Wednesday, March 02, 2005

EBay Yields to Scientology Copyright Misuse

Over the years the Church of Scientology has (mis)used copyright law to make its pseudo-religion even more unquestionable. In March 2001 Scientology invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act against Google in order to remove links to a site that was critical of the sect. Eager to avoid liability Google gave in, showing the potential powers of censorship by internet intermediaries.

Scientology used a similar tactic against Dutch writer Karin Spaink, relying on copyright provisions to ban material from her website (the so-called Fishman Affidavit). This time there was an actual court involved to judge this action. The court of Appeals in The Hague recognized the copyright of Scientology, but found that Spaink's publication should be allowed on the basis of article 10 ECHR (freedom of speech). Especially since it has an informative, non-commercial character, and the Church of Scientology shows anti-democratic objectives. This decision has been appealed, and the Dutch Supreme Court will give its decision somewhere this summer.

Now another example of Scientology pulling the copyright strings on one of its phantasms: the E-Meter, a junk piece of reli-tech that supposedly measures your emotional energy.

Someone who made a bid on an E-Meter at eBay received the following email:
Scientology MARK vi E-METER with CASE L. Ron Hubbard

was removed by eBay because a member of our Verified Right Owner (VeRO) Program notified eBay that the listing potentially infringes its copyright, trademark or other rights. We strongly urge you not to complete this transaction.
The bidder has his own thoughts on this:
Um.... okay. So I learned that Scientology is monitoring eBay and stopping any sales of used E-Meters. I'm not really sure how this potentially infringes its copyright, trademark or other rights any more than selling a used stereo infringes on Sony's copyright, trademark or other rights, but I guess eBay caves to this sort of pressure.
EBay does, as it is more cost effective to loose one or a few potential customers than to have Scientology sue you over a modded lie detector. I'm not sure what actually the infringement would be here, since, as far as I know, E-Meters have been publicly for sale in the US (at a price of $4000, a tenth of what it takes to fabricate them.) Another mystery of the Church left unrevealed. Still, if you want to have some insight in Scientology's mind-bending non-sense, you might want to read the review of the E-Meter's user manual, which the bidder easily acquired.

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