FACTNet was thrust into the media spotlight when the Religious Technology Center, the enforcement arm of Scientology, raided the homes of Arnie Lerma and Lawrence Wollersheim, confiscating not only boxes of paper files but also their computers. In the raid on Lawrence Wollersheim's home, the FACTNet data bases were taken. These raids followed one on former Scientologist Dennis Erlich, all based on Scientology's claim that copyrighted material was being posted to the Internet, although the materials in question were part of the public record in a civil case in California. For more details on the raid, see our Emergency Briefing.
Is this truly a copyright issue? Or is Scientology using copyright law to obscure the real issue of free speech on the Internet? The best way to learn about this fierce, ongoing battle is to read the media that has been generated on it. The articles, which range from the New York Times and Washington Post to Internet magazines and law journals because of the importance of the issues, are arranged in an inverted chronological order, so if you would like to begin at the beginning to get the full story, go to the last entry and move up.
Nightmare on the Net / Showdown in Cyberspace- These are articles written by a local newspaper about FACTNet and its battle with Scientology
The Lerma Story, by Rod Keller
Scientology Fee Request Denied In Internet Case
960721 Internet is Scientology's Vietnam
AP wire, 21Jul96 Elizabeth Weise reports that guerilla warfare is being waged on the Internet in a battle that pits the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology against a few loosely organized bands of free speech advocates who have taken up what they believe to be the flag of truth. At issue is the right of the church to safeguard its sacred writings, some of which it says are copyright and some it calls trade secrets. The church has fought, both in the courts and in online arenas, to protect those writings. And that has the raised the ire of free speech advocates, wily in the ways of the Net, who see the conflict as a fight for the soul of cyberspace.
960401 The State of Nature and the First Internet War: Scientology, its Critics, Anarchy, and Law in Cyberspace
Reason (a magazine of the U.S. libertarian right), Apr96 David Post writes that It all sounds like the plot of a (mediocre) science fiction novel: strange beings with names like the Cancelbunny, an144108, XS4ALL, and Scamizdat, fighting on a battleground with no fixed location anywhere on earth, using strings of binary digits as their weapons. But science fiction it is not; it is the ongoing battle in cyberspace between the Church of Scientology (CoS) and its critics, the first War in the Age of the Internet.
960301 Making Law, Making Enemies
The American Lawyer, Mar96 Alison Frankel writes that Scientology's lawyers are pushing the Intellectual Properties envelope to keep the church's secret, sacred scriptures off the Internet, and she wonders if their heavy-handed tactics will undermine key courtroom victories.
960120 Judge Rules Scientology Critic Violated Copyrights
AP wire, 20Jan96 A federal judge is considering how much to award the church of Scientology in damages after ruling that a critic of the church violated copyright law by posting its sacred texts on the Internet. In a case closely watched by computer users, the church sued Arnaldo Lerma for placing the documents on the Internet as part of his long-running criticism of church practices he says are abusive. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema put aside questions of whether the church harassed the critic or abused a search warrant she granted and narrowed the complex case to a few issues of copyright law.
960120 Judge Brinkema Issues a Summary Judgment Against Arnie Lerma; Placing Documents on Internet Violated Scientology's Copyrights, Judge Rules
NY Times, 20Jan96 Peter H. Lewis reports that Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., ruled that Arnaldo P. Lerma of Arlington violated the copyrights of the Church of Scientology by posting confidential Church documents on the Internet, even though the material had been obtained from public court records. The Religious Technology Center, which owns the trademarks and copyrights of the Church of Scientology International, had sued Lerma for posting several dozen pages of secret church documents about the Scientology doctrine on the Internet.
960120 Church of Scientology Wins Cyberspace Copyright Fight: Dumping of Texts Onto Internet Ruled Illegal
Washington Post, 20Jan96 Charles W. Hall reports that a federal judge ruledyesterday that an Arlington County man violated copyright laws when he dumped sacred texts of the Church Of Scientology onto the Internet, saying words enjoy legal protection even in cyberspace.
951213 Judge Says Members Spiritual Concerns Cannot Be a Factor in Rulings
Rocky Mountain News, 13Dec95 Karen Abbot reports that Denver U.S. District Judge John Kane has ruled that Scientologists' fear for their immortal souls can't be a factor in court decisions. In an order he signed Monday, Kane ordered some Scientology materials returned to Boulder residents Lawrence Wollersheim and Robert Penny, former Scientologists who now distribute information about the organization on the Internet. The most controversial materials, Internet postings by anonymous people worldwide that claim to reveal some of Scientology's secret beliefs, will remain sealed and in the custody of the court clerk, Kane ordered.
