Zenon's court case: day 1 -- Poor guy versus multinational cult
20 Jan 2001
[Feel free to distribute this. These court reports are webbed at http://xenu.xtdnet.nl/court/]
Poor guy versus multinational cult
Stockholm, January 17, 2001
BY THE TIME that *this* court case will be appealed, we will need a trailer. I am the beast of burden. I am sitting in my wheelchair with my laptop bag on my lap; on top of that, a huge Samsonite containing most of Zenon's court files, and on top of that again a plastic bag containing the papers that wouldn't fit into the Samsonite. My arms and hands are wrapped around the mountain of bags to prevent them from shifting and falling. Zenon is huffing and puffing: he needs to push twenty-five kilos more than usual. This court case is half my weight.
WE ARE IN STOCKHOLM for the appeal in Scientology versus Panoussis. In 1996, Zenon did the same as I, and more than a hundred people, had done in 1995 in The Netherlands: he put the Fishman Affidavit on his homepage, a court file containing parts of Scientology's higher course material, the so-called OT-levels. Zenon got sued by Scientology, just like me. The cult claimed copyrights and secrecy.
Zenon contacted me in 1996. We became friends and often mailed one another about our respective court cases.
But Zenon did more that we in The Netherlands did. He posted the NOTs, yet higher course material, and, according to Scientology, yet more secret. Moreover, when Scientology sued him, he deftly used the Swedish "offentlighetsprincipen". This constitutional principle states that every citizen has the right to access all documents that are in the possession of the state, unless these documents contain state secrets or exclusively relate to private matters. Citizens may request copies of all government documents. Zenon filed the OTs and NOTs with the court and Parliament (riksdagen), thus ensuring that anybody could access these files or could ask for a copy for a small administrative fee. The result? The material that Scientology had chased with such vehemence - raiding providers, organisations and individuals over them; threatening, intimidating and suing people over them - these documents were suddenly legally available, official stamps and all.
Scientology got furious and managed to incite the US - the cult's claws reach far - to start a diplomatic row with Sweden over this constitutional offentlighetsprincipen. The US even threatened Sweden with a trade boycott if Sweden didn't stop its official distribution of the OTs and NOTs. After three years of diplomatic and legal bickering, Sweden limited the constitution that they took such great pride in: from then on, unpublished material from third parties was no longer covered by the offentlighetsprincipen.
Meanwhile, Zenon moved to Amsterdam. We became lovers. "We were brought together by Scientology" became our standard joke.
IN SEPTEMBER 1998 the ruling in Scientology's case against Zenon was given: Zenon lost on most counts. The court ruled that neither the OTs nor the NOTs were legally published, and thus nobody was allowed to possess private copies, nor could one quote from them. They ordered Zenon to pay Scientology some 2000 USD damages and more than 150,000 USD in legal fees. Scientology had claimed almost two million dollars in legal fees, a ridiculously high amount for Swedish standards, but even this 150,000 dollars was unprecedented. Hardly surprising, Zenon couldn't pay that money , and Scientology confiscated most of his salary in The Netherlands. For more than two years he has been living under the level of minimum subsistence; and yet, what Scientology confiscates every month doesn't even cover the legal interest on the main sum. The most cynical aspect of all this is that afterwards, in my case the Dutch court ruled that the OTs should be regarded as having been legally published, a ruling that was to a great extent based on testimonies delivered - guess - in Zenon's court case.
Mangled material Stockholm, January 18
SWEDISH COURT CASES ARE BORING and take too long. All proceedings must be verbal; the written preparations just serve as a background and what is not said, does not officially count. That is why this court case will last five days.
Magnusson, Scientology's attorney, opens with a tiresome enumeration of Zenon's misdeeds and misbehaviours. Posted this, webbed that, material filed here, copy made there, said this, did that, in September… in October… in May. I am on the verge of falling asleep, I know this song too well by now. Besides, Magnusson is not a gifted speaker at all. The court - five judges, one of them a trainee who serves as the clerk - listens without much interest. They know this story too. Magnusson is so slow that he doesn't manage to reach the part where he outlines the grounds for his complaints. He'll continue tomorrow. Now it's Zenon's turn first.
The court hopes that he will simply plead guilty on many counts, so that deliberations about those acts can be dismissed. And Zenon is quite willing to do so: he has never denied having webbed parts of the OTs nor denies having posted the NOTs, but Scientology accuses him of much more. *That* he will fight. And he wants to win at least one point. He is even prepared to settle or to admit guilt on *all* counts as long as he gets this particular one: a declaration that the OTs and NOTs are legally published. From that one concession or confirmation a series of important rights and consequences follow, and Zenon is prepared to sacrifice everything in order to establish these rights: the right to possess copies of the OTs and NOTs for private use, the right to quote from them, and thus, of course, re-establishing every citizen's right to demand a copy of the OTs and NOTs under offentlighetsprincipen. (If legal publication is established, the limitation that the Swedish law, after pressure exerted from Scientology and the US, has put on offentlighetsprincipen would no longer apply to the OTs and NOTs.)
