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What You Should Know About CESNUR

What You Should Know About CESNUR

CESNUR and Copyright

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Cesnur and Copyright

As noted, CESNUR mounted a legal challenge against a site critical of the organization. Among other things, the site's operator was accused of posting a CESNUR press release. Generally, press releases are copyright-free statements handed out in the hope that the press and other interested parties release the information to the general public. Claiming that the posting of a press release constitutes a copyright violation is, well, silly.

But what makes the "legal" harassment of its critics even more interesting is that CESNUR clearly applies double standards. After all, it has taken to posting a selection of full-text copies of newspaper articles at its site. Incredibly, Massimo Introvigne defends this practice by claiming Italian law applies to CESNUR's site - as if Italian law, by some legal fluke, allows what amounts to theft of other people's property, merely because it occurs within Italy.

Massive copyright violation is a practice recently addressed in this Salon.com article:

Nov. 10, 1999 | On Monday a federal court in Los Angeles enjoined Jim Robinson, the operator of a Web site called FreeRepublic.com, from posting articles copied from the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, the Times reported on Tuesday. Robinson, a right-wing activist, had set up FreeRepublic.com as a forum for other conservatives to comment on the news. To lubricate the discussion, users of his Web site resorted to the simple expedient of copying articles more or less wholesale from major publications and putting them on his site with a request for reader comments.

FreeRepublic.com reprints the stories with a boilerplate disclaimer that the works are copyrighted and used under the ""fair use"" provisions of copyright law.

Judge Margaret Morrow clearly disagreed with Robinson's contention, and no wonder. There is no "fair use" provision in copyright law that lets you reprint entire articles, no matter how much discussion they are intended to spur.
"Fair use" vs. foul play, Mark Gimein, Salon.com

Is CESNUR's Massimo Introvigne unaware of copyright law? No. Observe this footnote in his diatribe on what he terms ''Internet Terrorism'':

2. Orion, like several similar publications, also cares little for copyright. It reproduced an interview with Swiss scholar Jean-François Mayer from a Belgian magazine without his knowledge or permission (Jean-François Mayer, personal communication, June 1999).

CESNUR does pretty much the same thing, which, aside from being hypocritical, also amounts to theft. In a disclaimer added to the site in mid-March, 2000, CESNUR admits:

CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors.
Disclaimer added to the CESNUR site in mid-March, 2000

Newspapers, and other news providers, pay hefty fees for the use of wire services stories, and invest much money on copy produced in-house. One way online newspapers earn back some of that money, is by selling online ads. Read an article posted at their site, and you will see the ads that pay the bills (and, usually, keep the online version available for free). Another way some papers recoup a portion of their online costs is by charging for articles found in their archives.

By stealing articles and reposting them at its own site, CESNUR is committing, well... a form of ''Internet Terrorism.'' That kind of behavior hurts online newspapers and other news sources, and, eventually, those who use them.

More Double Standards

The folks at Kelebekler are known for their criticism of CESNUR. Thus when they posted a CESNUR press release (material meant to be disseminated) and critiqued it (specifically allowed under the fair use clause in the Copyright Code), CESNUR attacked. But when a cult promoter recently posted the full text of a CESNUR article by Massimo Introvigne to alt.religion.unification and alt.support.ex-cult, CESNUR did not complain. The article was posted without permission, but according to Mr. Introvigne that does not matter. [Email on file]

One wonders whether this cavalier attitude played a role in other copyright issues, such as the ones noted by Tilman Hausherr:

On 10.7.1998, I discovered that CESNUR had illegally made a copy of my web page, i.e. appropriating several hours of my work (I converted 29 files into HTML, set up links and corrected format errors in the table of contents). While the text is a public document, the HTML is my intellectual property.

On 6.8.1998, I learned that CESNUR had illegally made a copy of Mickael Tussier's page, which he and a friend had constructed by OCRing and HTMLizing a french government report. Again - the text is a public document, but the HTML is their intellectual property.

This is not an isolated incident. Note the following:

C.I.S.A.R. ''translations'' good enough for Cult Ingrate
Massimo Introvigne, a copyright lawyer who lobbies for legislation to strengthen the political power of cults, copied German Scientology News text, as webbed at http://www.lermanet.com/cisar/001031b.htm and posted it to his own page at http://www.cesnur.org/testi/scient_oct312K.htm. (Copy downloaded November 15, 2000.) He incorrectly labeled his acquisition as a ''translation'' and did not put the words ''German Scientology News'' in connection with his ''translation'' label, which should have been "interpretation", nor is there a discernible byline or url to which the interpretation can be credited or by which the reader can find ''German Scientology News.'' When Introvigne is not denying his competitors due credit, he often paints them as anti-cult ''terrorists''. Et tu, Massimo.

Darn I wish I'd a thought of that
Speaking of giving credit where it is due, Introvigne's CESNUR news at http://www.cesnur.org/testi/se_scientology.htm and the German OSA news at http://www.menschenrechtsbuero.de/html/index2.htm look suspiciously similar to German Scientology News at http://www.lermanet.com/cisar/trnmenu.htm, which has been serving the internet community in that capacity long before either OSA or CESNUR

Aside from the copyright issue, there is another area where CESNUR appears to use double standards. While it finds and posts a wide variety of news articles on movements like Ho No Hana Sanpagyo and Falun Gong, it somehow keeps missing items critical of certain movements CESNUR generally does not speak out against. (See, for example, its downright meager and generally one-sided coverage of Scientology Compare this with the Apologetics Index collection of articles on Scientologyu).

Of course, if you're interested in extensive (but legal) coverage of religion news items dealing with cults, sects, alternative religious movements, and current religion trends - including material routinely ignored by CESNUR - see Religion News Report

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