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Priority Telecom disconnects Xtended Internet over anti-Scientology website

We are being bombared by questions of various groups and people in response to the Google/Xenu DMCA and our termination of contract by Priority Telecom.

(For a complete list of news articles on this, please see www.xenu.net/news/)


Here is a summary of what happened in the recent months to company, Xtended Internet, Scientology's crusade against us, and how in effect, an American ISP censored a perfectly legal Dutch ISP and its customer.

This article can be found at: http://www.xtdnet.nl/paul/PriorityTelecom-Xenu.html

Please read this article before calling us. We can be reached for comments at +31-24-3603919 or +31-6-xxxx-xxxx

Paul Wouters (paul@xtdnet.nl)
Xtended Internet


At the end of 2000 we decided to migrate our network to Amsterdam, and we got a new upstream provider, Cignal Communications BV in Amsterdam. When we started our contractual discussions, we openly told them about the potential trouble xenu.xtdnet.nl, a website of one of our customers could give them. We spent over two months discussing their contracts, and offered all our legal knowledge and assistance to give them, and thereby ourselves, a better contract. We were very pleased with how they took our corrections, they mentioned they would coordinate any Scientology contact with us, and we promised to assist them when that would happen. The draft contracts and corrections we managed to get in the contracts are available at:

The final version, the one which we signed is online at:

Basically, we managed to get lots of dangerous clauses out of the contract. Clauses which seem to give the ISP more freedom, but in fact only cause it to become more liable to claims of third parties. We got over 50 changes in the contract, even though Cignal said they used these contracts in over 40 countries. After talking to their American lawyer Steve Keirn, we got all of our issues resolved in the contract. That is, all except one. We could not convince Cignal to lose the "We can disconnect you without reason in our sole discretion" clause. They insisted on wanting that dead-man's switch. No matter how well we argued against it, telling them that not having that option is actually preferred, since they then could not be held liable, Cignal insisted on keeping it. Since all their competitors' contracts (and all AUP's that I know) have similar clauses, we had no choice but to sign anyway.

I learned about the problems of Xenu.net around may 2001. Their ISP at the time, Interliant terminated Xenu.net's hosting contract xenu.net. The reason they gave him was that they had had enough of Scientology's barratry. They thought they had helped Xenu.net enough and it was time to pass on the torch. By that time, Xtended Internet had become a rather well-known company in freedom of speech issues. We were informed about this case and offered Andreas Heldal-Lund, the maintainet of xenu.net to take over the hosting of his site.

We load balanced the site using round robin DNS with XS4ALL, another Dutch ISP known for its stance regarding freedom of speech.

As was to be expected, within a few months we received complaints from Scientology for alleged trade mark and copyright infrigements on xenu.net. In response, we advised Scientology to first contact our customer directly (Andreas so far has never even been asked to remove alleged infringements from his site) or to sue us. We also notified Scientology of the load-balanced nature of the site, and informed them unmistakably clearly that the entire site was co-hosted by XS4ALL.

Scientology sent our answer to Cignal (which had meanwhile been bought by Priority Telecom) but did not even bother to contact XS4ALL.

I think the following URL's explain things fairly well of what happened from that letter onward:

Our answer to this letter was basicly saying It's an issue between our customer and Scientology and doesn't involve either Cignal or Xtended Internet. I even called their lawyer, Steve Keirn, who admitted he saw this as a paperwork exercise. A month later we received: We contacted the legal department of XS4ALL to notify them of what was happening, and their spokesperson, Sjoera Nas, said that based on the information she received from me, she would act exactly the same way as Xtended Internet had done. That is, not cut off the customer, and inform Scientology to take the issue up with the customer directly. We also contacted the EFF, but we didn't get things organised in time for the EFF to assist Priority/Cignal in this matter.

Our answer to Cignal:

To which we promptly received: This cancellation letter pretends to say "The Scientology case has become irrelevant because our parent company Priority Telecom has decided to discontinue all Cignal services and server housing in the Netherlands".