In Zenon's case, just like in mine, Scientology claims infringement in much more instances than they are willing to - or can - prove. With respect to the OT-fragments included in the Fishman Affidavit, Scientology in my case has only shown some evidence regarding OT2 and OT3. For the other fragments they claim copyright as well but they have refused to come up with even the tiniest shred of evidence. Zenon knows that they wouldn't; after al, he webbed the Fishman Affidavit after my case had been brought before court, and he challenged them on their faint evidence and their all too extensive claims.
The case against him was already well on its way when Zenon filed a new, even thicker stack of NOTs with the court. Scientology immediately claimed copyright to those as well and demanded secrecy. They even had a notary public compare this thick stack to the original, unmasked NOTs, and upon doing a random comparison, she established that this thick stack contained nothing but pure, unadulterated NOTs.
BUT THEY WEREN'T original NOTs. That is to say: just a few were. Of this stack of two hundred alleged NOTs, only eight were authentic; the rest had been mangled. Zenon had posted on a.r.s., asking people to send him Monkey NOTs, and he had received them in abundance. Some ten of them were NOTs that had been 'translated' using programs that produce dialects: there were Swedish Cheffed NOTs, Jived NOTs, and Rastafarian NOTs - hence, satire, not originals. "Hjändle åll sjuch Björks ånd cljusters by blöwing them öff.," that kind of stuff. Moreover, hundred and eight-five were cut up and mangled. To mangle them, you do this: you take a paragraph from a text, use it as a 'seed' and input it to a program, and the output is a full page of mixed-up phrases, illogical sentences and weird grammar - but full of faintly familiar phrases. "Those are our NOTs!" Scientology exclaimed, and the notary public agreed with them. Not true: they are nonsensical, gibberish, Jabberwocky'ed texts, Zenon explained to the court, and what is more: the fact that Scientology claims copyright on these texts proves that one should take their claims with not a grain but a pound of salt.
The court looks confused.
"Take a look at page so-and-so of my appeal brief, Zenon says, and points the court to a page that looks familiar: "... copyright infringement ... taking into consideration that ... plaintiff stated that ... in a ruling dated ..." The court nods, they know this text. It is part of the ruling of the pervious court in Scientology versus Panoussis, the ruling that is being appealed right now. "Please read the text carefully," Zenon asks, and is silent. The court raises an eyebrow and reads. After a few seconds, more eyebrows are raised. This text doesn't make any sense, it has no head nor tail. It's plainly gibberish. The judges look at one another, quizzed. "This text is the result of a real paragraph of the ruling having been mangled in the same way as the Monkey NOTs that I filed and to which Scientology claims copyright," Zenon explains. No reaction. "I wanted to prove that Scientology claims copyright to any text that contains a few of their phrases, so I mangled a paragraph of the previous court's ruling in order to demonstrate the scope of that claim. Scientology claiming that the mangled NOTs are theirs, amounts to this court accepting this gibberish as a valid and legal ruling." Slowly, things start falling in place. The one judge after the other grabs the mangled NOTs, picks up the mangled ruling and compares it to the actual ruling, and they understand what has been going on. Fuck. So *this* is what Scientology claims copyright to? And they got a notary to confirm their claim?
We really need to investigate those claims, the court thinks. You can see it on their faces.
Zenon sits back, happy. This is exactly what he wanted to attain when he filed these mangled NOTs, and Scientology fell into the trap that he had set up for them. Point scored.
MAGNUSSON, SCIENTOLOGY'S ATTORNEY, coughs and reassembles himself. He informs the court that he has re-ordered the evidence that he has filed and has created a new set of binders for the court. Aides go up to the bench and to both parties, and deposit ten new binders in front of all of them. Zenon just got another ten kilos of paper thrown into my lap.
Karin Spaink Stockholm, 18 januari 2001
Fishman Affidavit: http://www.xs4all.nl/~kspaink/fishman/home.html
The Dutch court on publication of the Fishman Affidavit: Ruling in summary proceedings: March 12, 1996: http://www.xs4all.nl/~kspaink/cos/verd1eng.html Ruling in full procedure, June 9, 1999: http://www.xs4all.nl/~kspaink/cos/verd2eng.html
Reports on the May 1998 hearings in Zenon's court case: http://www.xs4all.nl/~kspaink/english/uc1_research.html (and onwards)
news:alt.religion.scientology has fallen pry - for the umpteenth time - to another attack. After a few days of rogue cancels that made all postings disappear (and the ensuing reposting of them by resurrection bots), from January 16 on more than thousand garbage postings are pumped into the newsgroup, in attempt to flood the real postings.
- K -
Zwei Dinge sind unendlich: Die Dummheit und das All Nur die Liebe und das Wetter hören nimmer, nimmer auf - Einstürzende Neubauten: Was ist ist
I write, therefore I am:
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