Briefing Re: The Church of Scientology and the Internet

    30 June 2000

The Church of Scientology has a massive multimedia Internet presence with the launch in 1996 one of the largest and most technically advanced web sites on the Internet. Our sites comprise hundreds of thousands of individual pages of material and include virtual tours of our major Churches, pictures, multimedia files as well as text. These sites are also available in most major languages, with new languages being added as fast as the translations can be done.

The Church uses the Internet in its dissemination of the Scientology religion and feels that this is one of the most -- if not the most -- important technological advances in the field of communication.

However, with the popularization of the Internet and its subsequent widespread use, a certain small percentage of Internet users decided that no rules should apply in this new medium. In particular, they decided that their own "free speech" was paramount to any other rights, and that making copies of copyrighted writings by placing them onto a computer and then distributing them electronically at the push of a button

There are a great many writings by L. Ron Hubbard, and his writings became a target of these copyright infringers.

In 1993, a newsgroup was started in the Usenet area of the Internet, under the name alt.religion.scientology ("a.r.s."). The newsgroup was begun under false pretenses by an individual named Scott Goehring. He started this newsgroup using the name of David Miscavige, and his purpose was to create a venue where Scientology could be attacked because he wanted to ensure that his girlfriend did not go back to her former husband, who was a Scientologist.

In mid-1994, copyrighted Scientology materials were posted on this newsgroup for the first time by a former Scientologist. Cease and desist letters were sent to this person and it seemed for awhile that he had decided to stop his infringing postings, as none appeared for a few months. Then, in late December 1994, a series of unpublished, copyrighted works were posted anonymously to a.r.s., and this person infringed these works by re-posting them to the newsgroup. It was following these December postings that the first copyright suit concerning Internet postings of LRH works was filed in February 1995. Thus, the Churches of Scientology found themselves at the forefront of protecting the intellectual property rights of writers, artists and other copyright holders from infringement on the Internet.

Why Does the Church of Scientology Use Intellectual Property Law to Protest its Scriptures?

While Scientologists respect the religious beliefs of others, the Scientology religion includes the core belief and practice that the spiritual destiny -- indeed, the very salvation of every man, woman, and child in the universe -- depends upon the precise application of Scientology religious technology exactly as set forth in Scientology scripture by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the religion.

Intellectual property laws are the secular vehicle to protect the core religious precepts of the Church. When copyrights are violated, so are the First Amendment rights of all Scientologists.

It is not at all uncommon for religious organizations to copyright their texts in order to protect them from alteration and misuse. For example, the Gideon Bible found in almost every hotel room in the United States carries a copyright notice. In the preface to the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, you will find the following:

"Because of unhappy experience with unauthorized publication in the two decades between 1881 and 1901, which tampered with the text of the English Revised Version in the supposed interest of the American public, the American Standard Version was copyrighted, to protect the text from unauthorized changes."

The Church of Scientology has the same motive for copyrighting its own religious works: to safeguard the integrity of its scriptures.

It is also far from unprecedented for religious organizations to go to court to defend the purity of their message and materials. Among religions which have done so are the Methodist Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

As far back as the early 1940s, bishops of the Methodist Church, acting on behalf of themselves and the Church, brought suit against certain former members who had set up a rival Church organization and were claiming the right to the property and to the use of the name of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (the previous name of the Methodist Church prior to a union with two other Methodist Churches).

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the Methodist Church, ruling that:

"The constitutional right of men to worship God does not give them the right in doing so to make use of a name which will enable them to appropriate goodwill which has been built up by a religious society with which they are no longer connected."

And, in a 1986 case involving the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia noted that "Religious works are eligible for protection under general copyright laws, and for decades Science and Health [the central theological text of the Christian Science faith] was unproblematically the beneficiary of that security, as more than thirty editions and translations of the Bible currently are."

How is This Not a Freedom of Speech Issue?

