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  1. n a bizarre battle between two corporate superpowers, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania has filed a motion for contempt against Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg for failure to produce documents and logs identifying an individual Facebook user. The individual, known as Jose Antonio Gutierres Garcia, maintains a popular pro-Jehovah’s Witness Facebook page, and has shared or posted hundreds of Witness images, videos, and links. The case was initiated on October 12th 2018, when Watch Tower Associate General Counsel Paul Polidoro submitted a DMCA subpoena to the Southern District of New York. On October 16, Judge Cathy Seibel signed the subpoena, directing Facebook to produce the identity of the person behind the Facebook account. However, Facebook failed to yield to the subpoena, which has resulted in an ongoing war over compliance. After multiple attempts by Watch Tower to force Facebook to deliver personally identifying documents and logs, attorney Polidoro wrote a three-page letter to Judge Seibel on January 24th, 2019, requesting a pre-motion conference along with sanctions against Facebook for its “willful disregard” of the court order. Among the demands enumerated in the January letter, Polidoro asked the Judge to penalize the defendant, Facebook, a sufficient daily monetary fine as a punitive measures for non-compliance. The irony of Watch Tower’s attorneys demanding monetary fines for failure to produce documents is not lost on the readers of JW Survey or the public at large. In multiple California child abuse lawsuits filed by the Zalkin Law Firm, Watchtower of New York (the property-holding corporation of Jehovah’s Witnesses) has been sanctioned for its refusal to turn over a database of documents revealing the extent of its child abuse epidemic. In the case of Osbaldo Padron versus Watchtower, the court imposed a $4,000 per day fine on Watchtower for its non-compliance. The fines accrued for more than a year before Watchtower settled the case in a private agreement with the plaintiff. On January 29th 2019, Watch Tower of Pennsylvania futher argued its case by issuing a Memorandum of Law in Support of its Motion for Contempt against Facebook, Inc. This seven page document details its case against Facebook and was filed by the Southern District of New York clerk on February 1st, 2019. Watchtower versus Facebook On page four of the Memorandum, Watchtower attorney and church elder Polidoro writes: “ARGUMENT FACEBOOK SHOULD BE HELD IN CONTEMPT AND ORDERED TO COMPLY WITH THE DMCA SUBPOENA” “This Court can and should hold Facebook in contempt for its failure to fully comply with the properly-issued DMCA Subpoena served by Watch Tower. First, upon receipt of a DMCA Subpoena, 17 U.S.C. § 512(h)(5) directs that service providers “expeditiously disclose to the copyright owner . . . the information required by the subpoena, notwithstanding any other provision of law and regardless of whether the service provider responds to the [infringement] notification.” The complaint escalates in intensity on page 6, declaring: “Facebook’s complete disregard of the judicial process raises the concern that the evidence sought by Watch Tower has been, or will soon be permanently lost. Service providers typically retain user activity logs ontaining the information needed to identify an infringer for a limited period of time. See Polidoro Decl. at ¶ 7. Once that user data is deleted, there isno other means of linking the infringing activity with the person responsible for the infringement. Id. In Digital Sin v. Does 1-176, the court highlighted this concern stating, “expedited discovery is necessary to prevent the requested data from being lost forever as part of routine deletions by the ISPs.” 279 F.R.D. 239, 242 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (granting ex parte motion to take expedited discovery from third-party Internet Service Provider to identify an alleged infringer of a copyrighted motion picture). Facebook’s blatant disregard of this Court’s authority and the judicial process warrants an order of contempt and a requirement to produce the information required by the subpoena immediately or by a deadline to be set by the court. If Facebook again fails to comply with the subpoena, the Court should order that Facebook pay a fine in an amount to be set by the Court for each day that it fails to comply with this Court’s order.” – [bold, italics ours] The January 29th Affadavit included Exhibit B, which identified the principal parties behind Facebook, naming CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Secretary Dave Kling, and CFO David Wehner, along with their place of business address. Watch Tower Exhibit B Filed January 29th 2019 Watch Tower issues over 40 additional subpoenas During the course of research into the Watchtower battle with Facebook over alleged copyright infringement, JW Survey has uncovered dozens of documents and cases filed by Watch Tower’s principle attorneys since 2017, all targeting individuals who have posted photos, publications, or videos on numerous social media and web sites, hosted largely inside the United States. Watch Tower’s chief strategy includes scouring the internet for “infringing” materials, which include, but are not limited to photos, documents, and videos which Watch Tower has produced using an all-volunteer workforce. Once located, Watch Tower’s attorneys