951213 Netcom Ruling Now Viewed as Defense Victory
Los Angeles Daily Journal, 13Dec95 James Evans writes that the Netcom decision horrified Internet users and providers when issued Nov.21 by Judge Ronald M. Whyte from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose. In the ruling, Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-Line Communications Services, Inc., 95-20091, Whyte denied a summary judgment motion by Netcom to be dismissed from the copyrightinfringement suit filed against it and two other defendants by the Church of Scientology. While some lawyers initially expressed fear the ruling could disastrously increase the liability of Internet access providers, many now say they see the decision largely a victory for the defense, and a setback for the Church of Scientology.
951213 Internet Case Shows Copyright Act Needs Revision
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin 13Dec95 David Loundy writes that as Congress contemplates proposed legislation to updatethe Copyright Act to better account for electronic publishing, courts are hearing cases which illustrate why such reform is necessary. One federal case at issue is Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-Line Communications Services, Inc., No. C-95 20091 RMW, which is being heard in the Northern District of California by Judge Ronald M. Whyte. The case involves copyright liability for "conduit providers" who provide communication channels to connect users to the Internet.
951209 Congress vs. the Internet
NY Times, 9Dec95 The courts have upheld free speech. Why wont the legislators? Op-ed piece by Shari Steele, EFF staff counsel, on the Church of Scientology's legal assault against online critics and sysops, and Congress' attack against online free speech.
951129 Scientology Suit Against Post Dismissed: US Judge Orders Plaintiff to Pay Attorney Fees In Secrecy Case
Washington Post, 29Nov95 Charles W Hall writes that U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ruled the church had no grounds to prohibit The Post from printing brief excerpts from religious texts that the church has tried to conceal from the public, and that it was clear Scientology's motivation in filing thesuit was "the stifling of criticism and dissent of the religious practice of Scientology and the destruction of its opponents."
951129 Judge Dismisses Scientologists' Suit Against Washington Post
AP wire, 29Nov95 A federal judge has ruled that the Church of Scientology had no grounds to block The Washington Post from publishing excerpts from religious texts the church has tried to keep secret. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema dismissed a lawsuit that the church had filed against The Post over excerpts in a story Aug. 19 about litigation between the church and former members who posted the disputed texts on the Internet.
951128 Judge Whyte Refuses to Dismiss Scientology Lawsuit Against Netcom and BBS Operator Tom Klemesrud: Decision Would Apply to Messages That Bulletin Board Operator and Access Provider Know Are Copyright Violations
LA Times, 28Nov95 Amy Harmon writes that in a decision that may help answer one of the biggest legal questions on the electronic frontier, a federal judge has ruled that a Los Angeles bulletin board operator and a major Internet access provider can be held liable for copyright violations committed by one of their users -- but only if they know that illegal copyright infringement is taking place. The case involves claims by the Church of Scientology that Dennis Erlich, a former church official turned critic, used the bulletin board operated by Tom Klemesrud of North Hollywood--and Netcom Online Services to post material on the Internet that infringed its copyrights.
951128 Judge Whyte Refuses to Dismiss Scientology Lawsuit Against Netcom and BBS Operator Tom Klemesrud
Reuters, 28Nov95 Eric Auchard reports that NETCOM On-Line Communications Inc. could be held liable for alleged copyright violations of internal Church of Scientology texts that Dennis Erlich, a dissident former church member, published over the Internet. A federal judge in San Jose, Calif., denied a summary judgment motion by NETCOM and a bulletin board operator named in the suit asking that the case be dismissed because the service providers were not responsible for what was published.
951128 Internet Access Providers May Be Responsible for Policing the Postings of Their Members After All
Wall Street Journal, 28Nov95 Joan E. Rigdon writes that in a surprise move, a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., has ruled that Netcom On-Line Communication Services Inc. may be liable for copyright infringement because Netcom refused to remove a subscriber's postings of text copyrighted by the Church of Scientology. Because Netcom may have known the postings infringed on copyrights and could have removed them but didn't, Netcom may be liable for "contributory" copyright infringement, U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte wrote in a summary judgment.
951101 Dangerous Science: the Church of Scientology's Holy War Against Critics
The American Jurist, Nov95 Eric J. Ascalon, editor-in-chief, writes that because Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher quoted from the Church of Scientology's sacred scriptures, he can expect to be investigated, intimidated and threatened in the "racketeering" fashion that has become the common manner in which the church deals with its critics. The church also uses lawsuits -- very many of which are dismissed as frivolous -- to intimidate, harass and quell its critics and defectors into silence. Sure enough, Fisher is now a defendant in a suit brought by the church.
951023 Are Searches in Civil Cases Also Violating Rights?
LA Times, 23Oct95 Adam Bauman reports that at 6:30 on the morning of July 26, a contingent of off-duty U.S. marshals and officials from software maker Novell Inc. arrived at Joseph and Miki Casalino's home outside Salt Lake City to search and seize any and all computer bulletin board (bbs) equipment that her then-18-year-old son, Joseph III, was operating under the name "Planet Gallifrey BBS." Had this been a criminal case, and had the search been conducted with a traditional criminal search warrant, there would have been nothing especially unusual about it. But the Casalino family wasnot the subject of a criminal-case search. Instead, it was the target of a little-known but increasingly common civil court procedure known as "ex parte search and seizure with expedited discovery."
