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Google vs. DMCA and Scientology 383

Uebergeek writes "This article at the NYTimes (free registration, blah blah) details how google is dealing with the many complaints it gets from organizations when one of its links potentially violates a copyright (or just irritates the copyright's owner). Specifically, it talks about how Google is dealing with the Scientologist's complaints about the list of the Operation Clambake site... now Google features a prominent link to another site that shows the complaint that the Scientologists filed, along with the delisted links."
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Google vs. DMCA and Scientology

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  • Re:When will it end? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikethegeek ( 257172 ) <blair AT NOwcmifm DOT comSPAM> on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:50AM (#3387620) Homepage
    " How long will the DMCA be used to trample freedom of speech, expression, and fair use, until Congress gets it into their thick skulls that this is BAD LEGISLATION, and repeals it?

    Maybe the overwhelmingly negative response to CBPTBA (or whatever) will act as a wakeup call."

    All I can say is that if these sorts of laws continue to be passed and abused, methinks the IP hoarders will be "the first against the wall when the revolution comes" (to "fair use" some Douglas Adams).

    The fact that the DMCA *IS* most definately being used to stifle free speech, in the terms of POLITICAL speech (as $cientology IS a religious lobby), should ALONE merit review....

    But, alas, so long as the RIAA/MPAA/$cientologists, et all, get to INITIATE the cases, they will continue to get to handpick the judges and courts.

    Which will get us more sham trials like the DeCSS case.

    What is needed is for us to somehow file a CLASS ACTION against those enforcing the DMCA, on a first amendment basis, and based on the copyright/fair use provision of the Constitution.

    I had such high hopes for the Felten case, because for once our side would be the initiator, instead of the defendant... I beleive it was a mistake for him to go ahead and GIVE his speech, because to not do so would have made it easier to show that he was INTIMIDATED into silence by DMCA saber rattling.

  • Re:Link to the page? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:50AM (#3387622)
    here [].

    This took about .5 seconds, try searching news stories on yahoo.

  • Karma Whoring (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kredal ( 566494 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:53AM (#3387644) Homepage Journal
    From [] is the same story, no registration required.
  • boom! (Score:2, Informative)

    by slug359 ( 533109 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:55AM (#3387655) Homepage
    Remember when linking to to use Scientology [] and not $cientology []. How many people use the $ in Google?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:01PM (#3387686)
    A google search on the names Moxon and Kobrin yielded this [] remarkably thorough document about the lawfirm partners...
  • Re:Scientology (Score:4, Informative)

    by -brazil- ( 111867 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:02PM (#3387694) Homepage
    Scientology isn't really much of a religion at all, really. It's an MLM scheme that has found posing as a religion to be highly conductive to its fraudulent business practices.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:10PM (#3387738)
    > why has it not been properly labled and dealt with?

    > The only people who lose when you call Scientology what it is - a cult - are the profiteering people who run it.

    These people just happen to be prominent actors, lawyers, reporters, etc. Ever wonder why you very rarely see Scientology mentioned on CNN? Greta Van Susteran, one of the main legal anchors for CNN is a scientologist (along with her husband, another prominent lawyer). Examples like this are not uncommon.

    It is a sad fact that scientology will probably never be reclassified as a cult or seriously attacked in the mainstream media, simply because too many people with money and position have a vested interest in it.
  • by abolith ( 204863 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:15PM (#3387767) Homepage
    Logon: NYtimessucks210
    Pass: 12345

  • by mav[LAG] ( 31387 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:25PM (#3387821)
    What are the "classic signs" of a cult?

    The acronym to remember is BITE and it's all about control.
    • Behaviour control - what the cult member can and can't do.
    • Information control - what information the cult members are exposed to.
    • Thought control - how to think and attitudes towards the "outside world"
    • Emotional control - cults manipulate emotions to a remarkable degree in order to control their followers.

    I suggest having a look at Freedom of Mind [] and their resources.
  • don't blame google (Score:4, Informative)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:31PM (#3387852) Homepage Journal
    It is no ones responsibility to single handedly take on an injustice. Everyone who sees the injustice is responsible for fighting it. Also, it serves no purpose to taunt fellow members in the struggle for justice. There are times when others need to pull back, either because they are tired or because they can more be more effective using other means. At these times, an opportunity opens for someone else to enter the fray. Google has decided what it can do best, and is doing it.