determine whether the individual behind the offending account is an “apostate.” If they believe the person might be connected to insider leaks, or if they have posted already-leaked information, Tower attorneys initiate DMCA takedown measures. Watch Tower does not stop at DMCA content removal, however. Their legal team next files a DMCA subpoena to identify the alleged infringer/s in an attempt to obtain all personally identifying information related to the individual who posted on one or more social media or web sites. DMCA Subpoena Cover Page In the Facebook case cited here, Watch Tower’s subpoena includes the following language: “YOU ARE COMMANDED to produce at the time, date, and place set forth below the following documents, and electronically stored information, or objects, and to permit inspection, copying, testing, or sampling of the material:” “All identifying information, including subscriber registration information, the name(s), address(es), telephone number(s), any electronic mail addresses associated with the infringing Facebook account displaying the name, “Jose Antonio Gutierrez Garcia (Gran Muchedumbre)”, and any logs of Internet Protocol addresses including time stamps used to access the subject account or to upload the artwork available at the following URLs :” [URLs provides on subpoena. Bold, italics ours] The language above has been replicated in more than 40 unique cases launched by Watch Tower since 2017, with subpoenas being handed out like candy to a litany of social media and web site providers. The organizations include following: Facebook Reddit Google/YouTube Microsoft One Drive Go Daddy Instagram Sound Cloud Digital Ocean Scribd In the majority of cases, Watch Tower has achieved its legal intentions by bullying social media sites into compliance, forcing them to turn over the personal details of members, who for the most part are ill-equipped to oppose the legal machine of a multi-billion dollar religious corporation. There are however exceptions to the pattern of DMCA takedowns, followed by exposure of the “alleged infringer.” The Facebook case here cited is one of two cases where non-compliance has resulted in an excessive show of legal force by Watchtower. In the Facebook case, it is not clear whether Facebook has intentionally opposed the subpoena issued by Judge Seibel, or if the subpoena was misdirected and overlooked by Facebook. Either way, Watch Tower’s blazing-guns response has made it clear they mean business and will stop at nothing to expose anyone deemed a threat to its religious corporation. Watch Tower’s Legal Department The orchestrated attacks on the “infringers” have become a driving passion for Watch Tower’s legal department, located primarily in its Patterson New York complex. Already laden down with an abundance of child abuse cases and other legal concerns, Watch Tower has allocated its top attorneys to this issue, including their legal Overseer Phillip Brumley, along with Paul Polidoro and Mario Moreno. Polidoro is most noted for his appearance before the Supreme Court of the United States in the 2002 case of Watchtower Bible and Tract Society versus Village of Stratton Ohio, where Watchtower won the right to cavass from door to door without purchasing a permit from state or local authorities. Brumley, like many of the other members of the Jehovah’s Witness legal department, is a congregation elder. His education was paid for by Watch Tower, with the intent of grooming him to oversee Watch Tower’s expanding global legal departments. In a 1991 speech, Brumley discussed the legal wranglings of Watch Tower and stated that apostate Witnesses have never prevailed against the organization in a court of law. Brumley said: “We have never lost a case against apostates. They never won even a motion. And so you see the line that Jehovah has apparently drawn: That the wicked or evil slave will not be able to beat the faithful slave to that degree. Because even though there have been hundreds of these motions and cases brought; not one has prevailed.” phillip brumley, 1991 The cases against apostate infringers has risen swiftly since 2017, when numerous leaked videos and documents surfaced, leaving Watch Tower scratching their heads, wondering how sensitive information was escaping their global network of trusted Witness Elders, Ministerial Servants, Circuit Overseers and Branch Committee members. However, the recent cases do not represent the first time Watch Tower has initiated legal action against a web site. In 2005, the religious organization filed suit against the owner of watchtower.ca, demanding $100,000 (Canadian) and compliance with a detailed list of demands, including the surrender of the domain and all information posted on the site. The legal bullying tactic worked, and the case was settled out of court, with Watch Tower taking control of the domain. More recently, the legal fires have been re-ignited with the appearance of dozens of web sites and social media accounts devoted to creating transparency and exposing the internal practices and documents of the Jehovah’s Witness organization. Most members are largely unaware of the secret Elder’s Manual, Branch Organization guidebook, and the hundreds of Body of Elders’ Letters used to manage the internal affairs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Among the sites attacked by Watch Tower are AvoidJW.org and the site you are reading now, JW Survey. On February 23rd and February 27th 2018, both