951010 The Net: Copyright or "Free Press"?
Newsday (Long Island, NY), 10Oct95 Thomas Maier writes that although Arnaldo Lerma believes the Internet newsgroups are like the Liberty Trees of the American Revolution -- a place where citizens can post anything of interest -- the Church of Scientology doesn't agree. Earlier this year, Lerma sent sacred religious scriptures from the church out over the Net. Lerma quickly heard back from those who, like himself, are worried about what they say are Scientology's cult-like methods.
951004 Showdown in Cyberspace: The Battle Over Scientology's Secrets Ignites a Holy War on the Internet
Westword (Denver weekly), 4Oct95 Alan Prendergast reports that Lawrence Wollersheim's hands shake as he reads his notes, ticking off the damage done to his computers. Surrounding the 46-year-old Boulder resident is a cluster of reporters and, beyond that, a ring of glowering, dark-suited men (and one woman wearing a clerical collar) in a courthouse in downtown Denver. Drifting from the larger ring into the smaller one is the dapper, silver-haired Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International.
951004 Judge Kane Appoints Colorado Computer Expert to Inspect Seized Computer Equipment and Data
Rocky Mountain News, 4 Oct95 Karen Abbott writes that Denver U.S. District Judge John Kane ordered a computer expert Tuesday to study disputed computer materials in a legal battle over the Church of Scientology's beliefs. Some of the church's most secret beliefs, meanwhile, will be sealed. Judge Kane ordered the computer equipment and data turned over to the court for inspection by Gary Nutt, a University of Colorado computer sciences professor who testified Monday for Scientology critics Lawrence Wollersheim and Robert Penny.
951004 Hunting Rabbits, Serving Span: the Net Under Seige
Westword (Denver weekly), 4Oct95 In a sidebar to his main story entitled Showdown in Cyberspace: The Battle Over Scientology's Secrets Ignites a Holy War on the Internet, Alan Prendergast writes that the growing popularity of the Internet has spawned discussion groups that offer something for just about everyone, from lovers of Jean-Luc Picard (try alt.sexy.bald.captains) to haters of a certain children's television program (alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die) to obsessives consumed by politics, computer lore, comic books, or the hidden messages embedded in a single rock song (alt.meter-maid.lovely.rita). Few newsgroups, though, have drawn the kind of following now evident on alt.religion.scientology (a.r.s.), an international debating circle concerning the Church of Scientology.
951003 Judge Kane Says He'll Take Custody of Seized Files
Reuters, 3Oct95 U.S. District Court Judge John Kane said Tuesday he will take custody of materials the Church of Scientology says include its secret beliefs, thus avoiding pressing church leaders into violating their faith. Judge Kane said his decision will not require church officials to break religious rules against giving up the confidential material. The dispute arose because former member Lawrence Wollersheim has been disseminating on a computer bulletin board information that church officials contend contains secrets of their faith.
951003 Judge Appoints Computer Expert in Scientology Case
AP wire, 3Oct95 Joe Wheelan reports that U.S. District Judge John Kane backed down on his threat to hold the Church of Scientology in contempt for refusing to return computer materials to Lawrence Wollersheim and Robert Penny, two men who have been critical of the church on the Internet. Instead, the judge appointed a special master, University of Colorado computer science professor Gary Nutt, to determine what happened to the computer equipment.
951003 Church Tells Judge Their Souls at Risk
Rocky Mountain News, 3Oct95 Sue Lindsay reports that Scientologists said they would be excommunicated and the immortality of their souls would be at risk if they followed a court order to turn over church materials to a Boulder man. Their testimony came during a hearing in Denver U.S. District Court to see whether the church should be held in contempt for failing to follow a judge's order to return all property seized from former Scientologist Lawrence Wollersheim and Robert Penny.
951002 Scientology Church Head Willing to Go to Jail
Reuters, 2Oct95 Heber Jentzsch, head of the Church of Scientology, said Monday he is prepared to go to jail rather than commit a damnable sin if a judge orders him to give up secret church documents. Last month a federal court judge reversed an earlier order and directed one part of the church to return the documents to Lawrence Wollersheim, a Colorado critic of Scientology who has asserted that the church brainwashes its members.
951001 The Church of Scientology on the Attack: USENET Flamewar spreads to Carnegie Mellon University
Focus, Oct95 Declan McCullagh writes that a flame-war raging on the Internet over the Church of Scientology's attempts to halt the distribution of its bizarre secret scriptures has spread to Carnegie Mellon University. When senior research scientist Dave Touretzky placed a copy of a Scientology tract onthe World Wide Web in August, the church immediately moved to cancel his netnews posts that mentioned the web pages. It also faxed printouts of the pages to CMU's attorneys and threatened a lawsuit over "trade secret violations."