    This also illustrates why we need many search engines. Google, whose size and popularity makes it a prime target, also makes them a prime place to publicize the censorship. Other engines can still link to the articles. For instance, it is still possible to find these links.
    If we have many search engines, and other places to find links, it will be difficult for the oppressor to squash the resistance.

  • Moxon & Kobrin (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:36PM (#3387886)
    Although the address for the lawfirm that send google the notice was blanked out in the site:

    Moxon & Kobrin
    Los Angeles, California 90010
    Tel: (213) xxx-xxxx
    Fax: (213) xxx-xxxx

    A quick search on came up with the correct address, so much for that.

    Moxon & Kobrin
    3055 Wilshire Blvd # 900
    Los Angeles, CA 90010
    Phone: (213)487-4468

  • Re:Scientology (Score:4, Informative)

    by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:14PM (#3388159)
    [Scientology is] an MLM scheme that has found posing as a religion to be highly conductive to its fraudulent business practices.

    I suspect Multi-Level Marketing was copied from proselytizing religions rather than the other way around. I'd match my grandparent's Jehovah's Witness study group of about a dozen fanatics against an entire Amway marketing convention. (Of course, there's no financial payback for recruiting more JW's, but it gets you higher in the queue for those 144,000 seats in heaven, and JW's should be so focused on heaven they don't mind a little poverty now...)

    From what I've heard of the origins of Scientology, it began approximately 1950 as an alternate form of psychotherapy (Dianetics) invented by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The medical profession tried to get it banned. I don't see any scientific basis to Dianetics, but then I don't see any scientific basis to the medically approved psychotherapy of that era either, nor anything to indicate that Dianetics was more harmful than orthodox treatments of that time such as lobotomies, electroshock, or endless discussions of the patient's toilet training. So it's possible the MD's just didn't like the competition...

    When L Ron Hubbard found out he wasn't going to be able to beat the AMA in court, he reconstituted Dianetics as a "religion", making it untouchable by the law. The problem is twofold:

    To make it qualify as a religion, Hubbard apparently felt it had to have beliefs just as wacky as Christianity (Noah's ark, for instance). So he tossed in a bunch of science fiction about ancient alien civilations (like running the worst of Doc Smith through a blender 8-). The problem: some people actually _believe_ this bull****.

    As a religion, Dianetics doesn't need any scientific research to back it, and AFAIC no research has been done. The only obvious change in 50 years was more sophisticated versions of the "e-meter" (sort of a single-channel lie detector) used in "counseling". Meanwhile, psychiatry has done a lot of real experimental research, and is much more effective than it used to be. In 50 years, medically approved psychotherapy has gone from the equivalent of leeches (just 200 years ago the leading doctor in the USA thought bleeding cured _everything_, but at least he didn't do lobotomies), to the equivalent of sulfa antibiotics (pre-penicillin, dangerous and only sometimes effective, but a hell of a lot better than nothing). Meanwhile dianetics has pretty much stood still.
  • by Bootsy Collins ( 549938 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:16PM (#3388176)
    > Well, Christians don't try to subvert the legal process to their own ends,
    > at least not in an organized way.

    That's silly. Of course they do. There are many different shades of Christianity, but the evangelical crowd would be quite happy to see the United States become a Christian nation, and frequently espouse their wish for laws that would establish this. More frequently than not, their tactics are just as unethical as the Scientologists are. From stealth candidates [] to pushing for so-called "intelligent design" [] theories, they are well versed in using the political system to achieve religious ends.

    Read up on the rise and fall of the Christian Coalition for more information on this.

    And you may wish to read up on the history of the Co$ as well. See, for instance, this Time magazine article []. While it's true that other religious organizations have been known to use the legal process to further their ends, I don't think it's sane to compare the two, at least in the U.S. I would not be at all surprised if the number of lawsuits filed in the U.S. by the Co$ and its related organizations within the last ten years were larger than all lawsuits filed by all.other recognized religious organizations in the U.S. added together.

  • Re:Spineless (Score:3, Informative)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:19PM (#3388194) Homepage Journal

    >>Are you going to financially back a lawsuit if one is filed?

    >Someone ought to.

    This has come up before, I'm sure of it.

    While I agree that linking out with an extra layer of indirection to chillingeffects shows less balls than either showing the anti CoS links or showing the cached contents of the anti CoS links, I can see where the mere threat of the costs of the legal battle are enough to cast a chill on Google's management.

    I thought there has been legislation, at least proposed, in various states that is intended to combat such legal tactics.

