Jws, Scientology, and the fight for internet free speech

by Wild_Thing 6 Replies latest jw friends

  • Wild_Thing

    I actually posted this on another thread, but someone suggested it be a separate one.

    I think its interesting to note the similarities of JWs and Scientologists, especially when it comes to their "secret documents" and trying to protect them from being published on the internet by former members. They have tried to sue the pants off countless numbers of people for posting their "copywrited" material on the internet. Just like JWs, it contains things they do not tell their members before they agree to join.

    This is quoted from http://www.religioustolerance.org/scientol3.htm. Apologies if this has already been shared elsewhere.

    A war of sorts raged on the Internet between the church, anti-Scientology individuals and persons dedicated to preserving total freedom of speech on the Internet. Starting in 1994-DEC, the Church has aggressively attempted to defend their copyright on a wide range of confidential Church documents including rituals that they regard as highly secret. This has brought them into conflict with numerous Internet users and service providers who are keen to promote the complete freedom of speech on the Internet, with little or no regard to copyrights held by individuals and organizations.

    The Church has aggressively engaged in a number of lawsuits, including:

    bulletlaw suits against Dennis Erlich, Keith Henson, Arnie Lerma, Grady Ward, and other individuals.
    bulletlaw suits against Netcom, DGSys, Washington Post, FACTnet (an agency supplying information on groups who allegedly use coercive mind control), XS4ALL and 14 other Dutch Internet Service Providers, and "anon.penet.fi" (a Finnish anonymous remailer). 3

    Some interesting conflicts include:

    bulletThe Religious Technology Center (RTC) v. Netcom On-Line Communication Services Inc. (Netcom): RTC was one of the copyright owners of writings by Church of Scientology ™ founder L. Ron Hubbard. Dennis Erlich was a church minister, but left the organization and became a critic of the religion. He posted part of the church's works on the Usenet news group alt.religion.scientology. This was an illegal act, because he had not first obtained permission from the copyright holder. His posting went through a BBS system owned by Thomas Klemsrud where the files were stored for 3 days. The postings were automatically forwarded to the Internet service provider Netcom, where they were stored for 11 days. Netcom's software made postings available to Usenet servers around the world. Netcom personnel do not monitor or censor any postings; all were processed automatically without human intervention.

    The Church asked Erlich to stop the postings; he refused. They then asked Klemesrud to remove the postings and keep Erlich off his BBS. Klemsrud replied by asking the Church to prove that it owned the copyrights for the postings. The Church refused this request as being unreasonable. They then asked Netcom to refuse Erlich access to the Internet. Netcom refused, because the only way for them to accomplish this would be to disconnect hundreds of other BBS users as well. The Church sued Klemesrud and Netcom for copyright infringement.

    The court recognized that even though the BBS and Netcom files were only saved for 11 days or less, that they were still sufficiently "fixed" to constitute copies under the copyright act. But because there was no actual manual intervention by Netcom, the court considered their involvement analogous to the owner of a public-access copy machine who allows customers to duplicate material. The court held that only the original subscriber can be held liable for "direct infringement" of any posting of a copyrighted work to a Usenet group. But if the Church could prove that Netcom was aware of the copyright infringement in time to prevent its distribution, and that they took no action, then Netcom could be considered liable to "contributory infringement."

    bulletThe Fishman Documents: Steven Fishman, a former Scientologist and convicted felon was being sued by the Church over comments that he had made to a reporter for Time Magazine. These comments had formed part of an article "Scientology: The Cult of Greed." which Time magazine had published in 1991. Time had called the Church a "hugely profitable global racket." The Church had sued Time for libel. Time won, and the decision was affirmed on appeal. The magazine spent over 7 million dollars to contest the court action. Fishman had included into the trial record about 65 pages of the Church's Operating Thetan (OT) documents - about 10% of the total writings by Hubbard on this topic. Although most of his writings are public, the OT documents are very carefully protected by the Church. A 1993 court ruling recognized that their scriptures are trade secrets. Access is only permitted to members who are judged to be spiritually and ethically fit to handle the material. Fees totaling tens of thousands of dollars are paid by members to read and study all 8 levels of the documents.

    The 65 pages were put on the WWW by a Webmaster in Amsterdam. On 1995-SEP, Scientology representatives asked the Dutch XS4ALL ("access for all") Internet Service Provider to delete the documents from their customer's page; the provider refused. When the smoke cleared, duplicate sets of documents had appeared at more than 100 other WWW sites. The Church then sued 3 other service providers; this was later increased to a total of 23 separate parties. The Church lost.

    bulletIn 1995-JAN, a Church lawyer approached Usenet administrators, unsuccessfully attempting to have the "alt.religion.scientology" newsgroup removed. She argued that the name of the group included their trademarked name "Scientology".
    bulletIn 1995-FEB, Scientology officials worked through Interpol and the Finnish police to obtain the "True Name" of one user from "anon.penet.fi", an anonymous remailer. In 1996, they asked for two more names. Rather than comply, the owner of the remailer, Julf Helsingius, closed down the facility.
    bulletFrom 1996-MAY-19 to SEP-17, thousands of spam postings from over 20 accounts or pseudonyms have been made to newsgroup "alt.religion.scientology". The postings consist of text taken from the Church's web site. Some newsgroup subscribers blame this on the Church. But there is no indication what individual or group is responsible.
    bulletA series of lawsuits against individuals and service providers came to the attention of the Washington Post. They published a story on the dispute, and quoted a total of 46 words from the secret writings by Hubbard. The Church sued the Post and two of its reporters for copyright infringement.

    Just as the Jehovah's Witnesses have historically engaged in many legal battles to define the limits of religious freedom, the Church of Scientology cases may well play a major role in defining the limits of free speech on the Internet

    Wild Thing
  • jgnat

    Yes, the internet is an important freedom for the Little Guy.


    It's called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, and so far the Little Guy is losing.



  • DanTheMan
    But if the Church could prove that Netcom was aware of the copyright infringement in time to prevent its distribution, and that they took no action, then Netcom could be considered liable to "contributory infringement."

    This is the real can of worms. If the courts start making web hosting companies liable for the content that they host, then the internet party is over. And Scientology lawyers are just the guys to insert a wedge like this that could result in a very slippery slope.

  • sass_my_frass

    Yeah I worry. Kind of puts the rush on.

  • DannyHaszard

    Public opinion and the major media are critical of the 'wacky scientology cult' and as i type this morning they are getting slammed all over cable television news.

    I am just a regular guy and have + 50,000 pages of post,blogs,comment boxes,mirror sites on the WWW been at it for only 3 years make 10 (slow day) 50 (good day) of NEW pages daily.

    Theses links have got to be on hundreds of different servers all over the world.

    HEY! I am just one little guy,living in a cabin in Maine,i live as far out in the wilderness as you can go and still have broadband.-Danny Haszard Bangor Maine

  • ballistic

    There's an irony in the JWs being a group concerned with relgious freedom and freedom of speech, and come onto your land to knock on your door. However, they cannot shut down the internet, which is afterall freedom of speech at it's best.

  • DannyHaszard

    Our Coal Mine Canary www.dannyhaszard.com alt Guardian of free speech Coal Mine Canary Watchtower Jehovah's Witness Whistleblower If the Watchtower is going to go after anybody it would be me,they are cowardly ball-less hacks I am taunting you.......

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