Current Status of this Web Site

					August 4, 1995

Dear fellow ARSers,

Today has been fun and interesting! Here is what happened:

Helena Kobrin printed out both my "Church of Scientology v. Fishman and Geertz" web page and my personal home page, and faxed both of them to Carnegie Mellon University's legal counsel, Mr. Walter DeForest. This was documentation for her claim that I had committed copyright and trade secret violations. (I assume she included my personal home page because it had a link to the Fishman web page that said "Court filings the Church is desperate to suppress.") Ms. Kobrin also sent me an email message, a copy of which has been added to the web site.

Meanwhile, somehwere else in the world, an individual posing as sent out forged cancel messages not only for my original announcement of the Fishman web site, but also for many messages from other folks that contained no disputed Scientology material, only the URL of my site. Thanks to Homer Wilson's Lazarus program, we have the evidence; this too has been posted to my web site. This appears to be a historic escalation of hostilities between the Church and the net. I don't see how the Church could give any justification for suppressing URLs. Very strange.

If you would like to read what the Association for Computing Machinery thinks about the legal status of URLs, I recommend reading their copyright policy .

I called Mr. DeForest and we had a pleasant conversation about copyrights, trade secrets, forged cancels, and the status of material that is available to the public in unsealed court records for 50 cents per page. It seems illogical to me, as a non-lawyer, that I can buy copies of the Fishman court filings from the US District Court, District of Central California -- case CV-91-6426 HLH (Tx) -- for a few dollars, but I cannot accept copies for free from someone else who posts them on Usenet, nor can I make them available to other people interested in the Fishman case by putting them in a location accessible to web browsers. That seems to be the Church's position. I wonder what they would think of my ordering a personal copy from the US District Court and then putting it on reserve in our Engineering & Science library?

Since Mr. DeForest will require some time to investigate the copyright and trade secret claims, and I have no desire to expose my university to a lawsuit *unnecessarily*, I voluntarily removed the OT materials while he researches the matter. It seemed like the reasonable thing to do. The Church confirmed to Mr. DeForest that removal of the OT materials was what it sought; it did not request removal of anything else. The site is still up, and the URL is still:

As a computer science faculty member interested in freedom of expression issues for electronic media, I find all of this fascinating. There are many problems that need to be resolved in addition to the legal status of the Fishman filings. Most obviously: the whole concept of trade secret protection applied to religious teachings (especially when the so-called "secrets" are obvious nonsense that can't possibly work), the legality of quoting the infamous "Dr. Doolittle" sentences under fair use, and the legal status of URLs. I expect to be involved in exploring these issues, along with the rest of you and as many colleagues as I can muster to the cause.

I know it's impractical for most of us to travel to LA to examine the Fishman documents in person, or to order personal copies from the court by phone and then wait 1-2 months to receive them. I am pleased to have been able to help make them more widely available for educational purposes, even if only for a few days. It's been an eye-opening and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

  Dr. David S. Touretzky
  Senior Research Scientist
  Computer Science Department
  Carnegie Mellon University
  Pittsburgh, PA 15213