News from April, 1997 concerning the history of NOTs can be found at the bottom of this page.
The Scientology documents known as the Operating Thetan materials are the most cherished and sacred writings of L. Ron Hubbard. Until 1995, these documents (known as the OT Levels) were among the most heavily guarded and protected teachings of Scientology: they were only accessible to people who paid thousands and thousands of dollars to Scientology, and who had been properly "trained" (critics of Scientology say "brainwashed") in the methods and ethics of Scientology. The existence of the OT levels had been mentioned in several books that criticized Scientology, but their actual contents were still a closely-guarded secret. There had been several incidents in which excerpts from the OT documents had reached the hands of Scientology's critics and opponents, but the levels themselves were still secret...until they were released onto the Internet.
For a detailed history of the Operating Thetan levels, their appearance on the Internet, and the online battle that erupted in the wake of Scientology's attempts to stop them from spreading, see Ron Newman's web page: The Church of Scientology vs. the Net. For the purpose of this Web page, it can simply be stated that at this current time, the status of the Operating Thetan materials seems to be in doubt. The Internet has successfully spread these documents to the four corners of the earth. In March of 1996, a legal judgement in the Netherlands brought the authentic OT documents in a court case for the first time, so that it could be proven in court which sections of the Fishman Affidavit are actually copyrighted Scientology documents. As a result, the representatives of Scientology withdrew their copyright claims against the Fishman Affidavit for everything but OT II and III. This is because the versions of the other OT materials currently available on the Internet are not the authentic OT documents. In some cases they are excerpts from L. Ron Hubbard's writings, while in other cases they are attempts at reconstructing these documents from memory, presumably by members of the Free Zone. Only OT II and OT III are actual copies of the OT materials. Their writing style is completely different from that of the other documents in the Fishman Affidavit.
Furthermore, in the case of OT II and OT III, there was no ruling made on their copyright status. The reason is that Scientology showed the real OT II and III to Karin Spaink, at which point she voluntarily removed her copies from her Fishman Web page, replacing them with summaries. Thus, when the parties finally met in court, the judge looked only at the summaries of the OT documents. Since summaries are not copyright violations, and because Scientology had already withdrawn its claims for the other OT documents, there was nothing left for the judge to do. In effect, it is now legal to access the OT materials from Karin's page. The secrecy of Scientology's "sacred scriptures" has unquestionably been lost.
Not all of the OT documents were in the public domain, however. It was determined that OT II and OT III have retained their copyright, and thus the publication of these documents on the Internet in their entirety is a violation of copyright law. But the "trade secret" status of the OT levels is a different matter entirely. In the United States, Superior District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a ruling on the posting of these documents to the Internet, which may well set a precedent for online publication. Her ruling contains the following statement:
Once a trade secret is posted on the Internet, it is effectively part of the public domain, impossible to retrieve. Although the person who originally posted a trade secret to the internet may be liable for trade secret missappropriation, the party who merely downloads Internet information cannot be liable for missappropriation because there is no misconduct involved in interacted with the internet.
-- Religious Technology Center v. Arnaldo Lerma et al, Civil Action No. 95-1107-A, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. (The entire text of the ruling may be obtained here.)
This ruling wiped out the "trade secret" status of the OT materials. Combined with the Dutch ruling legally authorizing Karin Spaink's Web site, it effectively released a great deal of the upper levels of Scientology into the public domain. Scientology has continued to try to protect the status of their "advanced technology," but ever since the Holland ruling they have only focused on the copyright enforcement of OT II and OT III.
However, the OT materials were not the only auditing materials created for advanced members of Scientology.
The most secret documents of the Church of Scientology are known as New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans (abbreviated NED for OTs), or New OTs (NOTs) for short.
What is the difference between the OT levels and the NOTs documents? Apparently, the NOTs documents were written after most of the OT levels were in use, and subsequently they appear to have replaced the "old OT levels" to become the new "sacred scriptures" of Scientology. In addition, critics of Scientology have made claims suggesting that the NOTs levels might be a violation of the 1971 ruling of the United States District Court, District of Columbia (333 F. Supp. 357), which specifically states that "the E-meter has no proven usefulness in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease, nor is it medically or scientifically capable of improving any bodily function." Keith Henson's ongoing court case is trying to prove whether or not NOTs is a genuine violation of this ruling. For a detailed analysis of the NOTs materials themselves, you can take this link to the NOTs Scholars Page. Dave Touretzky has assembled an impressive database of information about NOTs, and you can find everything you need to know about the materials there on his page.
