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Net users are fighting back against attempts to remove content critical of the Church of Scientology (CoS) from YouTube.

American Rights Counsel LLC, apparently acting on behalf of the Church of Scientology, sent 4,000 DMCA takedown notices to YouTube late last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports. The notices allege copyright infringement over clips critical of the Church of Scientology.

YouTube is legally obliged to respond to such notices regardless of their merits, and as a result numerous videos were pulled. These included the BBC documentary Scientology and Me and clips posted by anti-Scientology collective Anonymous. Many accounts were suspended over the weekend as a result of the action.

Critics of Scientology have responded with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) counter-notices, leading to the restoration of many of the affected videos and suspended channels. Some speculate that at least part of the reason for the pro-Scientology legal offensive is an attempt to uncover the real identity of critics of the church.

DMCA complaints have been deployed as weapons by the Church of Scientology in the past. In June, the Church used similar complaints of copyright infringement to force the suspension of a YouTube channel run by anti-Scientology activist Mark Bunker. Bunker's XenuTV account was again targeted in the latest legal offensive against critics of the church, the EFF notes.

Reg reader Peter notes a possible significance in the timing of the latest legal squabble between the church and its critics. An anti-Scientology congress took place in Hamburg, Germany over the weekend, and protests by Anonymous against the Church of Scientology's treatment of children and involvement in schools are due to take place next Saturday (13 September), he notes. ®

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