Date: March 4, 1998
Copyright Laws Used to Silence Online Foes
by Joseph Mallia
His online name was Rogue Agent and his scathing attacks against the Church of Scientology ripped through the Internet.
Shielded behind an anonymous account at Northeastern University, he continued to anger and embarrass the church with messages that millions could read online.
"There was no Christ!" Rogue Agent said in an Internet message, quoting Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
"Christianity succeeded in making people into victims. We can succeed by making victims into people," Rogue Agent wrote in another message, again quoting Hubbard's words.
Other Internet critics of Scientology had their homes in Virginia, Colorado and California searched and their computer disks seized by the church's lawyers - including prominent Boston attorney Earle C. Cooley. The lawyers sought to stop what a judge ruled was copyright infringement.
"This is mortal combat between two alien cultures a flame war with real guns. A fight that has burst the banks of the Net and into the real world of police, lawyers, and armed search and seizure," Wired magazine said in a 1995 article about the conflict between Scientology and its Internet critics.
It "is the bitterest battle fought across the Internet to date," Wired said.
In Boston, local Scientologists started investigating Rogue Agent, trying to learn his real name and silence him, the church's critics said.
"He is really spooked about all the cult agents trying to find him," said Jim Byrd, another local Internet critic.
"He is afraid for the safety of his family," Byrd said. "Besides tons of lawyers, the cult hires lots of PIs and assorted goons."
Other U.S. critics have alleged Scientology hired private investigators to search their garbage, illicitly obtain their telephone records and credit reports, and engage in "noisy investigations" designed to smear them.
And overseas, Scientologists got search warrants in Finland and Holland to silence critics.
"Copyrights were getting ripped off right and left, and that's all this really is," said Church of Scientology International President Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch.
"We've been elected the Texas Rangers of this new frontier," Jentzsch said.
But Ron Newman of Somerville, one of the country's best-known anti-Scientology Net critics, said the church's main target is freedom of speech.
"I think it's important to stand up against a private organization that tries to harass and sue people into submission," Newman said.
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