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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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  • Just awful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NickRob ( 575331 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:43AM (#3387567)
    God Forbid that Google should accurately reflect what's on the internet. People should attack sites if they have a problem, not take other user's right to find the page away from them. This impedes everyone from having an idea of free speech on which the internet was built on. Awful.
  • Link to the page? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Andorion ( 526481 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:44AM (#3387570)
    Where can I find the page that features "prominent link to another site that shows the complaint that the Scientologists filed, along with the delisted links" without registering for NYT? Someone post it, please? =)

  • Scientology (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:44AM (#3387573)
    What kind of person would worship a religion whose highest leaders rely on poor copyright law to enforce their ideals? For that matter, what kind of piss-poor deity is less powerful than a handful of clerks?
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:47AM (#3387603)
    This story was "on the wire" - published all over the place. How about a better link than the crappy "free reg" NY Times one?
  • by Indras ( 515472 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:47AM (#3387605)
    It really makes you ponder after you read this article about why Google did what they did. I'm sure it was just to pass the buck, or lower publicity about it.

    The fact is, Xenu.net (the site in question here) is based in Norway. I highly doubt they could use the DMCA to have the links removed legally. Luckily for Google, however, this incident has put the DMCA on the spotlight. Now, more than just geeks care about it, especially when it ends up in the New York Times.
  • Re:Spineless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by doug ( 926 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:52AM (#3387629)

    Isn't this what chillingeffect.org was founded to do? I thought that it was some academic lawyer types who were looking for problems, and google was just helping them out.
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:55AM (#3387654) Homepage Journal
    In karate, you forcibly block attacks. In tai chi, you push at right angles and make the attack fly off into outer space without exhausting yourself.

    Google is IMHO doing more to keep ideas flowing than they would in a head-on confrontation.
  • by JThaddeus ( 531998 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:05PM (#3387711)
    Amen Brother/Sister!! Do I hear a "Alleluia"?

    But of course the Scientologists aren't the only ones in this game. Just look at the Christian Right. It amazes me (especially as a practicing Christian) that these bozos think that a religion that has managed to resist the efforts of the Romans, the Communists, etc. to stomp it out now requires the protection of the US Government in order to flourish.
  • by The.Nihilist ( 543140 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:08PM (#3387722)
    1. CoS made the information available in some format, either data, print or indoctrination, charging a fee for access to the information.

    2. Someone (Clambake, et al.) takes that information, and makes it public.

    3. A search engine picks up on the webpage, and posts links, without censoring or otherwise screening the information.

    Suddenly, DMCA is invoked, and it's the... search engine's fault? Why is the DMCA used to attack the avenue in which the information is distributed (Google, Napster, Slash^H^H^H^H^H informative news/opinion sources), when the actual "culprits" (Clambake, evil stereotypical teenage anarchist MP3 downloader) are left alone? Clambake's outside US jurisdiction (and technically, it's also just another avenue for criticism), so we go after search engines that are just doing their job? It's like the RIAA suing the Post Office for allowing someone from Canada snail mail Celine Dion's latest bootlegs to someone in Idaho.

    There's GOT to be a point when the US legal system is going to get tired of the abuse, not the use, of the DMCA in the spirit in which it was written.

    (My apologies for the pontificating. It's a Monday.)
  • Re:Spineless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by richlb ( 168636 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:14PM (#3387758)
    I agree. Google is using the system against itself. What better way to kill 2 birds with 1 stone (DMCA & $cientology) than to use their own weapons against them. They've succeeded in getting more people talking and asking questions.
  • by The Good Reverend ( 84440 ) <michael.michris@com> on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:14PM (#3387762) Journal
    Cults are just religions with fewer members. In the US, it's not really the government's job to deal with religions unless they're a threat to something - they've ignored the big religions for this long, why not ignore Scientology? How is what they do different than what Christianity and Islam do?

    (Yes, this is probably flamebait. No, I don't care.)
  • by echucker ( 570962 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:17PM (#3387772) Homepage
    Move the "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." notification to the TOP of the page.
  • by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <skh2003@columbia. e d u> on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:19PM (#3387783) Homepage Journal
    I'm having trouble believing that you really wrote that.

    The US government is not supposed to be in the business of "labeling" or "dealing with" cults; or small, emerging religions, to use an unbiased term. I like to think that the government shouldn't be "labeling" or "dealing with" anybody.

