High Court Lets Scientology Copyright Suit Die
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today refused to revive a copyright lawsuit over an unauthorized biography of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion.
The justices, without comment, let stand a decision throwing out allegations of copyright infringement against the book’s publisher.
Hubbard, who died in 1986, published nearly 600 fiction and non-fiction works during his lifetime, 111 of which are in print.
The exclusive holder of worldwide publishing rights to his published non- fiction works and his unpublished works is New Era Publications International.
According to New Era’s 1989 lawsuit, it plans to publish a biography of Hubbard that will draw on both his published and unpublished works.
New Era sued after learning that Carol Publishing Group planned to publish a book by Jonathan Caven-Atack entitled ″A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed.″
After determining that Caven-Atack’s book contained ″substantial quotation″ from Hubbard’s works, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in New York City ordered Carol Publishing not to release the book.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last May reversed Stanton’s ruling. The appeals court said the book’s use of copyright material amounted to ″fair use″ and was not illegal.
″The author uses Hubbard’s works for the entirely legitimate purpose of making his point that Hubbard was a charlatan and the church a dangerous cult,″ the appeals court said.
It added: ″The author uses the quotations in part to convey the facts contained therein, and not for their expression. More importantly, even passages used for their expression are intended to convey the author’s perception of Hubbard’s hypocrisy and pomposity, qualities that may best, or only, be revealed through direct quotation.″
The May ruling said the unflattering characterizations of Hubbard and the Church of Scientology were those of the biography’s author, not the court’s.
In the appeal acted on today, lawyers for New Era urged the justices to use the case to clarify the scope of the fair-use defense to alleged copyright infringement.
The appeal said the 2nd Circuit court’s ruling conflicts with a 1985 Supreme Court decision in which the justices said public figures have first rights to present in their own words their role in history.
The case acted on today is New Era Publications vs. Carol Publishing Group, 90-348.