Free speech does not mean free theft. Judges in all our cases have recognized that these suits are not about free speech but about copyright violations. We have already won the first of the suits and obtained injunctions in two others. In one of those, the judge specifically noted that the infringer's free speech rights were not violated by the injunction.

Violators of copyright and trade secret laws traditionally try to hide behind free speech and illegitimate "fair use" claims and United States courts regularly reject such claims in upholding copyrights. The Church is a strong proponent of free speech, knows and cherishes the First Amendment and has defended human rights all over the world. We have been publishing our own investigative magazine, Freedom, since 1968. When in the 1970s, long before anti-apartheid was the vogue, we exposed human rights atrocities committed against blacks in South Africa, our magazine was banned by the then South African government. However, independent investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed what Freedom had reported. In Australia, Scientologists fought for more than a decade to expose atrocious human rights abuses in a psychiatric hospital in Chelmsford near Sydney. Their dogged persistence in the face of psychiatric opposition and official apathy was the decisive factor in eventually bringing about a Royal Commission of Inquiry, as the Australian media recognized. The two-year inquiry uncovered the possibility of 183 patient deaths and recommended a thorough shake-up of mental health care in New South Wales, along with a mental health bill of rights.

Why Does the Church Keep Certain Spriptures Confidential?

The vast majority of Scientology literature is available to be read and studied by anyone. The Church encourages the widest possible dissemination of Scientology publications containing all the Scientology scriptures other than its confidential, unpublished materials, which comprise a small fraction of the scriptures of the religion. In addition, we have donated thousands of copies of Scientology books and materials to public libraries. This has been done to make it possible for individuals with limited financial means to learn and apply Scientology principles to their lives without having to pay anything. Our library donation program has proved extremely successful. In fact, it has been calculated that every 29.5 seconds, somewhere in the world, a person checks out a Scientology book from a library.

There is a small portion of the Scientology scriptures which cover the most advanced levels of religious counseling are restricted to those who have already attained certain specified, earlier levels in their spiritual progression.

The belief and practice of preserving the confidentiality of these scriptures is as fundamental to Scientology as the belief in the Resurrection is to Protestants, as a literal interpretation of the Bible is to Fundamentalist Christianity, as strict adherence to the dietary laws of the Torah is to certain Jewish groups or as the belief in the absolute sanctity of life -- including fetal life -- is to a devout Catholic.

It is a central belief of all Scientologists that people must be properly prepared -- spiritually and ethically -- to receive these materials and that premature exposure would impede the spiritual development of individuals so exposed, an outcome that is inimical to the goal of Scientology -- the achievement of spiritual freedom for everyone living on this planet.

To gain access to these materials, more is expected of a Scientologist than spiritual advancement. Access is not automatic, nor is it dependent solely upon donations. It is by invitation only. That invitation is extended to parishioners who have demonstrated a high level of ethical responsibility as well as completed certain prior steps of spiritual attainment. This is so that people of ill-will with motives antipathetic to Scientology can not use the materials for purposes contrary to the goal of spiritual freedom which proper use of these religious works brings about.

As religious scholars have pointed out, the Church's practice of keeping a segment of its materials confidential has well-established precedents in other religions.

According to Dr. M. Darrol Bryant at the University of Waterloo in Ontario:

"The distinction between 'esoteric knowledge' available only to initiates, and 'exoteric knowledge' available to all, has long been part of the religious life of humankind. The distinction is commonly based on the belief that only those initiated in a particular tradition or having achieved a certain level of spiritual development should have access to the esoteric or higher teachings."

Dr. Lonnie Kliever of Southern Methodist University also finds this distinction in religions and cites in particular ancient Judaism, early Christianity, some forms of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism and Gnostic groups. Dr. Kliever characterizes the Church of Scientology as having "a [] religious duty and legal right" to keep some of its materials confidential.