    Scientology, which is no more of a scam than many well established religions, is as entitled to exist without government persecution as any other group. I may not like them, in fact, I despise them, but a line has to be drawn - the government has no business applying any other investigative standard to the Scientology cult than has been applied to the Roman Catholic church.

    In Russia, and in much of Europe, where controls on government intervention in the religious/ideological sector of the economy are not so stringent, the government is free to oppress scientologists, and does so. Read about it at the OCRT website. [freefind.com] Other governments use these same powers to quell political dissent, which is why in our society we have had the good sense to deny the government these powers.

    There is no way to grant the government the right to protect scientologists from themselves without granting the government the right to offer the same "protection" to other dissidents or nonconformers.
  • Re:Spineless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ProfMoriarty ( 518631 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:21PM (#3387799) Journal
    As I see it, several precidents need to be set.

    1. Linking to another site is ok. Unfortunately, the MPAA v 2600 was bad for this one
    2. Linking to another site absolves the linking site from liability of the content to the linked site. This would be where Google would be protected
    3. Fair Use is not limited, however, possibly a limit of the amount of material may need to be implemented. IOW, don't paste all 144 pages up to make your point, take selected phrases .. this may keep the copyright lawyers at bay.
    Another problem is the current Copyright / Fair use debate. This one is much larger than any of the aforemented possible solutions to the problem.

    This isn't a exhaustive, comprehensive fix for all of the woes ... just my thoughts on the issue.

  • by nolife ( 233813 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:28PM (#3387830) Homepage Journal
    The most recent complaint [chillingeffects.org] given to Google from the COS deals with Googles own Usenet archive. The process of transferring the burden over to the original web site owner works for web pages. What about the potential for copyrighted material in Google's own Usenet archive? Do they have to contact the original author of the messages which in turn would have to file a counter complaint to keep it in the archive?

    This whole thing seems to be going in the direction of the MS case, abortions rights, and campaign finance reform. A lot of time and money put into both ends but nothing coming out. The winner will be the one that had largest resource pool.
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:30PM (#3387842)
    The US government is not supposed to be in the business of "labeling" or "dealing with" cults; or small, emerging religions, to use an unbiased term. I like to think that the government shouldn't be "labeling" or "dealing with" anybody.

    Clealry the tenets of freedom dictate that we don't want the government labeling groups as cults and burning their members alive (*cough*Waco*cough*).

    But also there are groups that use the shield of religion to mask some pretty dubious activities -- Jim Jones anyone? Isn't in the people's best interest that the FBI or whoever at least kind of kept an eye on some of the more fringe groups? I think its probably possible for the government to monitor these groups without necessarily infringing on anyone's right to worship as they see fit.

    Few reasonable people seem to think that their freedom to pursue commerce is affected by the SEC, and most people want the SEC to monitor business on an ongoing basis. I don't see why religious groups should be all that different.
  • by DoctorFrog ( 556179 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:35PM (#3387880)
    Spineless would be to roll over and simply accept that they couldn't link to the Clambake site. Instead, Google have used the provisions of the DMCA against itself, by linking to the very documents which try to censor Google.

    I call that a clever legal hack. It is legal and imagistic judo at its finest; the more the CoS tries to chill free speech about their actions, the better this technique works (using your enemy's strength against your enemy) and it is all specifically allowed under the current DMCA rules.

    Furthermore, it is a technique which even the least-funded pointer site can use. If and when challenges to this method of fighting for free (linking) speech hit the higher courts, I have no doubt that Google will contribute financially as well to the cause, if only through self-interest.

    And so will I, through the EFF.

  • by revscat ( 35618 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:36PM (#3387887) Journal

    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 [ifas.org] to pushing for so-called "intelligent design" [world-of-dawkins.com] 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.

  • by DataSquid ( 33187 ) <DataSquid@datasquid.net> on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:36PM (#3387888) Homepage
    Why do these companies/sites always spring up in the USA? It's a shame. Perhaps moving someplace else would be an attractive option for some of these people (Google, Napster etc.) Just don't come to Canada. The US can find a way to throw you in jail if you do so much as sell a Brita to Cuba, I'm sure they can do more.
  • Re:Spineless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:36PM (#3387894) Journal

    If you'd read the whole article, or informed yourself about the DMCA, you'd know that delisted sites can file a countercomplaint and be added back into the listing. The countercomplaint just says that the posting site (not Google) is legally responsible for the content. So there is a mechanism for the real protest sites like xenu.net to shoulder responsibility for their content, rather than letting Google shoulder it all.

