Anti-Scientology protest material removed from YouTube following threats of legal action

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Monday, September 29, 2008

The video sharing website YouTube has removed several anti-Scientology videos following threats of legal action. Wikinews found that at least 11 videos have been removed from the site following Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices served on YouTube by Dr. Oliver Schaper, Scientologist and self-described advocate of the Church of Scientology's rights to free speech. Schaper, in an interview with Wikinews reporter Jason Safoutin, denied involvement in a previous run of DMCA requests involving similar video material. However, the videos in question bear a message that Schaper was the originator of the request.

According to YouTube the 11 videos were removed by direct DMCA requests from Schaper. The videos have been reported to be of anti-Scientology protests, recorded by various members of the group Anonymous.

In early September, an entity named American Rights Counsel LLC -- which has described itself as a 'rights group', but without provision of contact details -- requested the removal from YouTube of over 4,000 anti-Scientology videos. Many of these videos consisted entirely of self-made content by anti-Scientology protesters; others were quite explicitly extracts from official Church of Scientology footage. Users had initially speculated that Schaper was responsible for these requests; no evidence, however, has been obtained to this effect, nor has official comment been obtained from American Rights Counsel.

When comment was requested further to these earlier removal requests, Schaper stated that he was a "... very strong advocate for the Church of Scientology, the religion of Scientology and a free speech advocate." Schaper alleged that he had " this date no information about the American Rights Counsel" and "no connection, knowledge or involvement in this company [American Rights Counsel]".

Wikinews contacted Schaper to find out why he made the new requests. According to him, the videos were not of protests against Scientology, but instead were videos of alleged hate-crimes and hate-speech, which were allegedly attacking Schaper personally.

"None of the videos are accounts of any protests. The videos in question have been produced by an YouTube (U.K.) user to directly attack me and my companies. I made the requests in accordance with YouTube’s terms and condition, after confirming directly with YouTube and the local ECTF office in Los Angeles, to remove material that infringes on my copyright. None of the videos removed by YouTube fall under the fair use guidelines or can be considered news-worthy. The content of the videos has been classified by law-enforcement as hate-speech and frivolous attack. The producers of these videos are based in the U.K. and local law-enforcement has been contacted by the FBI," said Schaper to Wikinews.

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Dr. Oliver Schaper."
Image: YouTube.

When Wikinews asked Schaper if he was acting on behalf of the Church, Schaper denied any such involvement. He also stated that he was not attempting to remove videos critical of him, or the Church, but also emphasizes other videos still on YouTube that are "a personal attack against me and my beliefs."

"Despite the fact that I am a Scientologist, none of the videos removed, where[sic] removed on behalf of the Church of Scientology or any organization associated with the church. In addition I like to point out that I have not removed any video, critical of me personally which does not violate my copyrights and I have no intention to do so," said Schaper.

In addition, Wikinews invited Dr. Schaper to comment on the apparent discrepancy between his actions and his advocacy of free speech. Dr. Schaper feels that that the two stated aims are not in conflict, stating, "I believe the First Amendment but I also see how Anonymous tries to abuse these liberties. Not everything is protected under the free speech clause and laws have been enacted to protect each citizen from abuse."

Schaper also stated that Anonymous is "breaking the law" by uploading material to YouTube which could be considered hate crimes. He also states that he would not mind a one-on-one conversation with some members of Anonymous, but "these guys don’t have the balls for a direct sit-down because they should get their facts straight."

"Anonymous is overstating a case and claims that their abuse and online bullying would be protected under the First Amendment forgetting the fact that they indeed are breaking the laws," added Schaper.

Schaper does not plan on enforcing the Church's copyrights saying, "they can handle their own content" and that he "will continue to enforce my copyrights and seek full prosecution in cooperation with federal law-enforcement."

Wikinews has contacted YouTube for a statement regarding this incident, but has yet to receive a response.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.