The late Rev. Dean Kelley of the National Council of Churches in the U.S.A. quotes examples from the Bible to illustrate the principle of keeping advanced spiritual knowledge from adherents who are not yet ready to understand or utilize it. Two biblical quotes which he used are:

"But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh (I Corinthians 3:1-2, Revised Standard Version)."

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God's word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:12-14, Revised Standard Version).

Dr. Bryan Wilson, Reader Emeritus in Sociology at Oxford University in England and one of the world's most distinguished students of religion, points to numerous historical examples of religions which maintain scriptures that are accessible only to selected initiates. He interprets this practice as "a broad educational principle of not exposing to advanced ideas those who have not yet demonstrated their mastery of elementary principles." Dr. Wilson concludes that to introduce advanced Scientology materials prematurely to the Scientology student would be "disruptive of his progress in attaining the enlightened consciousness towards which all his endeavors are directed."

Many other treatises, authored by similarly distinguished experts in religion, portray numerous religions throughout the ages which have maintained confidential scriptures that were revealed only after specific stages of religious learning had been completed.

How Did These Materials Come Into the Hands of Opponents of the Church?

By theft. The Church has never published its advanced religious scriptures or allowed them to leave its custody and copies of any part of them that exist outside the Church were obtained illicitly.

More than a decade ago, a few people conspired to steal and did steal some of the materials as part of a plan to start a competitive church. The Church took immediate action. The stolen materials were seized. The leader of this band of thieves was later arrested in Denmark, where the theft had taken place. He was convicted for the theft and, after serving time in prison, was deported. The same result -- prison -- awaits the other thieves should they ever return to Denmark.

However, before such arrest and prosecution occurred, the thieves had transmitted copies of the stolen materials to a group of apostates in the United States. From time to time, these thieves and their associates have attempted to disseminate these materials, but have been prevented from doing so by the Church. The outcome has included raids, seizures and also judgements affirming that the confidential, unpublished scriptures are protected by copyright and trade secrets laws.

Eventually, this tiny clique of apostates connived to dump a small portion of the materials into a court file and later posted this portion to the Internet. (See also How can it be a copyright and trade secrets violation to publish extracts from documents obtained from a court, as the Washington Post did? and Is the Church's trade secret claim weakened because of its opponents' claim that parts of the confidential, unpublished scriptures had been exposed to the public before?).

Law and justice require that these thieves be enjoined from using or distributing the materials that they have stolen and that these materials be returned to their rightful owner, the Church. These individuals are exactly the kind of people who would not be given access by the Church to these materials because they are spiritually unprepared and ethically unworthy. Religious practices are the exclusive province of the faithful and of ecclesiastical precepts, not of apostates and criminals who declare war on religion.

What Results Have been Obtained in the Internet-Related Copyright Litigation? ?

A short briefing concerning each of the cases brought for copyright infringement of L. Ron Hubbard's works by the exclusive licensees of his copyrights is below. They are listed in the order that they were filed. As can been seen clearly, the results obtained through our efforts benefit all owners of intellectual properties, not just the Scientology churches.

    A. Religious Technology Center and Bridge Publications, Inc. v. Netcom On-Line Communication Services, Inc.
    This was the first Internet-related case brought by any of the licensees concerning copyright infringements. In this case, an ex-Scientologist posted confidential Advanced Technology works and published works on the Internet in August 1994 and then again in December 1994, through a bulletin board service, which accessed the Internet through an access provider, NETCOM On-Line Communication Services, Inc. As a result, when RTC and BPI were unsuccessful in obtaining the infringer's agreement or the assistance of either the bulletin board system or NETCOM to put a stop to the infringements, suit was filed by RTC and BPI against all three in federal court in San Jose, California.

    In ruling in November 1995 on a motion to dismiss the complaint field by the bulletin board system and a motion for summary judgment filed by NETCOM, the Court held that an access provider that knows of infringement through its system and takes no action to stop it may also be held liable. NETCOM later settled with RTC and adopted a protocol, which it posted on its web site, for handling all complaints of copyright infringement.