    This case is a little weird, since the site proprietor is saying that filing the counterclaim would put him under U.S. jurisdiction. I'm not sure if that's a legal interpretation, or if the DMCA says that, or what. I don't see how just affirming that the contents of your site do not infringe on the DMCA somehow automatically renders you liable to suit under U.S. law, but maybe that's just me.

    Really, Google is showing a lot more spine than most ISPs/publishers/etc. - at least they are informing people about the DMCA and the complaints at the same time that they are following their legal responsibility to delist the items. Most publishers would just drop the whole thing without a trace and go on with their lives.

  • by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:54PM (#3388030) Journal
    When a "church" endorses or causes harm to members and critics, I say to you, they deserve zero protection from the government. I'm a major fan of free speech and seperation of church and state, but their free expression ends when it causes harm to another.

    Talk to a few ex-scientology 'church' members and you'll find some of them fear for their lives. The US government is in the business of protecting its citizens, even if from themselves and against their will. I fully support investigation of any illegal activities by any "religious" organization, regardless of its name or popularity. All citizens are equal under the law and therefore deserve the same protections, whether from a sadistic killer, or from a "church" member/leader. Calling yourself a church does not give you an impeneratrable shield with which to beat your members, even if they ask for and accept it.

  • What silliness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:54PM (#3388035) Homepage

    First, if Google's management has any sort of head on its shoulders it's not going to compromise its integrity as a web-searching tool in such a way.

    Second, if they ever did that to /., say, in response to disparaging comments about them, we'd all scream bloody murder.

    Why would you want to advocate "disappearing" scientology websites? Like our civil liberties, what you let them do to the scientologists, you let them do to us. Fight their misuse of the DMCA and the injustice of the DMCA itself to preserve our freedom to speak, don't advocate shutting them up because they want to shut us up.

  • by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:07PM (#3388125) Journal
    You're misunderstanding the context of the word 'control'. When a cult controls someone's thoughts/emotions/etc, they aren't just influencing them, they're completely annihilating any alternative whatsoever to the point that the cult member knows no other way to think/feel/act/etc. There are homosexual members of the Catholic church, despite the fact that the Catholic church generally frowns upon homosexual acts. A member of a cult who manages to think differently in any way would be completely thrown asside, ignored, possibly harmed or even killed.

    If you've never seen someone who's locked in a cult, then you have no idea to what an incredible degree of control they're under.

    I've seen Muslim fanatics, and I've seen christian fanatics... but they don't begin to compare to someone who's in a cult.

  • Re:Spineless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cduffy ( 652 ) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:13PM (#3388149)
    Well, if these folks want to get the links taken off chillingeffects.org, they can sue the EFF and the law clinics that run it. They'd certainly be glad to fight.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:18PM (#3388192)
    ...to protect you from this kind of thing. Get off your butts and use it!
  • Offtopic rant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Glytch ( 4881 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:22PM (#3388227)

    More info here [canoe.ca] for those of you who aren't familiar with the case. Short story: Canadian citizen living in the US was convicted of the horrible crime of selling water filters to Cuba.

    A damn shame. If only he sold guns to South American terrorists, he'd have been fine.

    I used to have sympathy for you Americans. Sept 11 was a terrible crime, and hurt so many people. But between the Cuban embargo, crippling our industries for being too efficient and too high-quality [bbc.co.uk], and violating the basic human rights of our citizens because they're not Americans [www.ocap.ca], continuuing to use anti-personnel land mines [iansa.org], and basically pissing all over the Kyoto treaty [bbc.co.uk] and anti-ballistic missle treaty [cnn.com], you're doing your damnest to screw the world. You can all go fuck yourselves. (For those of you who actually vote and try to change how the US government acts, I apologize. But you're in the minority [fairvote.org].)

    And that's not even mentioning the DMCA and SSSCA, which have gotten plenty of airing here and don't even need explaining.

    Do your worst moderation, you jingoistic sheep. I've got plenty of karma to burn.

  • by crawdaddy ( 344241 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:26PM (#3388261)
    If you REALLY were for freedom of speech, you wouldn't have even given your kooky idea a second though! You would be doing exactly what you're opposing.

