The freedom provided by the Internet is also open to abuse, and unless certain rules are applied on the Internet — as well as off it — we will not have global freedom of expression but rather cyber-terrorism. Over-regulation will also ensue if a few dishonest individuals are allowed to flout the law and spoil the new freedom for everyone.
Free speech does not mean freedom to steal. This is as true in electronic media as it was prior to Internet. Freedom of speech has never meant that one could claim another's speech as his own, or that he could copy another's writing and sell it or give it away without permission from the author.
The United States Constitution authorized Congress:
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
Creativity is encouraged when those who engage in creation can enjoy the financial rewards. Thus, intellectual property rights are essentially economic in nature. They also enable an author to control the manner and extent of the dissemination of those creations. Just as one's thoughts are one's own — to share with others or not as conscience dictates — so, too, should an author have the right to share his or her words with others or not, and to control the way in which they may be shared.
Freedom of speech is an essential component of a free society. So, too is an individual's freedom not to speak and to determine where, when, to whom and how much to speak. Similarly, an author by and large has the right to determine whether his words will be published or not, where they will be published, when, to whom and how much. Thus, intellectual property rights and free expression coexist.
We are in an era where a new way of communicating has exploded into view, enabling people to exercise their freedom of expression in numbers that stagger the imagination. However, this does not give license to do things one would not have done or which would not be legal in other non-electronic circumstances. The Internet brings freedom, and with that comes responsibility. It is an invaluable resource and by all means should be used for free discussion and information exchange, but not to violate the rights of others.
It is vital for responsible users of the Internet to stress that the new freedom does not give rise to a lawless or irresponsible use of that freedom. It is vital that all users demand responsibility along with the freedoms the Internet brings. Calling for application of existing laws and for the exercise of self-restraint is a substantial contribution to preservation of the right of free expression.
No one can seriously argue that an individual is not responsible for his or her own communications and need not face the consequences if those communications are unlawful. The present debate concerns the responsibility of an access provider to maintain a lawful electronic environment and to be held responsible for the communications which take place on that environment.
In a perfect world, the ideal way to handle the problems inherent in the interface between the competing rights of free expression and the protection of intellectual property is for all Internet users to engage in self restraint and self regulation.
We do not live in a perfect world, so some regulation is obviously necessary. Such regulation exists in the enforcement of the present intellectual property laws on Internet users who violate the intellectual property rights of others. But what of the access provider who is not only providing a medium through which to communicate but is engaging in actual copying by making and storing copies of postings in its system for others to access and reproduce?
The position we believe to be most beneficial to all concerned is that an access provider has a responsibility to promulgate rules of conduct for its users and to enforce those rules. While it can be argued that access providers have no responsibility for controlling the tremendous flow of information through their systems, when evidence is presented of infringement of intellectual property rights, then access providers have a responsibility to take action. Moreover, when a particular user has shown a repeated pattern of abuse, the person should be removed from the system, or the access provider held liable for any damage created.
The precise mechanics of such a system of self regulation are beyond the parameters of the present discussion. However, if such a system were developed in cooperation among access providers and copyright owners, it would work and would benefit the entire Internet community.
Censorship is not the issue where copyrights are involved — it is merely a smoke screen raised by lawbreakers to divert attention from their own wrong doing. Laws protecting copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights — as well as those providing redress for defamation and false accusation that threaten livelihood or reputation — apply in full to the citizens of the computer world. Users and access providers should develop systems to assist in enforcement of these existing laws. Unfortunately, the price for not doing so is that the government will step in and do it for us, to the detriment of all Netizens.
To understand why the Church is so dedicated to ensuring the purity of its scriptures, it is necessary to understand something of the religion itself.
Scientology comprises a body of knowledge which extends from certain fundamental truths. Prime among these truths:
Man is an immortal spiritual being.
His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime.
His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized.
Scientology further holds man to be basically good, and that his spiritual salvation depends upon himself and his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe. In that regard, Scientology is a religious philosophy in the most profound sense of the word, for it is concerned with no less than the full rehabilitation of man's innate spiritual self — his capabilities, his awareness, and his certainty of his own immortality. Furthermore, as religion deals with the spirit in relation to itself, the universe and other life, and is essentially the belief in spiritual beings, Scientology follows a religious tradition that is at least as old as mankind. Yet what Scientology ultimately represents is new. Its religious technology is new, its ecclesiastical organization is new and what it means to 20th-century man is entirely new.
At the heart of Scientology lie its axioms that precisely define the fundamental laws and truths of life, including who we are, what we are capable of and most importantly, how we might realize our native spiritual abilities. These axioms form the foundation of a vast body of wisdom that applies to the entirety of all life. From this wisdom has come a great number of fundamental principles people can use to improve their immediate lives, as well as to achieve spiritual immortality. In fact, there is no aspect of life that cannot be improved through the application of Scientology principles.
Ministerial counselors in the Church undergo extensive study of the scriptures of the religion. The principles used in religious counseling are unique to Scientology and to gain a full mastery of skills requires as much time as it would take to get an advanced degree at a major university.
The religion is based exclusively on the research, writings and recorded lectures of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. These encompass more than 500,000 pages of writings, nearly 3,000 recorded lectures and more than 100 instructional films. A fundamental doctrine of the Scientology religion is that the path outlined in these works is to be followed without deviation, for it is an intensively researched and workable route towards spiritual freedom.
In addition, although the vast majority of Scientology publications and materials are available to be read and studied by anyone, a few unpublished religious works are not revealed to adherents of the religion until they have attained a specific level of spiritual development. Prior exposure could impede parishioners' spiritual progression and out-of-context exposure to the materials can create misunderstanding.
These advanced religious materials are protected by trade secrets laws and are copyrighted.
Religious scholars have pointed out that the Church's practice of keeping this material confidential has well-established precedents in other religions.
Dr. Lonnie Kliever of Southern Methodist University cites particular forms of Judaism, early Christianity, some forms of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism and Gnostic groups as possessors of scriptures that are revealed only to those advanced in the faith. Dr. Kliever characterizes the Church of Scientology as having [ ] “a religious duty and legal right” to keep some of its materials confidential.
Dr. Bryan Wilson, Reader Emeritus in Sociology at Oxford University in England and one of the world's most distinguished scholars of religion, points to numerous historical examples of religions which maintain scriptures that are accessible only to selected initiates. In a recent paper, he wrote that to introduce advanced Scientology materials prematurely to the Scientology student would be “disruptive of his progress in attaining the enlightened consciousness towards which all his endeavors are directed.”
Many other treatises, authored by similarly distinguished experts in religion, portray numerous religions through the ages which have maintained confidential scriptures that were revealed only after specific stages of religious learning had been completed.
Handling infringements this way would preserve the free flow of information and dialogue which makes the Internet invaluable and bring it into line with the law as applied to other media, in which anyone engaging in any form of unlicensed copying and dissemination of copyrighted information is considered liable.
Ultimately, the solution lies in making sure the few abusers of on-line services do not act — nor are permitted to act — above the law. The Internet, however, is too far flung and ubiquitous to be effectively policed by federal agencies. It is our view that concerted peer pressure among Internet users is the most workable and desirable solution to the abuses which exist on the Internet today.
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