    Essentially, if someone uses suits that turn out to be dismissed as frivolous as a way of encumbering you with legal bills to the point where your behavior effectively becomes constrained to their wishes, then you have an additional legal recourse.

    But you can tell IANAL, and I don't know which states, if any, have statutes like this, nor do I know how far you have to go before you get to take advantage of them. I doubt they apply to the problem of intimidating DMCA letters, though.

  • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:34PM (#3388329) Journal

    In case you don't get the joke (like I didn't at first) read: []

  • by krmt ( 91422 ) <therefrmhere@yaho o . com> on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:14PM (#3388560) Homepage
    I hadn't thought about this before, but this draws from a long line of precedent. I'm taking a class in late Romantic Literature right now, and we're studying Pierce Shelley. We just read his epic "Prometheus Unbound", which actually shares some of the same tenents. The idea that we are masters of our own destiny, and that we have created our own God in order to enslave ourselves was formulated here as a refutation of Christianity. While Shelley's work would also defy Scientology, which places the external force of an cosmic warlord from "outside" as enslaving us, the idea of breaking free from enslavement is still present.

    So while Hubbard's load of crap may seem funny and stupid, it does bear some baggage from the best thinkers of the Enlightenment. I think this is some small part of what makes it attractive to many people now, despite its obvious stupidity.

    That said, Shelley and all his ilk would have hated Scientology because it degrades its members in to the lowest form of slavery imaginable, which is why we need great sites like (which I've been telling everyone I can about) in order to really get the word out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:02PM (#3389040)
    What you are forgetting is that threatening Google is not the fist thing they do. The first attack in most cases is to threaten the ISP. Most ISP's just take the pages down to avoid legal problems. Hence participating in a massive mirroring project may cause a hassle between you and your ISP. Then, they may or may not threaten and/or sue you for posting material which they say violates their copyright. Of course it will never go to court, but it will cost you money just the same. That is why the battle is being fought from a country where the laws are protecting the individual's rights. And that is why Google is complying with the letter of the law.
  • by jstarr ( 164989 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:41PM (#3389390)
    If someone ignores the Catholic ban on contraception , the Catholic church does not try to kill them. Circumcision is a medical procedure that is occasionally done without religious requirement. Nevertheless, circumcision does no more than remove the foreskin.

    Remember, we live in the 20th century. A church, or any body except a nation, cannot simply declare war on another body legally. Things that were acceptable in the 13th century no longer apply. The court system, for example, is under government jurisdiction, not church. Thus, in the current controversy with child molesters and the Catholic church, the Catholic does not have the legal right to 'take care of the issue' themselves. Government enforces the laws and enforces them upon anyone, regardless of their religious preference.

    In the United States, churchs are allowed to pursue their own form of worship as long as that form does not conflict with other laws. (The exceptions are relatively minor and mostly apply to Indian tribes and maintaining a culture.)

    Some church heads are elected. The Pope is elected, for example (from the Cardinal College, I believe.) Furthermore, the church body often has the power to get rid of a minister and request another.

    And finally, individuals have a right to leave a religion. Scientology does not hold this right and actively works against it, to the point of harrasement, kidnapping, brainwashing, and murder.

    Religions are established within some philosophical or theological premise. Scientology, instead, was established to make money. L. Ron Hubbard admitted as such. Scientology actively lies to its members, discourages any dissent, and attempts to silence its critics.

    Germany recognizes that Scientology is a scam, and it is thus illegal there. However, in the US, by hiding behind the tax-sheltered status of a church, Scientology has been able to grow and remain a threat for the past several decades.

    Scientology is a scam, not a religion.
  • by spike hay ( 534165 ) <.blu_ice. .at.> on Monday April 22, 2002 @06:04PM (#3390379) Homepage
    Here is the article. I have copied it for your reading pleasure in gross violation of the DMCA.

    Google, the company behind the popular Web search engine, has been playing a complicated game recently that involves the Church of Scientology and a controversial copyright law.

    Legal experts say the episode highlights problems with the law that can make companies or individuals liable for linking to sites they do not control. And it has turned Google, whose business is built around a database of two billion Web pages, into a quiet campaigner for the freedom to link.

    The church sent a complaint to Google last month, saying that its search results for "Scientology" included links to copyrighted church material that appears on a Web site critical of the church. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which was intended to make it easier for copyright holders to fight piracy, the complaint meant that Google was required to remove those links quickly or risk being sued for contributing to copyright infringement.

