Church Of Scientology Uses Copyright, Trademark, And Cyberbullying Laws To Silence Critical Parody
from the still-not-a-religion dept
For faith-based hilarity, you just can’t do any better than the Church of Scientology. These photoshop masters have built for themselves the kind of reputation normally reserved for Stasi-style secret police. The constant target of Anonymous, ex-members, and every critical-thinking person on the planet are best known for gobbling up shallow celebrities, creepily persecuting critics and ex-members, and possessing the monumental testicles required to include a freaking space opera in their faith. As part of their attempts to silence critics, they’ve regularly run up against the wider internet, often using IP laws to gag speech.
Well, it turns out you just can’t teach a kinda-old non-religion religion new tricks. Reader John alerts us to a case in which the Church of Scientology is using copyright, trademark and cyberbullying laws to silence a parody criticizing the “church”, Will Smith, and the attempt to destroy film making commonly known as After Earth. Recently, they demanded that GoDaddy nix cheerupwillsmith.com, which parodied the church and the film, over the use of their logos, a letter from church-leader David Miscavige, a photo of the same Miscavige, and a parody portrayal of Mr. Miscavige.
Pointing to the presence of CSI logos and a photograph of Mr. Miscavige on the site, CSI told GoDaddy the site violated CSI’s copyright and trademark rights, and asked the company to take it down. GoDaddy promptly complied. CSI also claimed that the creators of the site had violated California Penal Code section 528.5, which forbids the credible impersonation of a human person online. Section 528.5 was intended to be used to combat cyberbullying; as we anticipated, however, it’s now being used to target political speech.
As the EFF notes while placing the Church of Scientology on their takedown hall of shame list, we have some major problems here. First, the copyright claim fails on the grounds of fair use, since the use was critical parody, with only the necessary usage used therein. The trademark claim is also pitiful for many of the same reasons, though we can add that the website was not attempting to compete in the market of religion with the “church.” As for the penal code claim, it is true that that law was meant to combat cyberbullying, but I think the EFF might be off when they say:
Finally, the claim that the site violated the California Penal Code is equally absurd. Section 528.5 applies only to “credible” impersonations. No viewer would think the site offered a credible impersonation of Mr. Miscavige.
Au contraire, bonjour. Given the absurdity of the actions by these clowns, it would take a great deal to convince me of anything in which they are not capable. However, I don’t think their own depravity is reason for which they could be charged with cyberbullying.
So congratulations, Scientologists. You’ve now made the EFF hall of shame. And if you don’t like how you’re portrayed there or here, you can go audit yourselves.