Back in March, US-based author John Van Stry filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Travis McCrea, the operator of eBook platform eBook.bike.
The direction of the case has been somewhat disorganized but rests on Van Stry’s basic claims that his books appeared on eBook.bike without his permission and weren’t taken down, resulting in breaches of copyright law.
McCrea, on the other hand, says that the DMCA notices he received from the author were deficient, meaning he has no case to answer. In August, a motion for default judgment filed by Van Stry was set aside, as was a motion to dismiss filed by McCrea. At that time, a trial date was provisionally set for June 2020.
This week, McCrea – who is defending himself – filed his answer to the 54-page complaint filed by Van Stry in March. In many respects it covers old ground, such as restating McCrea’s defense under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA and reiterating the claim that Van Stry’s notices were deficient and thus contributed to any problems he may have faced.
Even more fundamentally, McCrea’s answer states that no evidence has been presented to the Court to back up Van Stry’s claim that eBook.bike ever advertised, imported, or distributed any copyrighted material. On that basis, McCrea denies all the claims to the contrary.
“No files have been submitted for evidence, nothing that proves that infringement actually happened at all, nothing that even shows the files were in fact on the servers,” he writes.
A significant portion of Van Stry’s original complaint focused on McCrea’s character and alleged previous conduct, describing him as having a “proud history of pervasive, blatant, and egregious violations of other persons’ intellectual property rights” as a key figure in the Pirate Party movement.
The complaint adds that McCrea was president/reverend of the Kopimist Church of Idaho – a spin-off from the pro-file-sharing Church of Kopimism which was recognized as a religion in Sweden back in 2012.
“‘Reverend’ McCrea is on record as having said that ‘giving away other people’s intellectual property’ is his ‘religious vocation’,” the complaint noted.
In his answer, McCrea says that none of these things should be taken as evidence that he breaks the law.
“[T]he Plaintiff shows that the Defendant is active politically but does not show a link between the political action and the Defendant’s desire to engage in illegal activities,” McCrea writes.
“The Defense accepts that the Defendant has both religious and political beliefs that deal with the concept of intellectual property laws. However, the 1st Amendment of the constitution protects the Defense for having political and religious beliefs.
“It is no more appropriate to allow the belief in Kopimism and the Pirate Party to be evidence for actually infringing in copyright as it would be to assume Baptists and/or a Republican are going to bomb an abortion clinic.”
Further underlining that someone’s religious beliefs don’t necessarily lead to them following every ‘rule’ to the letter, McCrea states that Leviticus 21:17-24 “essentially” tells follows to “shun ugly people” but Catholic Priests don’t do that. Jacob 2:24-30, he continues, references “plural marriage” but Mormons largely reject that because it’s illegal.
“You can believe in something without practicing it. The defense denies wrongdoing and will make a subsequent motion to have religious references struck from the case,” he adds.
But even with that said, McCrea cites religion as at least part of his defense. Noting that Van Stry has provided no proof of infringement and that in any event eBook.bike is protected under the DMCA, he accuses the author of introducing conjecture of a nature that potentially violates his human rights and ability to practice religion without persecution.
“An argument will be made that in a worst case scenario where the Defendant had failed to adequately address the copyright infringement per the DMCA it was only acting in a way to balance their religious beliefs against the societal laws that also bound them,” the answer reads.
“When a religion is acting without harm to those around them, leeway must be given to allow them to exercise their right to free expression as per the First Amendment.”
In closing, McCrea calls for Van Stry to “take nothing” and judgment to be awarded in his favor, including recovering all costs related to the lawsuit from the author and any additional relief the Court deems appropriate.
McCrea’s answer can be obtained here (pdf)