    The precedent established by the Court's ruling that an access provider can be held liable where it knows of an infringement, but takes no action to stop it, and the protocol that Netcom then adopted in connection with its settlement with RTC led to Congress taking action to incorporate a like provision into federal law. Congress adopted such a provision into the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which was signed into law by the President. It protects copyright owners by requiring that access providers take down infringements on their systems when they are informed of them and establishes the protocol to be used.

    B. Religious Technology Center v. Lerma, Case No. 95-1107-A, Eastern District of Virginia.
    This case was brought by RTC against Arnaldo Lerma after Lerma posted to the Internet a number of the Advanced Technology works, which were attached to a declaration that had been filed in a court file (gratuitously, and for no legitimate reason related to the case), known as the "Fishman Declaration." When Lerma refused to delete his posting or to agree not to post any further copyrighted materials, he was sued. The court granted summary judgment against Lerma, finding that Lerma did infringe upon RTC's copyrighted works and prohibiting Lerma from infringing any of the Advanced Technology works. The court's verbal ruling from the bench came in January 1996, and its decision and injunction in October 1996 and February 1997 respectively. In addition, the court awarded RTC $2,500 in damages and costs.

    The court ruling included significant language recognizing RTC's rights, which we summarize briefly:

    1. The Court found that there was no dispute that RTC holds the copyright interest in the works in question, and that they are copyrightable like other types of writings such as computer programs, poems, and musical scores, which much be used in a precise fashion. The judge ruled that "[d]enying copyright protection to RTC on this basis would rapidly destroy the protection and incentive for the likes of Wagner and Brahms -- an outcome that is most certainly contrary to the goals of copyright law."

    2. The judge soundly rejected his argument that the "unique characteristics" of the Internet require special treatment under copyright law, finding that: "[w]hile the Internet does present a truly revolutionary advance, neither Congress nor the courts have afforded it unique status under the fair use standard of" the Copyright Act, noting that "new technologies -- from television, to video cassette recorders, to digitized transmissions -- have been made to fit within the overall scheme of copyright law and to serve the ends which copyright was intended to promote."

    3. The judge rejected Lerma's contention that the fact that the documents which he posted had been in a court file destroyed their copyright protection as well as his alleged purpose "to unveil for the Internet community the `foibles' of Scientology in the same spirit of the modern news exposé," finding that "Lerma's motives . . . were not neutral and that his postings were not done primarily `for public benefit,'" judging them "in light of the degree of copying and the use to which the infringing material was ultimately put . . ."

    4. The judge also rejected Lerma's argument that the works were "published," finding that "[t]he Works in question clearly have not been `published,'" since "RTC has not released these materials to the public and does not plan to release them." If one posts works without the owner's consent, it "cannot constitute a `first publication' under fair use principles" because the copyright owner has the right to decide both when and whether to publish a work.

    5. Judge Brinkema also found that "[i]n the vast majority of exhibits, 100% of Lerma's document is simply a direct copy of 100% of RTC's copyrighted document." Furthermore, Lerma's argument that the postings "must be considered with in the context of the ongoing dialogue he has conducted on the newsgroup..."

    "...would permit a would-be infringer to participate in blatant theft of copyright yet still escape punishment via the subsequent posting of subsequent commentary -- a commentary that may not always be seen in tandem with the infringing work. Under this argument 'cyberbandits' could easily cover their tracks."

    6. The decision also rejected Lerma's defense of misuse of copyright, finding that RTC had not improperly used its copyrights and that "Lerma's infringement is unmistakable, and RTC's opposition is sound." The court then issued a permanent injunction.

