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Censorship on Usenet? -- a view from a member of the COS
From: David Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Thu, 23 Feb 1995 19:53:25 -0500
When I sent out the first note re the Finish posting, Stu asked me if I
would send out a view from a Scientologist. I said I would subject to a
I do not necessarily agree with his point of view. I do support his and
others right to hold and to speak their views.
From: stu () 3adata com
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 95 20:45:31 PST
To: farber () central cis upenn edu
Cc: ssteele () eff org
Censorship on Usenet?
I am a Scientologist and am speaking as an individual, I do not
represent any official Church viewpoint but would like to comment
on some recent actions taken by my Church on Usenet.
It is obviously in everyone's benefit to keep Freedom of Speech and
the free flow of information alive on the 'net. There is a clear distinction
though between freedom of speech and violations of the copyright law.
The point that I will make in this short comment is that where copyright
violation starts, people's freedom on the net is being threatened, and
works very negative in the long run.
I trust net citizens to read information discriminately. They *can* make
their own choices on what they accept as truth or not. But the day that
we do not defend copyright and intellectual property is indeed a very
sad day for us all. Some one with valuable information will not be willing
to share this and deprive possible beneficial use of it. This is a general
principle that practically all of us can agree with.
Suppose you have done 2 years of research on a product that would
improve the biosphere and thus the immediate environment of every
human being on earth. It would benefit a lot of people. The research is
written up and distributed to a small group of people that are trusted
with the information and that have promised to keep it confidential.
One of these individual for some reason or another gets upset with you
and decides to publish your confidential data in a usenet group dedicated
to Earth's environment. He also inserts scathing and derogatory comments.
You then urge him several times to withdraw that posting but he refuses and
posts more. What effect do you think this has on your original research?
What damage would be done? Don't you think the perpetrator would find
himself in court as you would sue him?
Sometimes it is proposed that hateful speech can only be solved with
more speech and an attempt to achieve mutual understanding. I could
not agree more. A Scientologist will *always* agree that communication
will practically solve anything!
Another comparison has been made with the Jewish Religion where
for instance the holocaust is being denied. This is not an apples - apples
comparison. There is no copyright matter involved regarding the holocaust.
By communicating the true facts, any defamation attempt can be trounced.
A better comparison would be the esoteric Jewish teachings: the Cabalah.
Certain parts of these teachings are kept confidential until the student is
ready to absorb them. This is comparable to the upper levels of Scientology.
These have been copyrighted with this exact goal: protection of the scriptures
and have them available for students when they are ready for them. The
copyrights have been sustained by US Courts and the Church is doing its
best to prevent violation of these rights and otherwise litigate until the
violator will be ordered by the Court to stop his illegal use of the material.
The newsgroup in question that is now under the legal fire of the Church is
alt.religion.scientology. The name of the newsgroup itself is the first
copyright violation. This Newsgroup was created by four individuals, one of
which was the forged name of one of the current Board Members. I have
personally seen these four names and can attest that one name was
smartly forged making it look very much like the original.
Scientology is a registered trademark and no permission was given to use
this name. The newsgroup has been from the beginning a compilation of the
most nasty lies about scientology available. I have been active on this news-
group for 6 months so can speak from experience. This is the reason this
newsgroup *will* be terminated. I am sure that through legal procedures this
will be established and over time will be implemented. Jurisprudence will be
created and sysops will be requested to remove this group, or face legal
That this will be the first time is newsworthy. Scientology has been first
things, e.g. implementing the Freedom Of Information Act about which it has
recently given seminars to the American Association of Journalists.
Detractors will probably flee to another newsgroup, but at least the name
Scientology will be used by its legal owners and likely in the soc.religion.
scientology group and moderated IMO.
Some may see this as censorship. This is not the case. It is defending
one's legal rights. But practically all Scientologists would fight until their
last drop of blood to make sure that everyone has the right to free speech
and free voicing of their opinion.
Even if the newsgroup did exist for no other reason but to criticize CoS, the
people that created the newsgroup have a right to do so. However they do
*not* have the right to violate copyright which is being done on a regular
basis in this newsgroup.
The church has chosen to again fight a difficult battle and like many others
will win in the end, despite forceful opposition. It took 40 years to convince
the IRS that Scientology is a bone fide religion but in October 1994 this
was granted together with all tax benefits. The end result will be more
respoect for intellectual property on the net and that will benefit all on the
The remedy that the Church has taken is to first urge individuals several
times to stop posting copyrighted materials. Only after repeated warning
legal actions are taken against individuals. Defending intellectual property
is a completely defensible action, and taking legal action to shut down a
newsgroup that violates a trademark is part of this fully justified path of
3A Data PO BOX 1294, Clearwater, FL, 34617 For Email:
Stu () 3adata com
- Censorship on Usenet? -- a view from a member of the COS David Farber (Feb 24)