New defeat for Scientology in Dutch Internet case

By EDRi · March 24, 2005

The Dutch Attorney-General for the Supreme Court, Verkade, has once more
righted internetprovider XS4ALL and author Karin Spaink in their decade
long defence against legal attacks by Scientology. In his opinion for the
Supreme Court Verkade argues “Although copyright resides under Article 1
of the First Protocol of ECHR and can therefore be regarded as a human
right, this does not exempt copyright from being balanced against the
right to freedom of information.” In this specific case, in which Spaink
quoted several critical paragraphs from a statement made in court by a
former member of the organisation, freedom of speech clearly prevails
above the claimed copyrights of Scientology.

The case started in September 1995, when XS4ALL servers were formally
seized by a bailiff, assisted by a representative from Scientology,
because a customer hosted the Fishman Affidavit. This court-testimony
contained many quotes from documents that the church wanted to keep
secret. Spaink first put the entire document on her XS4ALL homepage. When
Scientology threatened to sue her and XS4ALL, many other people put
mirrors on their homepages. Spaink then limited the information on her
homepage to relevant quotes from the document. In interim injunction
proceedings in 1996, the court of The Hague declared all Scientology’s
claims against XS4ALL, Karin Spaink and the other defendants to be
unfounded. Scientology appealed, but lost once again in 1999. However,
this 1999 decision included a separate declaratory judgement stating that
providers could be held liable if three conditions are met; first, the
provider is notified; secondly, the notification leaves no reasonable
doubt about the infringement of (copy-)rights; and thirdly, the provider
does not take down or block the material. The later E-Commerce Directive
was clearly influenced by this verdict.

The Supreme Court will rule on 8 July 2005.

Press release XS4ALL (in English, 18.03.2005)