It should be noted that unlike the Operating Thetan documents, Scientology appears to have an unquestionable claim of copyright over the NOTs material. Until their appearance in 1996, most of these documents had apparently never been "leaked" into the public domain. A few copies were indeed available in the Free Zone, but they were exceedingly rare; likewise, they had never appeared in any books about Scientology, nor had they been part of any court documents. These differences make the appearance of NOTs on the Internet a brand new kettle of fish: as far as anyone can tell, the act of placing NOTs onto the Internet was indeed a genuine violation of copyright laws.
Because NOTs had never appeared in the public domain, Scientology felt that these documents could still be protected as "trade secrets," in addition to being copyrighted materials. However, loose talk on alt.religion.scientology suggested that NOTs would appear online at some point...and when that happened, the fertilizer would really hit the fan.
Through out 1995 and early 1996, the Scamizdat postings appeared occasionally on alt.religion.scientology. Most of the focus of these messages was on the OT materials, because they were the hot topic of discussion at the time. But Scamizdat also posted other Scientology documents, including written bulletins from L. Ron Hubbard, documents on how Scientology attacks its foes...and a couple of excerpts from the NOTs materials. In particular, NOTs 34: The Sequence for Handling a Physical Condition was posted repeatedly by Scamizdat, thus making it available to the public for the first time.
To summarize: There are actually two separate sets of Scientology documents available on the Internet. The first set of documents contains the OT materials; these documents are legally available from Karin Spaink's Web site (and other locations). The second set of documents contains NOTs, and it is currently a violation of copyright law to make NOTs available for download. The placing of copyrighted documents onto the Internet was a violation of copyright law (so long as the copyright could be verified); however, according to the ruling of Judge Brinkema, downloading a copy of these documents from the Internet is not a "trade secret violation," because the documents are freely available from the public domain.
Are we confused yet?
On April 2, 1997, a startling piece of evidence was revealed on alt.religion.scientology. The case of Religious Technology Center vs. Grady Ward took an unusual turn when Grady Ward received a court order to force Scientology to reveal certain documents relating to the actual ownership and copyright of the NOTs documents...something that Scientology had been noticeably reluctant to provide. When Keith Henson examined the box of documents provided by RTC, a new piece was added to the puzzle:
It seemed possible that the copyright to NOTs did not belong to Religious Technology Center.
Mr. Henson unearthed a document containing a ruling on the ownership of NOTs. This incident had apparently occured in the midst of Larry Wollersheim's case (see below), in 1991. Upon review of the question of the ownership of NOTs, United States Special Master James G. Kolts acknowledged the contributions of David Mayo to the authorship and development of NOTs. His ruling stated:
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT the following issues be summarily adjudicated as follows: (1) Mayo's substanial contribution to NOTs is a work made for hire under section 101(1) of The Copyright Act of 1976; and (2) as to Mayo's substantial contribution to NOTs, CSC is the author under the work made for hire doctrine.
--Religious Technology Center vs. Robin Scott and Religious Technology Center vs. Larry Wollersheim, Civil Action No. CV-85-711 JMI (BX) and CV 85-7197 JMI (BX), June 4, 1991. [Document supplied by RTC as part of discovery, Bates numbers 01431-01444 in RTC vs Grady Ward, USDC, Northern CA, Case No. C-96-20207 RMW EAI, April 1, 1997.]
["CSC" stands for "Church of Scientology of California."]
A lengthy discussion ensued on alt.religion.scientology over the meaning of this new piece of evidence. As far as anyone could tell, this meant that CSC owned the NOTs, while RTC did not...and this suggested that RTC had no legal basis to sue anyone over any alleged copyright violations concerning the NOTs documents. The organization known as "Church of Scientology of California" was the legal owner of NOTs, and they were the ones who had to take action to protect the copyrights...
...except that the Church of Scientology of California was officially bankrupt.
In 1989, Larry Wollersheim had won a major victory against Scientology. He had initially been awarded damages of $30 million against the Church of Scientology of California, but after an excruciatingly long legal battle (which was actually appealed twice to the Supreme Court of the United States), the damages were reduced to $2.5 million. Scientology adamantly refused to pay this amount, and the organization known as "Church of Scientology of California" announced that it had no money to pay the judgement. It officially declared bankruptcy, and Wollersheim has been trying to collect his judgement ever since. (The text of the final order can be found on Maureen Garde's archive of Scientology court cases, noting the case of Wollersheim vs. Church of Scientology of California.)
If the Church of Scientology of California actually owned the NOTs, and RTC did not, then RTC may well have had no legal right at all to protect the copyrights of the NOTs documents. The lawsuits against Keith Henson and Zenon Panoussis may have been entirely unjustified, and it seemed as if a basis existed to have the entire case thrown out on these legal grounds.
Therefore, the legal status of NOTs as of April 1997 was unclear, on very shaky legal ground, and possibly even nonexistent.
The participants on the Internet looked to see what would happen next...
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