950927 Scientology Church, Duo Battle Again
Rocky Mountain News, 27Sept95 Karen Abbott reports that the church of Scientology and two embittered former members will square off yet again in federal court Friday. Denver U.S. District Judge John Kane will conduct a hearing on more angry motions filed by the two sides, which have feuded in and out of the Denver courthouse since August. This time, church critics Lawrence Wollersheim and Robert Penny want the church held in contempt of court for failing to return computer materials to them on Monday as ordered by Kane, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Their motion accuses the church of staging a "charade" of a return, tampering with evidence and demanding special treatment from the courts on the bogus grounds of religious freedom.
950926 Scientologists Fail to Comply with Court Order Requiring Return of All Seized Property
Rocky Mountain News, 26Sept95 Tillie Fong reports that the Church of Scientology defied a federal judge and deleted material from the computers and floppy disks of two critics from Boulder before returning them Monday. "We are not ... returning our sacred, confidential, unpublished and copyrighted scriptures," Warren McShane, achurch leader in Los Angeles, wrote in a letter that accompanied the return of the computers to the law officies of Faegre & Benson in Denver. The missing documents prompted attorneys for church critics Robert Penny and Lawrence Wollersheim to file a contempt motion in federal court.
950921 Supreme Court Justice Rejects Scientology Appeal of Judge Kane's Ruling
Rocky Mountain News, 21Sept95 Karen Abbott writes that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Wednesday refused to let the Church of Scientology keep materials it seized from a church critic. Justice Breyer, the justice assigned to handle requests for legal intervention in Colorado cases, turned down the church's appeal of two earlier court rulings, said Natalie Hanlon-Leh, attorney for Lawrence Wollersheim. U.S. District Judge John Kane in Denver refused to let the church keep the materials it seized from Wollersheim while the church's civil lawsuit against him is pending. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Kane. Wollersheim, a former Scientologist, distributes information about the church on the Internet through his Boulder-based non-profit organization, FACTNet. The church has accused him of revealing secret church beliefs in violation of copyright and trade secret laws.
950919 Circuit Court Rejects Scientology Appeal; Court Approves Return of Scientology Materials
Boulder (Colorado) Daily Camera, 19Sept95 Doug Cosper writes that a federal appeals court stiff-armed the Church of Scientology's request to be allowed to keep boxes of information seized in raids of two Boulder County men's homes. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved its five-day-old emergency order holding up return of the materials to Lawrence Wollersheim of Boulder and Bob Penny of Niwot, clearing the way for return of the property.
950919 Circuit Court Rejects Scientology Appeal of Judge Kane's Ruling
Rocky Mountain News, 19Sept95 Karen Abbott reports that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday refused to let the Church of Scientology keep computers and doucments belonging to critic Lawrence Wollersheim. A Scientology spokeswoman in Los Angeles said Denver federal judges are prejudiced against the church and treat it the way blacks once were treated in the South. The church has accused Wollersheim, a former member, of disclosing secret beliefs in violation of copyright and trade secrets laws. Last month, church officials, armed with a court order, seized the computers and documents Wollersheim uses in his Boulder-based non-profitcorporation, FACTNet. It distributes information on the Internet about Scientology and other organizations Wollersheim views as dangerous.
950916 Scientology Reined In: Church May Have to Return Computer Files
Washington Post, 16Sept95 Charles W. Hall reports that Arnaldo Lerma , the Arlington man who took on the Church of Scientology by putting its texts on the Internet, won a partial victory yesterday when a federal judge in Alexandria ordered that the church return 58 computer disks that it seized from him. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema also verbally slapped Scientology lawyers, saying their handling of Lerma's files went far beyond what she had authorized as part of a suit alleging copyright and trade secrecy violations.
950916 Judge Says Search Went Too Far
AP wire, 16Sept95 A federal judge in Alexandria has ruled that a raid at the house of Arnaldo Lerma , a critic of Scientology, went too far, and computer files and equipment taken from him must be returned. Scientology agents seized boxloads of computer equipment and disks after the Church of Scientology accused Lerma of stealing secrets and publishing them on the Internet to discredit the church.
950914 Judge Rules Scientology Critics Can Keep Materials But Can't Disseminate
AP wire, 14Sept95 U.S. District Judge John Kane Jr. ordered that the Church of Scientology return computer disks, documents and other equipment seized from Lawrence Wollersheim and Robery Penny in an August 22nd raid. But he ruled that the two men, both former church members, must restrict distribution of what the church considers copyright or trademark secrets, at least until the courts can consider the copyright question further.
950914 Denver Judge Rules That Scientology Must Return All Seized Property to Wollersheim
NY Times, 14Sept95 James Brooke writes that U.S. District Court Judge John Kane, upholdingfree speech on the Internet, has ordered the Church of Scientology to return computers and files seized in Boulder from Lawrence Wollersheim and Robert Penny, two men who used a computer bulletin board to disseminate information critical of the group.
