Friday, December 16, 2005

Spaink wins from Scientology Church

Today the Dutch High Court has upheld a lower court's ruling in favour of the Dutch writer Karin Spaink and ISPs and against the Scientology Church: freedom of speech prevails above copyright. In other words, infringement of copyright can not be used in order to block freedom of speech. The High Court did not expound on the lower court ruling and avoided an closer examination of principles. This ruling ends a 10 years old legal battle.

The case concerns the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Parts of the writings, published and unpublished fragments, have been put online by Karin Spaink in order to expose Scientology. The church body claims the copyright to the writings and has taken the position that Spaink and the ISPs have infringed the copyright and acted illegally. The Church is famous for persecuting everyone publishing official and unofficial material of and about their founder. As in every church, the disciples like to polish up the image of their founder. Disagreeable documents – in the case of Hubbard there are a few - are preferably kept under lock. But some became public in the Fisherman affidavit when the Scientology Church pursued a strayed disciple.

In a district court there was a ruling in 1999 deciding that Spaink had not infringed on the copyright of Scientology. In consequence the ISPs only act illegally when they know about the infringement by their users.

In a higher court the judge decided that Spaink infringed on the copyright of Scientology, but that freedom of speech justified this breach. So the claims against Spaink and the ISPs were not awarded.

Both parties did not agree with this judgement and went before the Dutch High Court. In his conclusion of March 18, 2005 the Solicitor General advised the High Court to reject the objections of the Scientology Church. Just before the official ruling the Scientology Church withdrew the case. Spaink and the ISPs protested this move as a clear ruling about freedom of speech above infringement of copyright. The Dutch High Court was advised not to abandon the case and rule on the case.

(There will be a victory party by the ISP defendant XS4ALL on 28 December 2005 at the Final Victory Festival)


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