyright or their motivations to do so except for the obvious. Negative expose of their copyright material hurts their bottom line. Members. Members donate. Lose members, lose money. How can I flesh it out any more?
British courts consistently find that the 'public interest' defence outweighs any right to private property
That seems like a claim with no basis. Do you have anything to back it up?
Let me guess, mass trespass / right-to-roam ... what else ya got?
Your example of a news expose doesn't cut it IMO as copyright is a pointless claim in such a case (and would be covered under "fair use" clauses). You can't put the genie of a revealed secret back in the bottle but that is different to the detailed instruction on how to create a genie.