950913 Judge Kane Rules that Scientology Must Return Everything They Seized from Wollersheim
Rocky Mountain News, 13Sept95 Sue Lindsay reports that Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane ordered the Church of Scientology to return everything seized during a raid on the Boulder home of Lawrence Wollersheim, a former Scientologist. The judge refused the church's request for a preliminary injunction against Wollersheim, saying the church was unlikely to win a trial on the merits of the case. Kane ordered Wollersheim's property returned immediately but also prohibited him from making copies or publishing the materials until the case is resolved.
950912 Judge Kane orders Scientology to return seized files to FACTnet
Reuters, 12Sept95 U.S. District Court Judge John Kane ordered the Church of Scientology to return research files on the church that had been assembled by Lawrence Wollersheim, a critic and former member. The decision reversed a fellow judge who last month ordered the material seized and given to the church. Wollersheim operates a computer bulletin board via on-line services that distributes information critical of the church. Wollersheim and the church are involved in a long-standing dispute over what he calls "mind control." But the church argues his actions are an attempt to discredit the religion.
950912 Defendant in Lawsuit Claims His Research is in Jeopardy if Judge Does Not Release Files
Rocky Mountain News, 12Sept95 Jean Torkelson reports that the world's greatest compilation of research on the Church of Scientology is in jeopardy if a federal judge does not immediately return his computer equipment and files, according to former church member Lawrence Wollersheim, who is being sued by the church for disseminating the copyrighted church material on FACTNet, his Boulder-based non-profit computer bulletin board. The service provides acces to research on what he calls "coercive" movements, such as Scientology. Federal marshals raided Wollersheim's computer files in August and turned his entire inventory of equipment over to Scientology.
950909 Scientology's Secret Beliefs No Longer Secret, Expert Says
Rocky Mountain News, 9Sept95 Karen Abbott reports that an Internet expert testified that secret Scientology beliefs have already been disclosed on computers around the world. Richard Cleek, who teaches a University of Wisconsin class called "Surfing the Net" and follows information posted in cyberspace about the Church of Scientology, said thousands of computer users already have Internet access to church secrets. The church is trying to stop worldwide dissemination of the secret teachings it sells to members. Such sales provide the bulk of the church's income. The church has sued former church members Larry Wollersheim and Robert Penny for allegedly distributing the church's private beliefs in violation of copyright and trade secret laws. Last month, the church seized their computers and data.
950904 Internet Battle Goes to Court
AP wire, 4Sept95 To the Church of Scientology, Lawrence Wollersheim is a computer terrorist bent on filling the Internet with propaganda and religious intolerance, but to his supporters on the Internet, Wollersheim is a hero, trying to expose what Denver media attorney Tom Kelley called "advance teachings of the (church) that bring about mind control of the most pernicious sort." A federal judge in Denver is being asked to decide who is right. The judge admits the case involves a technology emerging so fast the legal system has been left in the dust.
950831 Court Lets Post Keep Scientology Texts
Washington Post, 31Aug95 Charles W. Hall reports that U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in Alexandria yesterday permitted The Washington Post to retain a copy of Church of Scientology texts and to use the texts in its news reporting, saying the paper's news-gathering rights far outweigh claims that the documents are protected by copyright and trade secrecy laws. Brinkema refused to issue a preliminary injunction against The Post, saying its excerpts of the church's texts in an Aug. 19 Style section article were brief and did not diminish the texts' value to the worldwide church.
950830 Church of Scientology to Start Returning Some Seized Data to Wollersheim
Jean Torkelson reports that the Church of Scientology will begin to return uncopyrighted material seized in a raid of former member Larry Wollersheim's home perhaps as early as today, two top church officials said Tuesday. Heber Jentzsch, international president of the Los Angeles-based church, and KurtWeiland, head of the church's legal and public affairs branch, were in Denver to discuss the Aug. 22 federal raid on millions of pages of Scientology material from Wollersheim's Boulder home.
950827 Church of Scientology Plays Hardball with Boulder Critic
Rocky Mountain News, 27Aug95 Greg Lopez writes that Lawrence Wollersheim came into his apartment Friday afternoon pulling off his tie, 24 phone messages waiting, trying to get to the Rocky Flats Lounge to watch the Green Bay Packers play. The apartment is one bedroom, $600 a month, with posters of famous paintings thumbtacked to the walls. The bed is in the living room, because the bedroom is where he did his work. The lock on the bedroom door lies on the carpet, where it fell Wednesday morning when U.S. marshals broke in and gave the Scientologists what they wanted. "They won," Wollersheim said. "This battle at least."
