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Scientologists drop copyright case

Dutch website can link to material

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A day before the Dutch Supreme Court was to deliver its final verdict, the Church of Scientology has dropped its controversial case against writer Karin Spaink, who hyperlinked to what the church believe is copyrighted material. However, Spaink wants the case to continue, as it will establish a freedom of speech precedence for the internet and ISPs in particular.

On her webpage Spaink linked to documents from the Church of Scientology about its doctrines. From as early as 1995, the Church of Scientology initiated exhaustive judicial proceedings to prevent the disputed material from being published, but each time the (Dutch) court decided in favour of Spaink. In 2003, the Court of Appeal in The Hague rejected all of the Church of Scientology's claims against Spaink and ten internet providers, who had permitted subscribers posting the documents. The Church eventually decided to take the case to the highest judicial authority.

The Scientologists must have realised they will not stand a chance in court. Earlier this year, the Dutch Attorney-General published an 82-page opinion to the Dutch Supreme Court, in which he upheld the decision that free speech can trump copyright. ®

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