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YOUR RECENT ARTICLE on the Church of Scientology’s copyright enforcement actions (“A Religious Belief in Lawsuits,” 9/29) omitted key facts and skewed others, resulting in a grossly distorted view of the issue.
The essence of this case is property rights. It also involves the constitutional right of a church to freely practice its faith.
For the record, the case began when the Religious Technology Center (RTC), the holder of the copyrights for the Scientology religion, took legal action against certain individuals who had willfully and maliciously posted, verbatim, large portions of confidential, copyrighted, Scientology religious materials on the Internet. (These materials had been stolen from one of our churches about 10 years ago.) One of the copyright infringers sued was Arnaldo Lerma, a resident of northern Virginia.
Our first run-in with Lerma came when we discovered he had been posting items on the Internet while improperly using the name of a former Scientology church official. It was dishonest for Lerma to make these postings just as it is dishonest for him to now claim that our efforts to end his copyright infringements are a free speech matter.
If you write a book, and then someone comes into your house and steals it, how is “free speech” involved if you take actions to recover your book and prevent its unauthorized publication?
Lerma is a copyright terrorist who has cleverly but dishonestly used the innate American support for free speech to cover and justify his illegal acts. He can rail all he wants about Scientology; he has the freedom of speech to do so, just as we have the freedom of speech to respond. But when he begins to illegally post copyrighted material and refuses to stop when asked (in an attempt to avoid litigation), then the RTC is left with no recourse but to take legal action.
Your article repeated the vacuous claim that because our copyrighted materials were included as part of a court record, then that somehow put them in the public domain. This is a ridiculous notion. If an attorney attaches a book to a legal brief in a court case, the publisher of that book does not relinquish its copyright.
The property in this case, by the way, consists of what Scientologists consider to be some of the most sacred scriptures in the Scientology religion. Scientologists believe that these materials are to be studied only after a person has reached a certain level of spiritual enlightenment.
Hence, we view the indiscriminate dissemination of these materials on the Internet as a religious desecration, much in the same way that a Catholic priest would view the holding of a black mass in his church or a rabbi would view the pouring of blood on the Torah.
Few people other than religious scholars understand that many other religions have kept certain materials confidential until an adherent has reached a certain level of spiritual understanding. These include ancient Judaism, early Christianity, some forms of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Gnostic groups. Such upper-level materials make up less than 1 percent of Scientology scriptures. The bulk of Scientology materials can be easily viewed in any public library.
Whether or not people agree with Scientology theology is not important. What is important is that people understand that if the Arnaldo Lermas of the world are allowed to illegally post copyrighted materials on the Internet, then no author, no software company, no artist, no church would be safe from the wave of copyright terrorism that would ensue.
Founding Church of Scientology