    The site in question, Operation Clambake (, is based in Norway, beyond the reach of the United States copyright act. The site portrays the church as a greedy cult that exploits its members and harasses critics. Andreas Heldal-Lund, the site's owner, says the posting of church materials, including some internal documents and pictures of church leaders, is allowable under the "fair use" provisions of internationally recognized copyright law.

    When Google responded to the church's complaint by removing the links to the Scientology material, techies and free-speech advocates accused Google of censoring its search results. Google also briefly removed the link to Operation Clambake's home page but soon restored it, saying the removal had been a mistake.

    At that point, according to Matthew Cutts, a software engineer at Google, it started developing a better way to handle such complaints. "We respond very quickly to challenges, and not just technical challenges but also these sort of interesting, delicate situations, as well," Mr. Cutts said.

    Under Google's new policy, when it receives a complaint that causes it to remove links from its index, it will give a copy of the complaint to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse ( Chilling Effects is a project of a civil liberties advocacy group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several law schools. It it offers information about Internet rights issues.

    In the new procedure, Google informs its users when a link has been removed from a set of search results and directs them to the Chilling Effects site. For example, a search for the word "helatrobus," which appears in some Scientology texts, brings up a page of results with this notice at the bottom: "In response to a complaint we received under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed one result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the D.M.C.A. complaint for these removed results."

    The notice includes a link to Scientology's complaint on, which lists the Web addresses of the material to which Google no longer links. The result is that a complaint could end up drawing more attention to the very pages it is trying to block.

    Mr. Cutts said Google started linking to early this month but made no announcement, so it took a while for word to go around online. Meanwhile, Scientology sent Google two more complaints, citing pages within copies of the Operation Clambake site on other servers. All three complaints are now on the Chilling Effects site.

    Don Marti, the technical editor of Linux Journal, first wrote about Google's move on the magazine's site. He said he had been so upset about the company's initial response to the Scientologists that he organized a small group of protesters who visited Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., where he also lives. Mr. Marti says he now applauds Google's efforts to make the process more transparent. If a letter of complaint simply makes a site more popular, "only a fool would send one," he said.

    Helena Kobrin, a lawyer representing Scientology at the law firm of Moxon & Kobrin in Los Angeles, said that Google's use of the letters of complaint would not discourage the church from pursuing further complaints if necessary and that there was nothing in the letters that needed to be hidden. "I think they show very graphically to people that the only thing we're trying to do is protect copyrights," she said.

    As part of its new process for handling complaints, Mr. Cutts said, Google added more information on its site explaining how site owners could have their links restored by filing a countercomplaint with Google. (The required forms can be downloaded from If site owners take this step, he said, they accept responsibility for the contents of their pages.

    Mr. Heldal-Lund, a Norwegian citizen, said he would not file a countercomplaint because it would put him under the jurisdiction of United States law. He said that he regretted making so much trouble for Google but was glad that the incident had highlighted the church's pursuit of its critics.

    The church, which has beliefs based on the idea that people need to release themselves from trauma suffered in past lives, has taken a keen interest in the Internet since 1994, when someone posted secret church teachings on an online discussion group. Critics say the church guards its teachings closely because it wants its followers to pay for access to higher levels of instruction. The church says that these payments are donations and that it is simply seeking to protect its rights online.

    With its Chilling Effects partnership, Google is subtly making the point that the right to link is important to its business and to the health of the Web, said David G. Post, a law professor at Temple University who specializes in Internet issues.

    "This is an example where copyright law is being used in conflict with free connectivity and free expression on the Net," he said. Dr. Post said Google's situation highlighted the need for more awareness of copyright issues, including pending legislation that is more restrictive than the 1998 law. The measure is backed by entertainment giants like Walt Disney, but technology companies like Intel have come out against it, saying it would hurt consumers and slow innovation.

    Mr. Cutts said that the links to the complaints were not a political statement, just a way to "make sure our users get all of the information that they need." He said that Google had no official position on the copyright act and that so far it had not been involved in political activity or lobbying. But he said it "might take an interest in more of those issues."

    The copyright controversy has had an interesting side effect for Operation Clambake. The Google software judges the importance of a page in part by looking at how many other pages link to it. Scientology's complaint set off a flurry of linking to the critics' site, pushing it up two spots to No. 2 in the search results for "Scientology" -- just below the church's official site.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama