Judge Blocks Unauthorized Biography of Scientology Founder
NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a critical book about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, finding that it violated the copyrights of his authorized biographer.
U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton said the book, which is still in manuscript form, could be published after infringing passages were deleted.
Melvin Wulf, lawyer for the book’s publisher, said the decision was ″a dagger in the heart of the First Amendment″ and would not hold up on appeal.
″It would be a terrible incursion into our free speech rights,″ Wulf said.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit by New Era Publications International, which has certain exclusive copyrights to Hubbard’s private papers for the purpose of writing his authorized biography. The company also is the publisher of Scientology books.
Hubbard, who died in 1986, founded the Church of Scientology and wrote dozens of books about the religion and his philosophy. He taught that spiritual competence is achieved by ″erasing″ mental images in the unconscious mind that cause irrational behavior.
The disputed book, ″A Piece of Blue Sky,″ is written by former Scientologist Jonathan Caven-Atack, who became disillusioned with Hubbard’s teachings after following them for nine years.
According to Stanton’s decision, Atack ″came to believe that Scientology is a dangerous cult and that Mr. Hubbard, far from being the gentle prophet portrayed in Church literature, was a paranoid, vindictive and profoundly disturbed man.″
After receiving permission from Stanton last summer to review the manuscript, New Era said 121 passages, slightly less than 3 percent of the book, were taken from copyrighted sources.
The book’s publisher, Carol Publishing Group, claimed the passages were allowed by a section of copyright law called fair use, which says copyrighted works can be used for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching or research.
Stanton, however, found that much of the copyrighted material in Atack’s book was used by itself at the beginning of a chapter.
″The evident purpose of this device, which is carried out with some effect, is to use passages from Mr. Hubbard’s work to set the tone for the sections they precede,″ he said. ″In essence, these passages use copyrighted materials as a literary device rather than a basis for a critical study of Mr. Hubbard.″
The judge said Carol Publishing could easily delete the infringing passages. ″The only apparent hardships resulting from an injunction are some delay in publication and a more stringent editing process.″
Wulf said Stanton had shown a ″total misunderstanding″ of the fair-use law. ″It really threatens to impair the right of biographers and scholars to study the works of other people who are of great public interest,″ he said.
New Era’s lawyer, Jonathan Rubell, said his client had never intended to stop the book’s publication. ″It was the use of expression rather than factual presentation that we were complaining about,″ he said.