EWTN Asserts Total Ownership 
Of Questions Submitted To Their Forum Experts

Beginning sometime in late October of 2001, the Eternal Word Television Network expert forums posted the following copyright notice on their web site (click on the screen capture below to go to the original page):

The above screen capture is © 2001 by Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN)

Now this asserts that if one submits a question to EWTN, you automatically surrender all your intellectual property rights to EWTN, and that you may not republish your question to EWTN, or any posted answer, in printed form or on the internet. Why is that something they would want?, you might ask.

Well, EWTN's forums are frequented by non-Catholics, like myself, who have our own web sites and sometimes pose questions and/or challenges to their Catholic experts, just to see what an expert Catholic response might be on a given point, with the intent to have a public discussion or debate, the results of which would be posted on our web site. Sometimes the answers EWTN experts give, or questions that they can't answer, are quite revealing and worthy of note to both Protestants and Catholics alike. On occasion, EWTN is so embarrassed by their inability to adequately respond to inquiries that they have resorted to deleting entire threads of discussion from their Experts Forum. See the exchange with EWTN at A Challenge To The Scripture Expert At EWTN's Web Forum for an example.

EWTN simply does not have the legal right to prevent others from quoting, commenting on, and criticizing the information presented on their web site. What EWTN is not telling you is that there is a provision in applicable U.S. copyright law known as fair use, which permits use of copyrighted material under certain circumstances, and that use can be without the permission of the copyright holder:

Sec. 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include -

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

So by law, EWTN simply does not have the legal right to totally censor others from quoting their material in other media, subject to the above restrictions of section 107 regarding fair use. Neither is such fair use unethical or immoral. In fact, fair use is a freedom of the press issue that has largely made the United States the bastion of freedom that it is today. Dissent and criticism is a right that U.S. law protects, and it is a right worth exercising and defending.

So the above copyright notice on the EWTN Expert Forum is really a transparent attempt to intimidate others into refraining from airing in public what might be considered EWTN's dirty laundry. In effect, EWTN is attempting to adopt repressive censorship tactics not unlike those used by the Roman Catholic Church in the middle ages to stifle dissenters. Make no mistake, if it were returned to a position of political power, the Roman Catholic Church would again attempt to stamp out all criticism aimed at it. It would again persecute dissenters ruthlessly, as history amply demonstrates.

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