Essay The Church of Scientology: Copyright vs. Free Speech

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The Church of Scientology: Copyright vs. Free Speech

Abstract: In 1995, the Church of Scientology sued a number of parties, including the Washington Post, in an attempt to prevent the circulation of secret documents about the “religion.” This paper examines both sides of this issue, explores the implications to copyright law and the First Amendment, and describes the actual results of the case.

The Church of Scientology is a global organization with over 270 churches or missions worldwide. For decades, it has possessed followers with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader, L. Ron Hubbard. Since the advent of the Internet, the Church has begun to resort to various legal actions to maintain the secrecy of their “scriptures.” …show more content…

The raid garnered media attention the next day; a Washington Post article quoted Lerma as saying that the cult seized “400 computer disks, four computer hard drives, a computer and a scanner” [4].

On August 22, the Church of Scientology issued a press release announcing that they had sued the Washington Post for the return of the documents sent to them by Arnie Lerma. In the release, spokeswoman Leisa Goodman claimed that the Post “violated fundamental journalistic integrity by conspiring with lawless elements on the Internet to harm the religion of Scientology” [5]. The next day, an attorney for the paper responded by saying that “the documents at issue, which have been widely distributed over the Internet, were properly obtained by The Post from a public court file, a common and appropriate form of news-gathering. And the limited quotations included in The Post's story are well within the bounds of 'fair use' doctrine under copyright law."

Fair use, a well-established doctrine of copyright law, is explicitly stated in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. Code. It protects copying “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.” Also very relevant to the issues raised by this lawsuit is the final

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