6 Copyright Terrorists

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attorneys have to come to grips with the kind of Net humor that posts directions to copies of the secret documents which, when decoded, lead only to the searcher's own computer's directory. It doesn't seem to be easy for them.

These suits must be the first ever to have been reported in such intimate detail on the Net. Every affidavit, every court judgment, and full transcripts of every hearing are all available in one or another archive. If the suits were intended to deter other posters, surely the detail in which they are reported should suffice. But they have not chilled the newsgroup.

Nor has the worst vertical spam in the history of the Net. From the end of May to the end of July 1996 an estimated 20,000 messages consisting of brief quotations from Scientology promotional materials were posted to alt.religion.scientology. Posters, who had to pick their way through acres of the stuff in order to continue considering the ramifications of the Netcom settlement, arguing about Scientology practices, and, of course, flaming each other, were initially as stunned as you might be if you got up one morning to find out that your street had been buried under trainloads of eggplant. Many were convinced that the barrage, eventually dubbed ARSBOMB, would kill the newsgroup entirely.[27]

After a few weeks of panic reactions, a couple of schemes were proposed for by-passing the problem. One is very clever if you don't mind making fun of other people's alien gods. Knowing that Scientologists are not supposed to say the name of Xenu, the alien being Hubbard is said to have named supreme, one poster proposed using it in message subjects to identify non-spam articles so they could be filtered into a sub-newsgroup accepting only those postings. This rather arcane-sounding proposal was adopted and did pretty much work, although it was never more than a stop-gap, as newcomers wishing to participate wouldn't catch on right away.

Over time, the same beings who cancel other types of spam were able to remove most of the worst of it, and it became routine to see messages on news.admin.net- abuse.misc detailing huge lists of what material had been removed and by whom.

At the same time, new waves of defiance have seen the secret documents posted in the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and on IRC. In a message to alt.religion.scientology in early December 1996, a Norwegian poster listed the first month of a program he called "Operation Clambake."[28] One of the more interesting items on the list was a "Random NOTS locator," which would find you a copy of the documents wherever they happen to be posted that day.[29] (In another context, this could be highly useful technology.) In the Netherlands, well-known Dutch writer Karin Spaink and her ISP, xs4all, won in court.[30]

From the CoS point of view, the Swedish case may be the most alarming. When Zenon Panoussis posted the papers to his home pages on the Web, he got the standard response: a request to take them down. Instead, he turned a copy of the papers over to the Swedish Parliament, thereby making them a public document under laws written into the Swedish constitution. The Parliament is accordingly required to show a copy of the documents, for a modest copying fee, to anyone who wants to see them. Although some of the papers were eventually stolen from the Parliament buildings, and Panoussis himself in early January 1997 was awaiting a visit from the bailiffs to seize the documents from his house, Panoussis had given copies to several other institutions to which the same law applies. What once would have been spirited abroad in someone's luggage could now be sent to sanctuary in a matter of seconds.

By then, the Net had lost a stalwart institution (or so it seemed; it was two years old). On August 30, 1996, Julf Helsingius announced he was closing anon.penet.fi, after a lower-court ruling gave him thirty days to turn over to the CoS the name and real email address of yet another poster it claimed had infringed its copyrights. With another case from Singapore hanging on the CoS decision (which Helsingius appealed), he concluded that there was no point in running the server if the privacy laws were not strong enough to protect his users' anonymity. Changes in Finnish law to deregulate telecommunications had left what he hoped would be a temporary gap in legislation to cover Internet users' privacy. He hoped the laws would be updated quickly.


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