    C. Religious Technology Center v. FACTNet.
    In 1995, RTC filed suit against FACTNet, Larry Wollersheim and Bob Penny for their support of Arnoldo Lerma for posting RTC's unpublished works. It was then learned that they had also copied various published works, including placing 1,900 published works on CD-ROMs, and BPI joined the suit. After the judgment against Lerma was obtained, RTC voluntarily withdrew from this suit in light of the fact that the Lerma injunction extended to anyone acting in concert with Lerma. This case was later favorably settled with a permanent injunction and stipulated judgment admitting liability, issued against all defendants.

    D. Church of Spiritual Technology and Religious Technology Center v. Dataweb, Stichting XS4ALL, et al., Case No. 96/160, Regional Court of the Hague.
    This case was brought against multiple Dutch access providers and an infringer, after they acted in concert, along with others, to post certain of RTC's Advanced Technology, and certain published works (for which New Era Publications, Aps (NEPI) is the exclusive licensee), on web sites in Holland, and refused to remove the materials from those sites.

    The trial of this case took place in March 1999. The court's ruling was issued on June 9, 1999 and found that the works were copyrighted, and that the posting of them to the web sites constituted copyright infringement. The court ordered that, upon notice that an infringement is on their system, the ISP defendants must remove the infringement or at least make it inaccessible as quickly as possible. In addition, if they do not do so, they are to be penalized Hfl 5,000 for each day on which they fail to do so.

    E.Religious Technology Center v. Ward, No. CV 96-20207 RMW EAI, Northern District of California.
    In this case, the defendant, Grady Ward, had posted Advanced Technology works under his own name without authorization. He was also believed to be the anonymous posted behind a series of postings through anonymous remailers under the names "SCAMIZDAT" and "Vorlon," which posted dozens of RTC's works. The first postings of the 55 unpublished copyrighted scriptural works was posted under the Vorlon pseudonym. Ward has also posted many threats and taunts against RTC, claiming it is unable to stop these anonymous postings, and has made other postings in which he solicits RTC's materials and talks about shredding the evidence of anything that is sent to him.

    RTC obtained a preliminary injunction against Ward in April 1996. RTC filed for summary judgment against Ward, and the court found that the postings in question were infringing and that the defenses asserted by Ward were invalid. Ward later settled with RTC, literally within minutes of the jury verdict against infringer H. Keith Henson, discussed below.

    F. Religious Technology Center v. Henson Case. No. C-95-20271 RMW EAI, Northern District of California.
    H. Keith Henson was sued by RTC in the same Court as Ward, about two weeks later. Following the preliminary injunction hearing in Ward, at which Henson was present, he posted one unpublished copyrighted scriptural work to the Internet in what he called "An Open Letter to Judge Whyte." When he was sent a cease and desist letter by e-mail, he rudely responded, refusing to cease infringing. A suit was filed against him a few days later.

    Henson was under preliminary injunction from the beginning of the suit. On April 15, 1997, RTC's motion for summary judgment against Henson was granted, finding him liable for copyright infringement and ruling that all of his defenses were invalid. A permanent injunction was also entered against him. The only remaining issue was the amount of statutory damages (which involves a determination of whether Henson acted wilfully) and attorney fees. The case went to trial before a jury on these issues, and the jury awarded $75,000 in damages.

    G. Religious Technology Center v. Zenon Panoussis, Case No. T 87-866-96, District Court of Stockholm.
    This case was brought by RTC in September 1996 in Stockholm, Sweden against an individual named Zenon Panoussis, arising from his Internet posting of Advanced Technology works and placement of such works on web sites. Panoussis had steadfastly refused to remove his infringements, and each attempt to deal with him short of litigation resulted in his escalation of his infringement campaign.

    The issue of preliminary relief was heard by the Stockholm District Court. The court issued an "injunction on penalty of fine against Mr. Panoussis prohibiting him from taking action constituting further infringement of RTC's copyright in the unpublished Advanced Technology works. The case went to trial in May 1998. Panoussis was found liable for copyright infringement of the works in question, for his Internet postings and also for dissemination of hard copies of the works. The plaintiffs were awarded a permanent injunction, as well as costs, damages and fees of up to $160,000.

