OKay, Scientologys greatest footbullet - ever.

Scientologists Force Comment Off Slashdot
Posted by CmdrTaco on Friday March 16, @08:05AM
from the i-guess-it-was-inevitable dept.

Last Saturday a comment was posted here by an anonymous reader that contained text that was copyrighted by the Church of Scientology. They have since followed the DMCA and demanded that we remove the comment. While Slashdot is an open forum and we encourage free discussion and sharing of ideas, our lawyers have advised us that, considering all the details of this case, the comment should come down. Read on to understand what this means.

This is the first time since we instituted our moderation system that a comment has had to be removed because of its content, and believe me nobody is more broken hearted about it than me. It's a bad precedent, and a blow for the freedom of speech that we all share in this forum. But this simply doesn't look like a case we can win. Our lawyers tell us that it appears to be a violation of Copyright law, and under the terms of the DMCA, we must remove it. Else we risk legal action that would at best be expensive, and potentially cause Slashdot to go down temporarily or even permanently. At the worst, court orders could jeporadize your privacy, and we would be helpless to stop it.

We need to choose our battles and this isn't one we want to have. We want Slashdot to be a forum where you can say what's in your heart, but we simply can't defend an anonymous poster who violates copyright law. Keep that in mind when you post in both this discussion, and in others in the future. Post your ideas. Post your thoughts. And most of all, post your links. We need to play by the rules or it's game over.

Now there is the matter of this specific comment. It contained a text called "OT III", part of what is known as the Fishman Affidavit. This text is Copyrighted by the Church of Scientology. In compliance with the DMCA, we are removing it from Slashdot. In its place we are putting non-copyrighted text: Links to websites about the church of Scientology, as well as links to how you can contact your congressman about the DMCA. Thanks a lot to Jamie for putting this together.

First of all, we would like to point out that the text of OT III is available at many other places on the web. To many to list here in fact. Instead, try a Google search on "OT III" and "Fishman", which as of this writing (March 2001) returns over 250 pages. A broader search on AltaVista returns over 2,000 webpages.

Operating in the jurisdiction of the Dutch courts, Karin Spaink's Fishman Affidavit webpage has fended off two lawsuits from Scientology, one in 1996 and one in 1999. The latter suit, according to the page, is still being appealed. From the link listed just above, you can click through to the Fishman Affidavit, which contains links to not only to an annotated copy of OT III, but to the documents on the other OT levels as well, number one through the disputed number eight.

If you would like a plain English explanation of OT III, see OT III Rewritten For Beginners, by Jon Atack. Its author is a former Scientologist who himself completed level OT III. The webpage contains nothing copyrighted by a Scientology organization. It is an explanation of what OT III says and what that means, along with commentary by the author. Jon Atack is also the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, which is a history of Scientology from before its founding to after L. Ron Hubbard's death. At the above link, you can either purchase it, or read it in its entirety online.

If you are interested in Scientology, you will want to visit Operation Clambake, at xenu.net. It seems to be the most important central resource for information on the organization.

You may also want to visit the Lisa McPherson Memorial Page, which claims that "Lisa died needlessly at the hands of Scientology." Her case is truly a tragic one and she deserves to be remembered. The site has a great deal of information on her death. Related is The Lisa McPherson Trust, which has not only information about Lisa, but a very large archive of interviews, court transcripts, news reports, testimonials, and videos about Scientology.

Here's a Slashdot story last year on eBay removing auctions for e-meters based on the Church of Scientology DMCA copyright allegations, which is odd because Copyright law doesn't cover a physical device.

If there's anything else about Scientology you want to know, you will want to see AltReligionScientology.org, which contains a huge list of links to all the sites I don't have room to list here.

The DMCA is actually five separate modifications to copyright law. Its Title I is known for providing legal protection for "technological measures" (typically encryption) which prevent copying; this is the part that empowered the MPAA to sue over DeCSS, to name the best-known example.

That's not the part that concerns us here; Title II is its other major modification of copyright law and that's what we're dealing with. Title II created 17 U.S.C. Section 512, and we're specifically looking at our liability under paragraphs (c)(1)(A), which says we have to act "expeditiously to remove or disable access to the [infringing] material." Here's the U.S. Copyright Office's 18-page summary of the DMCA as a whole. If 18 pages is too long for you, here's the American Library Association's much quicker summary

Here's a list of resources on the DMCA, including the DMCA itself in PDF format. The EFF page on the DCMA seems to relate mostly to Title I, the anti-encryption-circumvention portion, but it's too good not to mention anyway.

Don't know who your Congressperson or Senators are? That's OK, now's as good a time as any to learn. Finding your Senators is easy, just go to Senate.gov. To find your Representative, you just need your zip code. You can use the form on the website to write them if you're lazy, but if you want your message to have more impact, print it out and send it in a real envelope. Anything's better than nothing, though.

When you write, you'll want to write something they'll read. Here are the ACLU's tips for writing to your Congressperson or Senators.


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