MormonLeaks founders pay $15,000 to settle copyright suit with the Jehovah’s Witnesses

(Todd Berkey | The Tribune-Democrat via AP) The 2017 Don't Give Up!, a three-day convention of Jehovah's Witnesses arrived at Johnstown, Pa., Cambria County War Memorial Arena, Friday, June 2, 2017.

The Truth and Transparency Foundation — the nonprofit group behind the controversial MormonLeaks website — has settled a copyright infringement lawsuit with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The settlement comes after the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the publisher for the religious group, sued the nonprofit, alleging it violated copyright when it published Jehovah’s Witnesses’ educational videos on its FaithLeaks website.

The lawsuit alleged that the Truth and Transparency Foundation, run by Ryan McKnight and Ethan Dodge, published 74 copyright videos on its website. A post detailing the leak described the videos as content shown exclusively during annual conventions. Those who attempted to distribute or upload the videos were met with threats of a lawsuit if they didn’t take the videos down, the post says, which has included the Truth and Transparency Foundation in the past.

The nonprofit had said it intended to fight the lawsuit, asserting the release of the videos is covered under a constitutional right to free speech. But after fundraising efforts came up short, the group settled the lawsuit instead.

“The result is absolutely agonizing and has been emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing on us, as it goes against our core values,” the nonprofit said in a statement. “... To be clear, Truth & Transparency maintains that we did not violate any of Watch Tower’s copyright, however, without the funds to make our arguments in court, we had no choice but to settle.”

As part of the settlement, McKnight and Dodge agreed to remove all documents owned by Watch Tower from all of their websites. They agreed to never again publish Watch Tower’s copyright material and will pay $15,000 in damages.