Swedes Halt Scientology Web Manual
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ A Swedish court on Monday ordered a man to stop spreading a copyrighted Church of Scientology training manual on the Internet and ordered him to pay the church more than $150,000.
The legal battle between the controversial church and Zenon Panoussis has attracted the attention of the United States, with U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky saying Sweden’s law on open public records violates international copyright law.
Panoussis obtained a copy of the church’s training manual in 1996 and sent it to the Swedish Parliament. Swedish law permits the Parliament to allow public access to documents filed with it.
Under pressure from the United States, the government last year agreed to stop allowing public access to the manual, but that decision was overturned in June by the Supreme Administrative Court.
Panoussis also had put the manual on the Internet, which the Stockholm District Court on Monday ruled was a copyright violation. The court ordered Panoussis to repay the church’s Religious Technology Center court costs of about $150,000 and another $1,250 in fines.
It is not clear how Panoussis obtained a copy of the manual, which is supposed to be available only to some members of the church, which charges fees for its courses. He was never a church member, said Tarja Vulto, a spokeswoman for Scientology in Sweden.
Scientology, with adherents worldwide including many celebrities, has attracted debate between those who say it is a legitimate religion and those who contend it is a cult or a commercial operation. The church won tax-free status as a religion in the United States in 1993 after a 25-year-long campaign.
Panoussis could not immediately be located for comment. Vulto said she believes he now lives in the Netherlands.
Scientology was founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1954.