It was so successful as a pretense, that the Amsterdam-based employees of Cignal thought that they were being fired. A day later my account manager told me that only one single customer, Xtended Internet, was being discontinued. She regretted their parent company's action, but she couldn't do anything about it. Worse, it soon turned out that Priority Telecom's head of legal affairs is in fact the same person as Cignal's head of legal affairs, the aforementioned Steve Keirn. So in effect, Keirn had "forced" himself to disconnect us. Interesting.

We had 30 days in which to search for a new backbone provider. Since we already knew that getting new address space from RIPE would take longer, we asked for 60 days. Since the "Relocation clause" gave us 60 days, and they cleverly phrased that the Amsterdam location would "close down" we used that to demand 60 days:

And got: 14 days extra instead (silly power game). Notice how it is made explicit in this answer that we can't have 60 days because the Amsterdam facility is not closing at all. This was our own special termination without reason. In fact, we only know from their 3rd notice that Cignal has drawn no conclusion about the validity of CSI's [Scientology's] claims. Right. So why were we disconnected? We received no other correspondence whatsoever.

Menawhile, Xtended Internet has moved to a carrier-neutral facility. We no longer depend on one single upstream ISP, since that facility is also one of the AMS-IX locations.

Contribution to fight the corporate replublic

Ideally, I would like to sue Cignal/Priority here in the Netherlands, to have a Dutch court rule that the disconnection was unlawful. It will not help us (we don't care much about damages, we care about the issue) but such a ruling would surely force international ISP's with a contract governed by Dutch law to stop using "disconnect at will" clauses and to leave these issues again where they should be fought out, in court and between the parties involved. If you are interested in contributing to legal costs for this cause, please contact me. We are currently talking to various groups for funding.

Censorship for profit

If you have read the links above, you can see that we were disconnected even after proving that disconnecting or censoring our customer would violate Dutch case law. After we voluntarily agreed to follow the DMCA, so as to make it easier for Cignal to get out of this conflict, even though US law, and this DMCA didn't apply to us. Yet, Cignal choose the easy way out. Obviously we were not worth the money that Scientology's lawyers could cost them. And maybe that is what frightens me mostly. Not that they don't care about freedom of speech issues, but that they have censored us solely based on commercial reasons. Censorship has become a profitable business and the freedoms that are granted to us by the Dutch consitution are revoked at the stroke of a pen by American corporate lawyers.

[Update: It seems censoring isn't profitable at all. Ironically, Priority Telecom released it's annual figures over the last year today. It lost 387.7 milion euro according to the Webwereld article.]

History

Xtended Internet has defended freedom of speech issues since it was founded. Our first conflict with Scientology began in 1996. We were (carefully) not sued, but ended up in court anyway, being called to testify against an anonymous customer "xenu" who ran the site xenu.xtdnet.nl. This site is still in existence today, though the user voluntarily removed some secret scriptures from it, in much the same way as Karin Spaink did in her Scientology vs Spaink & xs4all case. Our defense, based on both the possible harassment of our anonymous user, and myself and my company (being held accountable when we would admit to hosting the site under oath) and me trying to call on "not wanting to assist in my own possible conviction", was denied by the judge, probably rightfully so, see (Dutch only): However, Scientology was on such shaky grounds, that they settled with us out of court. They promised not to hold us responsible for the user's website, and in return we would give out the user's name and address so they could sue him. With the user's voluntary consent we provided Scientology with his name and address, thereby relieving Xtended Internet from its conflict between privacy laws and blocking a possible lawsuit from happening.

During this time, our upstream providers, first NLnet, and later UUnet in the Netherlands, the UK and the US were harassed and misinformed by Scientology. This process is called "Fair gaming" and "Dead agenting". Later on Scientology even claimed copyright on those words, thus strongly suggesting they indeed use these strategies to harm people and organisations that stand in their way.

Eventualy, warned by me (and Ted Lindgreen, who was at the time director/founder of NLnet) all the ISP's managed to keep Scientology's ridiculous claims and lawyers from causing unjust harm, and ever since, after many mirrors and the original website have been harassed out of existence, xenu.xtdnet.nl still survives.



UPDATE: Paypal account opened for Legal fund. We have opened a Paypal account, paypal@xtdnet.nl for anyone who wishes to contribute to our Legal Fund. We've sent an email to everyone who offered a donation to us.

Paul Wouters (paul@xtdnet.nl)
Xtended Internet