950826 Scientology Critic Wins Round in Battle Over Computer Files
Rocky Mountain News, 26Aug95 Karen Abbott writes that lawyers for Scientology critic Lawrence Wollersheim won the right Friday to look over the shoulders of church attorneys and officials as they sift through Wollersheim's computers in search of church secrets. Any of Wollersheim's material they believe church officials have no business seeing must be turned over to the court to be argued about later, Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane Jr. ordered. But Wollersheim said the ruling came too late to keep his most sensitive documents out of the wrong hands. "They're being copied," he said.
950825 Experts Scour Seized Data: Scientology Church Hires Computer Team to Search for Copyright Violations
Rocky Mountain News, 25Aug95 Karen Abbott reports that computer experts are working around the clock to sift through as many as 10 million pages of data seized from Church of Scientology critics in Boulder County raids Monday. Equipment and printed material was taken to the Denver law offices of Scientology lawyer Todd Blakely, according to federal court documents.
950825 Judge Orders Access to Data
AP wire, 25Aug95 Admitting courts are in a quandary over rapidly advancing technology, a federal judge in Denver said media attorney Tom Kelley should be allowed to review computer data seized by the Religious Technology Center of the Church of Scientology in a raid of FACTNet's computer files Tuesday at the residence of Lawrence Wollersheim. The church accused Wollersheim of violating copyright and trade secrets by publishing church secrets around the world on the Internet, a worldwide computer network.
950824 Judges Refused Hearing on Boulder Raid
Rocky Mountain News, 24Aug95 Karen Abbott reports that Denver U.S. District Court judges Lewis Babcock and John Kane refused a request for emergency hearings while documents were being seized from the home of Lawrence Wollersheim, a Church of Scientology critic in Boulder, according to David Lane, representing Wollersheim for the American Civil Liberties Union. He said the judges refused his telephone pleas Tuesday. Babcock issued an order Monday allowing Scientology officials, accompanied by U.S. marshals, to conduct a suprise raid at Wollersheim's Boulder apartment Tuesday and take any materials they thought appropriate.
950823 Marshals Raid Homes of Former Scientologists; ACLU Lawyer Sees Appalling Lack of Due Process
Boulder (Colorado) Daily Camera, 23Aug95 Doug Cosper writes that delegations of Scientologists searched two Boulder County homes under the protection of federal marshals, seizing thousands of dollars in computer equipment and data they claim were used to violate copyrights on "sacred scriptures." An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer at one raid in Boulder called the action "appalling."
950823 Dispute with Church Brings Raid
Rocky Mountain News, 23Aug95 Karen Abbott reports that U.S. marshals seized documents and computer equipment Tuesday from two Boulder County men who say their mission is to expose dangerous truths about the Church of Scientology using the Internet. Church officials Monday sued Larry Wollersheim of Boulder and Robert Penny of Niwot in federal court in Denver, claiming the men are violating copyright laws by publishing Scientology materials on an electronic bulletin board and the Internet. Denver U.S. District Judge Lewis T. Babcock signed an order authorizing the raids.
950823 Church of Scientology Group Sues Post
Washington Post, 23Aug95 An arm of the Church of Scientology has sued the Washington Post and two of its reporters in an attempt to prevent publication of copyrighted information that belongs to the church. In an amendment to a suit filed against Arnie Lerma Aug.11 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, the Religious Technology Center asks that the newspaper return certain documents and refrain from publishing information that the church claims is confidential scriptures protected by federal laws.
950822 Editorial: Speech in Electronic Space
Washington Post, 22Aug95 As use of the Internet grows, one thing that's becoming uncomfortably clearer is just how much of existing communications and copyright law depends on the physical limitations of records and publications kept on paper. A copyright infringement suit brought recently in Alexandria, concerning dissemination via the Internet of supposedly secret and copyrighted documentsbelonging to the Church of Scientology, brings some of these newly problematic issues into sharp relief.
950820 Internet Gospel: Scientology's Expensive Wisdom Now Comes Free
NY Times Week in Review, 20Aug95 To read what the Church of Scientology calls the seventh level of spirituality, the church's scriptures instruct followers to go to zoos and parks and communicate with plants and animals and go to train stations to put thoughts in the minds of strangers. Advice like that doesn't come cheap. Scientologists pay tens of thousands of dollars for such spiritual teachings. Now, to the church's dismay, they're free with an Internet account.
950819 Church in Cyberspace -- Its Sacred Writ Is on the Net; Its Lawyers Are on the Case
Washington Post, 19Aug95 In an article that caused the Church of Scientology to sue theWashington Post, Marc Fisher wrote that Arnie Lerma was lounging in his living room in Arlington, drinking his Saturday morning coffee, hanging, when suddenly, a knock at the door -- who could it be at this hour? -- and boom, before he could force anything out of his mouth, they were pouring into the house: federal marshals, lawyers, computer technicians, cameramen. Fisher goes on to describe some of the materials the church claims are "secret," and it was for that section of the article that the paper was sued.