sites received lengthy, threatening letters from Watch Tower’s legal department demanding that they cease and desist the dissemination of material they consider copyrighted. They do not regard the use of their material on web sites or on video platforms “fair use.” YouTube has been hit the hardest by Watch Tower’s repetitive subpoena warfare, particularly since 2017, when multiple sensitive videos were leaked to the public from numerous sources. Among those videos were the infamous “Pillowgate” info-videos, where two high-ranking Jehovah’s Witness Branch Committee members explained the intricacies of pillow-humping and various masturbation techniques found to be practiced by both male and female members of Watch Tower headquarters. Masturbation is defined by Jehovah’s Witnesses as “self-abuse” and is banned by the religion. Another popular YouTube channel under attack is the Kevin McFree “Dubtown” program, featuring stop-motion Lego videos satirizing the Jehovah’s Witness religion. “Dubtown” episode Forcibly Removed by Watch Tower Watch Tower took exception to this channel in June of 2018, when the show featured a small clip of the upcoming July 2018 JW Broadcasting episode. This Lego video was released before Watch Tower had the opportunity to unveil its own broadcast, propelling the legal department even deeper into the ongoing apostate witch hunt. Court documents in the Kevin McFree case reveal that Watch Tower claims that this satirical video has done “irreparable damage” to their organization. The anonymous owners of Kevin McFree have challenged Jehovah’s Witnesses in court, issuing a motion to quash Watch Tower’s subpoena. This infuriated Watch Tower’s legal department, which has hired the services of Cohen, Liebowitz,and Latman, a large NewYork-based law firm, to continue its quest to identify the person or persons behind these videos. Watch Tower has expressed serious concern over the length of time taken by any of the media organizations to comply with the subpoenas, arguing that service providers will delete user logs after a specific period of time, rendering Watch Tower unable to litigate against anonymous accounts which may have been closed or abandoned by their owners. While Watchtower continues its quest to expose apostates and litigate against the numerous platforms which host content, new sites have emerged which currently have immunity to Watch Tower’s legal threats. It seems that Watch Tower can easily obtain an order from a judge to identify a Facebook or YouTube user, but when the content is hosted outside of the United States, the problem becomes much more complex. Enter Faith Leaks While many countries comply with DMCA takedown requests, there are a number of web hosts in countries not governed by DMCA law, and those demands go largely ignored. One such organization which appears to have worked out the legalities of posting leaked content is the Truth and Transparency Foundation, the creators of MormonLeaks and FaithLeaks. According to the Truth and Transparency Foundation site: “The TTF was founded in November 2017 by two ex-Mormons, Ryan McKnight and Ethan Gregory Dodge. Prior to that, they worked together to launch the website MormonLeaks. Their efforts and success would soon cause them to expand their whistleblowing and transparency efforts to all religions, forming FaithLeaks” Faith Leaks made headlines in 2018 when they published secret documents obtained from an anonymous source, documents which revealed the extent of sexual abuse and the corresponding cover-up inside several Jehovah’s Witness Congregations in the Northeastern United States. The leak came to be known as the Palmer Leaks. Faith Leaks currently hosts thousands of Jehovah’s Witness documents and policy letters, which have been submitted to their organization by anonymous sources. Thus far, Watch Tower has been unable to prevent Faith Leaks from publishing these documents, hosted in unknown locations. What now? The future of Watch Tower’s continued quest to identify the individuals posting and leaking documents and videos is unclear. There is a war between those who wish to exercise transparency and freedom of speech, and the religious organization which believes it is entitled to identify anyone who would publish its works, which are produced by unpaid Jehovah’s Witnesses. For the most part, the leaked documents are presented on platforms in which there is no monetary gain, but Watch Tower approaches the matter as if they are being irreparably harmed. Watchtower Letter to Judge Seibel in the Facebook Case Warnings have been issued to Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses or current Witnesses who leak information – warnings which express the dangers of posting information using accounts which can be subpoenaed and identified. The popular sub-Reddit EXJW posted this warning following a subpoena issued by Watch Tower to identify a user who posted leaked documents. In multiple court documents, Watch Tower claims that it is not seeking draconian sanctions against the subjects it calls “infringers”- but facts indicate otherwise. In the above referenced “Palmer Leaks” case, Watch Tower’s sister corporation, Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, enforced the immediate disfellowshipping of the person accused of stealing, then leaking child abuse documents from more than one congregation. Disfellowshipping is as draconian as it gets.
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