On Tuesday June 18th, 2013, Ergun Caner and his lawyer David C. Gibbs III filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against bloggers Jason Smathers and Jonathan Autry. Smathers and Autry both posted 2005 training videos that Smathers obtained in 2010 from the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act - videos of Ergun Caner training Marines on the dangers of Islam in which Caner told fib after fib to our troops.
Part of the complaint filed Tuesday by Caner reads:
"This video [Caner speaking to the Marines] is solely the recorded and live footage of Dr. Caner delivering a presentation as a part of a series that Dr. Caner entitled 'Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Islam'. Upon an invitation from the United States Marine Corp, Dr. Caner delivered this presentation as a part of a training series on the religion of Islam and was compensated as an independent contractor".So we now move to the next stage of the Ergun Caner scandal. This move by Caner is nothing short of bizarre. He is putting his entire career on the line and the odds are not good. Let's face it, Caner has made his way back from the embarrassing revelations of 2010 that led to him leaving Liberty University. Caner now has a job that he tells everyone that he loves - working and training young people at Arlington Baptist College - and by his own admission he now has a full 2014 speaking schedule including summer camps with numerous youth groups. His debacle is behind him, and he has recovered - in large part because most people in the churches where he speaks do not know about what he did from 2001 to 2010 during what I call his "decade of deceit".
But now, 3 years later, Caner decides to exert what he thinks are his copyright privileges of a video tape containing multiple lies to our troops as they prepared to go to war. If Smathers and Autry decide to fight - this is only going to draw more media attention to Caner and his deceitful talks, and more people will find out what he has done. It won't be good for his business.
I predict this will not end well for Ergun Caner. It really is very sad. As I wrote back in my 2010 article "A Coherent Defense of Ergun Caner", my hope was that Caner would do the right thing, come clean, apologize, make restitution and move on with his ministry. But as I found in my battles in 2008 to 2010 - when you're dealing with professional religious men and their minions who are more interested in protecting their turf and their revenue and their status in a religious heirarchy than they are advancing the faith they profess, they will make wrong decision after wrong decision after wrong decision.
And this lawsuit is just the latest - and largest - wrong decision in the decade long series of bad decisions by Ergun Caner.
A few observations and questions now that I've read the Caner and Gibbs complaint:
- Even if the court finds that Caner does own the copyright to this video and not the U.S. government, the question remains: what possible commercial value would there be to a training video full of lies and deceit? Certainly Caner can't claim that he was ever going to benefit financially from this video, and the Internet distribution by Smathers and Autry thwarted this benefit. Surely the defense would be during discovery for Smathers and Autry to show the video was so packed full of deception that it had no commercial value at all, and therefore their Internet postings could not possibly impact the commercial value of Caner's work. Furthermore, the timing of the release of the videos, and the context of the blog articles in which they appeared shows the videos were posted for a nonprofit, educational purpose. Seems like an easy case to make that their use of Caner's work falls under the "fair use" provisions of copyright law. But that is just my untrained legal view.
- Caner now admits in his filing that he "was invited" by the United States Marines to speak. I thought that maybe Caner spoke pro bono, maybe the "training" was just some informal talks he did as a courtesy to the officer that introduced him in the officers' club videos. Nope, apparently the Marines sought Caner out because they believed him to be someone credible based on their belief that he was raised in Turkey as an enemy of America, as both Caner and the officer that introduced him told the audience.
- Caner admits in his filing that he was compensated for these videos as an independent contractor. Now we know for sure there was a financial payment made to him for this training. As a U.S. taxpayer, I'm outraged. Our tax dollars paid Caner to come and speak to our troops preparing for battle based on a false pretense that he was born in Turkey, trained as a terrorist in the protocols of jihad, and raised to be an enemy of America - all which are not true. I want to know why the U.S. government has not taken legal action against Caner for the potential harm he caused our troops by what in my opinion was a fraud perpetrated against my government. I would also like to know who was responsible for not vetting Caner fully before hiring him to speak to our troops.
Lastly, let me say this: there is a better than 50/50 chance that this action by Caner will greatly escalate the media attention given this embarrassing saga. Caner professes to have devoted his life to the cause of Christ, but his actions are only going to bring shame and embarrassment to the cause of Christ and evangelical Christians everywhere - and rightly so. And Caner won't be the only one to blame: it will be those in his circles who refused to hold him accountable, and those who continued to pay him to speak at their churches and youth functions.
I'll conclude by saying that while Caner might be able to get rid of most of the embarrassing video and audio put up by bloggers, Caner surely won't be able to get rid of the video below. It is a 2011 news report by Brett Shipp of WFAA in Dallas that documents not only the Marine training lies but the entire Ergun Caner "mystique and legend" as Shipp calls it. And more media scrutiny is sure to come as a result of this lawsuit, and the ensuing legal discovery process.
And bloggers like myself will be here to write about it.