950814 Dissidents Use Computer Network to Rile Scientology
NY Times, 14Aug95 Mike Allen reports that the Church of Scientology is battling a band of on-line dissidents who have used the Internet to mail out globally its secret scriptures, for which some members must pay thousands of dollars. On Saturday, as a result of a copyright infringement lawsuit, United States marshals here seized the computer of Arnaldo Lerma , a former church employee who had electronically posted a 136-page text that he said was available in court records. Lerma, 44, said many members had surrendered their life savings in return for the document, which contains instructions for progressing through levels of spirituality, or thetans. He said the text had been filed by a defendant in a case brought by thechurch in Federal District Court in Los Angeles.
950813 Virginia Man's Computer Seized in Internet Lawsuit: Church of Scientology Claims Postings Infringed on Copyrights
Washington Post, 13Aug95 Lan Nguyen reports that U.S. marshals seized computer equipment and files from an Arlington man who has posted material criticizing the Church of Scientology on the Internet. For the last year, Arnaldo Lerma has posted on the Internet court documents involving the California-based church, including testimony from former church officials who describe it as a dangerous cult.
950813 Computer Files Seized from Foe of Scientology Church
AP wire, 13Aug95 Kevin Galvin reports that U.S. marshals seized computer equipment and files on from Arnaldo Lerma , who is accused by the Church of Scientology of posting its most sacred texts on the Internet. Marshals also served him with a restraining order barring him from revealing more of the church's copyrighted documents in a federal copyright infringement suit just filed by the church.
Wired, 12Aug95 As Wendy M. Grossman writes, when computers are seized because they contain allegedly stolen intellectual property, or the security of anonymous remailers is pierced by police, the days of the Internet as a cozy, private, intellectual cocktail party are over. Welcome to mortal combat between two alien cultures -- a flame war with real bullets.
950810 Going Clear: Lawrence Wollersheim Spent 11 Years Inside Scientology; Now He Wants to Expose It
Boulder (Colorado) Weekly, 10Aug95 Greg Campbell writes that there is a war raging between Lawrence Wollersheim and the Church of Scientology that has been going on for 15 years. According to him, he is simply a librarian whose mission is to educate the public on the destructive cults of the world, primarily Scientology, a group he was a member of for 11 years. The Church of Scientology paints quite a different picture of the situation.
950613 All Things Considered
National Public Radio, 13Jun95 Dan Charles reports that a war of words between the Church of Scientology and it opponents has turned into a legal battle involving the Internet, the world-wide computer network. The church is suing one of its former members, Dennis Erlich, for copyright infringement, because Erlich distributed parts of church publications on the Internet. The suit also targets the people who gave Erlich access to the Internet. Those computer network operators say the church is trying to shut down a discussion forum used by its critics.
950501 Speak Nicely or We'll Bust Your Net
In its May 95 issue Telebits reports that an imbroglio has broken out between the Church of Scientology and virtually everything with a wire hanging out of it. They first became aware of it when they began receiving messages about the anonymous remailer in Finland, anon.petit.fi, becoming not so anonymous after the Church of Scientology had filed a complaint with Finnish authorities and had obtained the name of a correspondent via warrant from the operator of the system.
950401 Is Free Speech Too Expensive? One Church's Threat of Costly Lawsuits Over Newsgroups is Rattling Providers
BBS Magazine, Apr95 Shari Steele of Electronic Frontier Foundation writes that a new threat to free speech on the Internet has come from an unexpected source -- the Church of Scientology (CoS). System administrators all over the Internet reported threats of lawsuits from attorneys for the CoS and the closely associated Religious Technology Center and Bridge Publications, Inc. These threats apparently were designed to convince sysadmins (or sysops) to discontinue the carriage of certain newsgroups that involved discussions of the Church of Scientology and its teachings, solely on the ground that some of the messages sent through those newsgroups allegedly involved infringements of CoS copyrights or other intellectual property rights.
950315 Mofo Takes Copyright Case Of Scientology Church Critic
The Recorder, 15Mar95 Mark Walsh writes that intellectual property litigators Harold McElhinny andCarla Oakley of the San Francisco firm of Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) will represent Dennis Erlich, a former member of the Church of Scientology who was sued by the organization for allegedly distributing copyrighted church documents on the Internet. Walsh notes that it will be one of the first cases to test the scope of the online copyright law.
950228 Cops Halt Internet Anonymity
AP wire, 28Feb95 Police have seized data from a computer operator in Helsinki, a private computer consultant named Johan Helsingius who helps people mask their identities on the Internet, firing a new shot in the war over computer privacy.
950225 Judge Declines to Lift Order Barring Ex-member from Transmitting Copyrighted Church Texts Via the Internet
LA Times, 22Feb95 Alan Abrahamson writes that Dennis Erlich, a Glendale critic of the Church of Scientology, lost a round in federal court as a judge declined to lift an order barring him from transmitting copyrighted religious texts onto the Internet. But U. S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte rejected arguments by church lawyers and lifted restraining orders against a North Hollywood computer bulletin board operator and a San Jose-based Internet access supplier, who provide the electronic paths onto the global computer network for Erlich. In the potentially precedent-setting case, Whyte agreed it would be a "practical impossibility" for either Netcom On-Line Communication Services Inc. or Tom Klemestrud to "do any kind of censoring or checking of what's put through their services." Each had been briefly ordered to ensure that no data they circulated infringed on the church's copyright--a task that their lawyers said would be virtually impossible.
