6 Copyright Terrorists

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

The second wave of raids began on Saturday, August 12, 1995, and were announced to the Net by a widely distributed emergency email message that a raid was in progress at the Arlington, Virginia, home of Arnaldo Lerma, Usenet poster, FACTnet director, and former Scientologist. The raiding party was said to consist of ten people, among them two federal marshals, two computer technicians, one of whom was former FBI agent James Settle,[23] and several CoS attorneys. One of the attorneys was Kobrin, by this time well-known to many on alt.religion.scientology for her many email messages demanding that files allegedly containing copyrighted material be deleted. Another was Earle C. Cooley, who is also the chairman of the board of Boston University. They took Lerma's computer, backups, disks, modem, and scanner. Like many of us, he keeps everything, both business and personal, on his home computer. They promised he'd have them back by Monday, but months later he was still waiting.


Two more raids followed on Wednesday, August 23, 1995. One was on Wollersheim. The other targeted nearby Bob Penny, who because of his advanced muscular dystrophy had been replaced on the board of FACTnet by Lerma at the beginning of July. FACTnet was prepared: it had been expecting a raid since early that spring, and had long ago told Internet users to download as much of its file archives as possible. There are now FACTnet anti-Scientology kits on Web sites all over the world. It would take a lot of international cooperation and a lot of police power to get them all, and even then, some of those countries have not signed the Berne copyright convention.


Like Erlich, Lerma, whose three-hour raid was videotaped by both sides, has been described by the CoS as a "copyright terrorist." In the familiar pattern, his service provider, Digital Gateway Systems, was included in the suit. He was defended by ACLU attorney David Lane. In Lerma's case, the bone of contention was a set of August 2, 1995, postings that contained the complete set of court documents from the Los Angeles case Church of Scientology v. Fishman and Geertz. Copies of these documents could be obtained from the court by anyone with $36.50 to spare for the copying fees, but the key to their interest is that portions of the top-secret "Operating Thetan" materials, usually only available to initiated Scientologists, were read into the record. The CoS maintains the materials are still copyrighted, even if they're in the public record; skeptics say there are no legal precedents to support this. Either way, by now there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of copies of these documents around the world. Shortly after the raids, the judge granted a CoS request to seal the records. Digital Gateway Systems eventually settled out of court on undisclosed terms.


Lerma, however, lost in court in January 1996, when Virginia U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema issued a summary judgment that Lerma had violated the CoS's copyright. The CoS welcomed the ruling, but not the terms: Brinkema awarded the CoS only $2,500 in costs, dismissing in December 1996 a motion by the CoS demanding $500,000 in attorneys' fees. Earlier, in November 1995, Brinkema had thrown out a third suit, brought by the CoS against the Washington Post, which had quoted a few lines from the documents in its coverage of the story.


Wollersheim had better luck: in September 1995, Colorado Judge John L. Kane ruled in FACTnet's favor.


Around the time of the FACTnet raids, rumors began to fly that there would soon be another raid. The popularly predicted target was California-based critic and well- known net.activist Grady Ward, who had already told the group his seventy-four- year-old mother had been visited by a Scientology investigator, and who said publicly the CoS would find nothing if it did show up. The masses on alt.religion.scientology started a pool to guess how many people would hit Ward.


That spring, there were complaints about three users who posted large quantities-- ten to twelve per few minutes--of single-paragraph postings in a practice eventually labeled "vertical spam." One of these users, Andrew Milne, who in an email message described himself as a "Church staff member," defends this on the grounds of stimulating discussion of specific points, but admits that after those postings, "A lot of complaints were made to Delphi [his service provider] to try to get my account canceled. In fact, it was suspended briefly but the suspension was


    

Copyright © 1997-99 NYU Press. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without written permission of New York University Press is prohibited.


Be sure to visit the NYU Press Bookstore

[Design by NiceMedia]