    It is the Church of Scientology's right to complain about the links without any harmful repurcussions (such as discrimination...exactly what you are proposing). Delisting all those that oppose or threaten to oppose Google is basically a form of discrimination purposefully meant to harm their business. IANAL, but that sounds like it might just be illegal...if not just a shoddy business practice. Although I think they're showing that they aren't very secure with themselves as a religion, the Church of Scientology is well within their rights to complain to Google, ESPECIALLY since they did it in a manner that is following the process of the law. I don't like the fact that it's the law, nor am I proud of my country for passing such a law, but it is and they did. Deal with it, but don't suggest solutions that violate others' rights in the name of upholding the rights of others.
  • by kadehje ( 107385 ) <erick069@hotmail.com> on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:53PM (#3388460) Homepage
    I agree that the DMCA is being used to unfairly trample free speech and is being distorted to attack those that the law itself was supposed to exempt (e.g. reverse engineers working on interoperability and ISP's). I also agree that we Slashdotters need to ally with whoever we can to make a strong a legal challenge as possible to this law. However, obviously it won't be easy to do financially, and even if we were to gather enough resources to defend ourselves, victory would be by no means guaranteed.

    IANAL, but it seems that you bring up a couple of legal issues that are by no means clear-cut in forming a successful attack of this law. First, to the best of my knowledge, there is no Constitutional guarantee of fair use. Fair use rights have been at times granted by Congress (e.g. the Audio Home Recording Act) and at other times courts have decreed that current American law regarding commerce dictates that certain uses of copyrighted material are in fact legal.

    However, if a law were passed by Congress that absolutely prohibited time shifting of television programs, it would probably pass constitutional muster with the courts unless it could be proved that time-shifting materially affected individual Constitutional rights such as the right to free speech, bearing arms, being free from unreasonable searches and seizures, etc. I do think that there is hope of Congress guaranteeing additional fair use rights. Even the Crap-BDTPA would have ensured time-shifting were legal; there are still some in Congress that would be in favor of guaranteeing additional, more important rights like the right to excerpt copyrighted materials in derivative works. The main issue is Congress has been rather slow in awarding additional fair use rights to U.S. citizens, and that laws like the DMCA are being used by technology companies to prevent people from using content in ways that were commonly thought (by both the public and policy-makers) to be fair use but in fact had never been made expressly legal or illegal by previous law.

    The second, and more disturbing point, is that large portions of the DMCA may be exempt from constitutional challenges. Aricle VI of the Constitution includes the statement "This Constitution...and all treaties made...under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land." I tried some searches on Google, but could not find any good evidence one way or the other to determine whether treaties could override the Constitution. If treaties can in fact take precedence, anything in the DMCA that parrots language in the WIPO treaties that it was meant to implement would be exempt from constitutionality reviews. If it turns out that such language in fact conflicts with the first Amendment, then in effect the First Amendment's scope will have been reduced. In this case, there would be only two ways to overturn the DMCA: (1) pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing rights taken away by the DMCA, or (2) withdrawing from the treaty as was done several months ago by President Bush with the ABM treaty. Neither of these actions would be easy, and would be even more difficult than having a court nullifying a unconstitional standard law.

    Are there any lawyers out there that could either support or rebut the concerns I made in this post? Hopefully my concerns about the WIPO effectively amending the constitution turn out to be just paranoid ranting. Like I said, I don't mean to imply that getting together and fighting this DMCA in the courts would be useless. It's just that people should understand that there may be legal hurdles to overcome in addition to financial ones involved in lawsuits, and that we should be prepared to do other things in addition to giving money to groups like the EFF in order to get offensive parts and interpretations of the DMCA overturned.
  • by NFW ( 560362 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:14PM (#3388559) Homepage
    That text is not just a 'censored notice,' it's also a means of defeating the Scientology's legal attack. In their complaint, Scientology provides the list of URLs they want censored. By linking to the complaint, Google provides end user with a list of the removed links. It's such an elegant way to defeat the legal attack - use the complaint itself to provide what the complaint seeks to take away - I couldn't help but laugh out loud.

    But yeah, putting that notice ("you can find the censored links here...") at the top of the page would be the icing on the cake.