950223 Church of Scientology Battles the Net: Hostilities Escalate in alt.religion.scn
Eye Weekly, Toronto's arts newspaper, 23Feb95 Article by K.K. Campbell about thecontroversy surrounding the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology, which Church of Scientology lawyers have been trying for months to destroy.
950222 The Helsinki Incident and the Right to Anonymity
LA Times, 22Feb95 Daniel Akst writes that something happened recently on the Internet that no doubt sent chills down an awful lot of spines. A government used its power to breach anon.penet.fi. Anon.penet.fi is basically a computer in Helsinki, Finland, whose purpose is to allow e-mail users all over the world to send anonymous messages, both to individuals as private e-mail and to Internet newsgroups, as the Net's 10,000-plus discussion forums are known. You message anon.penet.fi and it strips off your identity, substituting a code number. Responses at your anon.penet.fi address get routed back to you.
950220 Are Firms Liable for Employee Net Postings?
Network World, 20Feb95 Adam Gaffin writes that the Church of Scientology case against Dennis Erlich, Tom Klemesrud and Netcom for copyright violations raises the possibility that network staffers, as well as their employers, could be held liable for postings they had nothing to do with.
950214 Scientologists Sue, Seize Critic's Computer Files
LA Times, 14Feb95 Alan Abrahamson and Nicholas Riccardi write that a handful of Church of Scientology representatives, led by a lawyer brandishing a federal court order and backed up by a pair of off-duty police officers, searched a Glendale house Monday and seized hundreds of computer disks and files allegedly containing copyrighted religious texts. In the latest twist to a fractious dispute that began in cyberspace and landed last week at a federal courthouse in San Jose, Scientologists spent six hours Monday searching the house of Dennis Erlich, an outspoken critic of the church, for material about the Los Angeles-based church that they believed he transmitted, or intended to transmit, on the Internet.
950202 Perturbations, Pleasures and Predicaments on the Information Superhighway: Scientology Deplores Net Losses
Washington Post, 2Feb95 Richard Leiby writes that the controversial Church of Scientology is not making any new friends on the Internet. In recent weeks, attorneys for the church have threatened legal action against people who they say post church documents in the alt.religion.scientology discussion group. Now the church wants to shut down the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup entirely, claiming its top-secret "scriptures" are being revealed, and its copyrights and trade secrets violated.
950125 Electronic War of Words Between Scientologists and Critics Shows Internet Governance in Action
Los Angeles Times, 25Jan95 Daniel Akst writes that much of cyberspace is fractious, but it's hard to imagine anyplace more polarized than alt.religion.scientology, an Internet newsgroup divided into a pair of flame-throwing camps dedicated to demolishing one another's arguments about the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology. Now, though, the battle has gone far beyond flaming. Someone--it's not clear who--has forged messages that have the effect of canceling some postings critical of the church.
950123 An Open Letter to the Church of Scientology (CoS) and the Net from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Internet, 23Jan95 EFF counsel Shari Steele posts an open letter opposing the Church of Scientology's censorious attacks on BBSes and Internet access providers. She writes that using the threat of litigation to shut down entire newsgroups, or to persuade sysadmins to shut down newsgroups, is highly inappropriate.
950103 Scientology Critic
AP wire, 3Jan95 Anne Gearan describes a bizarre scene in which two grim-faced men in suits knocked on Arnaldo Lerma 's door and shoved a legal document at him. The confession of sorts stated that Lerma recanted criticism of the Church of Scientology and was a failure as a member of the religion. Lerma didn't sign the three-page document. He didn't write it either.
941225 Scientology Fiction: The Church's War Against Its Critics -- and Truth
Washington Post, 25Dec94 Quoting Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who said "People who attack Scientology are criminals," Richard Leiby writes that one day in November, Arnaldo P. Lerma, an audio-video technician from Arlington, opened his front door and encountered two unsmiling men in dark suits. He tensed up; he recognized them as the strangers who had been tailing him as he drove into town that morning. "We represent the Church of Scientology," one of the men said. Lerma hurriedly shut the door. The pair wedged a three-page, legal-looking document inside the screen door. It was titled "Declaration of Arnaldo Pagliarini Lerma," but Lerma hadn't written it and in fact had never seen it before. He left Scientology in 1978, after serving several years as a low-level staffer. The document amounted to a confession, with a line left blank for Lerma's signature. "I engaged in taking illegal drugs," it read in part, "and eventually left the Church entirely because I could not maintain a high enough ethical standard ..."