    But that is not all. Before the plaintiffs closed the door on his infringing activities, Panoussis exploited a weakness in Swedish law protecting copyrights. Any materials placed in the files of the Swedish Parliament are automatically considered to be "government" materials, and therefore are publicly available under what is called "the principle of free access to public documents."

    This principle of open government files was intended to allow the public to scrutinize the actions of the government. But nobody had foreseen the consequences for private, copyrighted works. Even if a copyrighted work was unpublished, and even if its author had not consented to its dissemination, the mere act of delivering the work to the Swedish parliament made it a "public document." In this way, a law passed to protect citizens' rights could be abused to violate them.

    And that is exactly what this individual did. He put stolen copies of unpublished L. Ron Hubbard works in the library of the Swedish parliament -- and announced that fact on the Internet.

    First, the Church took steps to ensure the confidentiality of the materials would not be compromised during the time it took to handle the situation. Then the US Trade Representative was briefed that Sweden was not enforcing international law and was opening the door to copyright piracy. When she learned what had happened, the U.S. Trade Representative immediately perceived the danger that this "loophole" in Sweden's law represented for all intellectual property owners. She took immediate action, and placed Sweden on the international watch list for three years in a row. The U.S. made clear they were really serious. Because they also put Sweden on notice that unless dramatic action was taken, they would open an investigation into Sweden at the World Trade Organization.

    As a result, the Swedish Prime Minister and his 22 ministers directed that international copyright laws must be applied to protect our materials.

    In order to close that loophole permanently, the law itself would need to be changed, in effect, getting the Swedish government to modify their Constitution so that copyrighted works could not become public documents in such a cavalier manner. The Swedish Ministry of Justice was persuaded to draft new legislation.

    The government's proposal had to be approved by the Council on Legislation -- a body composed of former and current Supreme Court judges which reviews new laws for constitutional fitness before they go to parliament. The Council wasted no time in recommending that the new law be adopted with all possible speed. And on February 23, 2000, the Swedish Parliament passed government bill No. 35, entitled "Copyright and the Principle of Free Access to Public Documents," by an overwhelming majority of 270 to 14, a historic change in the Swedish constitution giving full protection to the unpublished, copyrighted works of all artists, writers and other creators of intellectual properties.

    Other Results in Non-Internet Copyright Litigation:

    Bridge Publications Inc. v. Vien, 827 F.Supp. 629 (S.D. Cal. 1993)
    . In 1992, a person named Enid Vien was sued for unauthorized copying of RTC and BPI works that she was using in a squirrel group that she had established. The court found Vien liable for copyright infringement, and found her defenses invalid. It issued a permanent injunction and awarded $52,000 in damages for both copyright infringement and trade secret misappropriation. Like the cases discussed above, this case also contains good language concerning the rights of BPI and RTC.

    Additional Results in Internet-Related Litigation:

    There are two other pieces of litigation worth mentioning. Two European suits filed by Scientology-related entities in 1995, concerned the rights of victims of crimes to obtain the identities of criminals who hid behind anonymous Internet identities. These same anonymous identities are used by people like child pornographers sell their vile images. In both cases, the courts forced the Internet Access Provider to disclose the identities of these people. After the owner of one of these systems he had been shown that his computer system had, in fact, been used by child pornographers, one of the two Internet Service Providers shut down his anonymous service.

    As an active user of the Internet, the Church of Scientology feels it has a moral obligation to do its part to ensure that the Internet is free for all people, not just a handful of abusers who would pervert one of the greatest communication media ever to be invented. Thus, the Church will remain vigilant and will continue to take action only where necessary to preserve essential rights and freedoms.

    *This Briefing was prepared at the request of Jeffrey K. Hadden by the Church of Scientology International and appears on the Religious Movements Homepage with permission of the Church of Scientology (June 30, 2000). This document may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Church of Scientology.