  • a prediction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NFW ( 560362 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:16PM (#3388573) Homepage
    I wonder if Scientology's next complaint will include a footnote that says something like, "this complaint is copyright (c) 2002 Scientology Inc. Redistribution of this document, posting it on the web, or linking to it if it should appear on the web, is expressly prohibited...."

    But I spoze in that case Google could just pretend the complaint didn't exist, wait for the scientologists to file a complaint with the court (read: in public) and then link to that document as they comply with the request to remove the links.

    It will be interesting to see how this develops.

  • by zinjifar ( 324404 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:34PM (#3388746)
    The DMCA is flawed, but primarilly in its lack of teeth against blatantly fraudulent claims.
    In the years since I've had http://laugh.at/scientology, I've received quite a colleciton of complaints from the 'Church' of Scientology myself, all of them barratrous, many of them against images that had previously received DMCA complaints which had *failed*, and in a couple of cases, abusive uses of the DMCA to complain about images for *Trademark* infringement, as well as images which are in no way based on anything that conceivably could be considered 'intellectual property' of the 'Church' of Scientology.

    Scientology can get away with this because it almost always attacks those it considers financially unable to fight back, and the so called 'Church' doesn't hesitate to reach to 'extra legal' means of harassment to 'assist' its case.

    As L. Ron Hubbard himself said in what is still current church doctrine:
    (fair use quote follows)

    "The purpose of [a lawsuit] is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly."
    "A Manual on the Dissemination of Material" L. Ron Hubbard

    (further quotes at: http://wpxx02.toxi.uni-wuerzburg.de/~krasel/CoS/ge rmany/quotes.html )

    The problem with the DMCA is that such harassment against someone publishing Scientology material for the express purpose of fair use commentary is unlikely to involve 'financial' damages, which are granted by the DMCA against fraudulent claims, *because* the purpose of the publication is non-commercial.

    And that's what's so disappointing about Google's weak-kneed response to Scientology's barratry.

    Google *does* have a financial and commercial stake in any attack against the use of 'hyperlinks', and a very important vested interest in protecting its right to publish hyperlinks without taking responsibility for the content it links to.

    The referral to http://chillingeffects.org is a welcome but less than adequate response.

    Scientology has had numerous opportunities to sue http://www.xenu.net for copyright infringement, but has failed in every case. The attack on Google is specifically an attempted 'end run' around legitimate copyright law, ignores any right to fair use or commentary, and is specifically merely a continuation of Scientology avowed goal to control *all* discussion of Scientology.

  • by chez69 ( 135760 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:03PM (#3389058) Homepage Journal

    Jesus was not a cult leader, he did not turn his followers into robots. He did not throw out the traditions of the Jews, he was there to renew their beliefs. He spoke about love and service to all.

    I know that there is quite a few folks here that don't believe in religion, that's fine, that's your choice. Spreading FUD makes you look pretty lame.
  • by Ed_Moyse ( 171820 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:16PM (#3389190) Homepage
    I don't really understand your point: I think it's extremely clear what Google did. They were put in a difficult situation by an ill-thought-out law and responded in a way that was both elegant and appropriate: they removed any possibility of legal action towards them, and yet made it possible for people to still find the information ... which is after all the whole point of google. I'm impressed.
  • by Phrogger ( 230179 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:27PM (#3389294) Homepage
    Irrespective of the validity or not of their claims (clams? :-) Scientology claims to be a legitimate religion. And I'm wondering what might be (or should be) the implications of that. As far as I'm aware, churchs in the US, Canada and Britain enjoy a tax exempt status. Scientology also claims copyright over their beliefs and writings and uses copyright as a weapon to silence their critics and apostates.

    What I'm wondering is if official religous writings should even be entitled to copyright protection. Society is providing a benefit to the churches in making them tax-exempt. Thus I think that their beliefs and official exegesis of those beliefs should automatically be in the public domain, open to scrutiny, discussion, publication and criticism.

    Spirituality seems to be a fundamental need for many, if not most, people and liberal democratic societies have set up strong constitutional protections and freedoms for the expressions of spirituality. But those protections and freedoms must go in both directions by organised religions or we wind up with abuses such as Scientology.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @07:35PM (#3391056) Homepage Journal
    Your link is fundamentally boring, because nobody goes out looking for information about xenu.net. What people probably want to learn about is Scientology [xenu.net].

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.