Scientology and Dreamhost

For most of you this post won’t be that interesting. After all, who really cares about a cult religion or my webhost? Stick with me though, I’m on to something.

First off, have we all seen the crazy Tom Cruise/Scientology video? If not, Gawker has it.

Check it out. I’ll wait.

Ok? Good.

The main crux of my post is that, right or wrong, this video exists and people have seen fit to keep it in circulation despite the best (worst?) wishes of the Church of Scientology. My first question to Dreamhost: If I kept a local copy on my (their) webserver, would they support me if CoS told me (them) to take it down or delete it?

If that were the only issue swirling around CoS and anti-Scientology folks it’d still make for an interesting discussion. Luckily for malcontents and internet activists it’s not. “Anonymous” is taking the fight directly to CoS with Project Chanology.

They’re planning a coordinated, worldwide day of reckoning on February 10 and, they claim, are constantly being attacked themselves by CoS and their followers. Radar has more including a video.

If Scientologists are going to play dirty, so the logic goes, why not those who vehemently disagree with their philosophies and tactics against dissidents?

Of course “Anonymous” and Project Chanology aren’t the first folks to try and turn the light of truth on Scientology. Mark Bunker’s Operation Clambake/Xenu.net has been around for quite some time, taking internal CoS docs and using them as evidence of the craziness inside this “religion”.

Again, I’m asking Dreamhost if mirroring some of the information housed on Xenu.net is within the scope of their terms of service/use. It’s basically the same question as above, since the video and text originate from CoS, but I’m asking anyway.

More importantly, what if I decide to join “Anonymous” and take part in this Feb. 10 day or reckoning? What if I use my blog to do the same? Or use my webserver to help coordinate/undertake said attacks? What will happen to me if/when CoS comes knocking? Will Dreamhost support my decision?

Thirdly, we have the many and varied parodies floating around the internet. Everything from South Park to YTMND to The Damn Show.

The last one, The Damn Show, has even been the target of backlash and hacking by CoS. I’d like to know from Dreamhost what protocols are in place to stop this from happening to me?

So I really have three questions for Dreamhost:

  1. If I kept a local copy on my webserver of Church of Scientology video or text, would they support me if CoS told me to take it down or delete it?
  2. What would happen to me/my account if I helped out with the Feb. 10 day of reckoning campaign by “Anonymous”?
  3. What protocols are in place to stop hacking by CoS (or anyone) from happening to me?

Dreamhost was fairly forthcoming the last time I asked them a question about BitTorrent, so I expect a quick and thorough response. I’ll post the answers here if/when I receive them.

In the meantime, whether or not you agree or disagree with either side in this “debate” I suggest you think about the role the internet – and your own personal involvement with the internet – plays in this discussion.

Should Scientology be allowed to bully folks into taking down information in this way (especially if they do so in the context of news)? Should you as a netizen be able to post not only parodies but also Church doctrine? And is a coordinated counterattack productive, legal and/or justifiable?

I look forward to your comments.

UPDATE: Jeff from DreamHost’s Abuse/Security Team replies:

Hello Seth,

> 1. If I kept a local copy on my webserver of Church of Scientology video or text, would they support me if CoS told me to take it down or delete it?

It depends.

We do not treat the Church of Scientology any differently than we do any
other person or organization that contacts us. If they have a legitimate
complaint and contact us with a DMCA Notification of Claimed
Infringement, we would generally comply by taking that content down.

For example, if you repost their copyrighted content in a manner not
covered under Fair Use exemptions to copyright law, that would likely be
considered copyright infringement and we would take it down.
Intentionally engaging in copyright infringement could result in account
disablement without refund or prior notice.

However, we also recognize that the COS does have a long history of
trying to bend (and in some cases, break) the law in order to silence
criticism. We have on multiple occasions told them to “take a hike”, so
to speak, when one of our own customers engaged in what we saw as
critical – but legal – speech against them and their practices. While we
will respect their legal rights, we are not afraid of the Church of
Scientology and will not allow them to use false means to silence
legitimate criticism.

> 2. What would happen to me/my account if I helped out with the Feb. 10 dayof reckoning campaign by “Anonymous”?

I am not aware of this campaign or what it entails, so I would need to
know a bit more about what you plan to do. However, I can say that
engaging in any sort of illegal or prohibited activity (ie. intentional
copyright infringement) does pose a risk to your account. Upon doing some
research I read that some people are planning on engaging in computer
intrusion or denial of service attacks against Scientology servers –
anyone doing that _will_ have their account disabled and we would likely
contact law enforcement.

In any case, DreamHost is a place for legitimate critical speech, but we
absolutely will not tolerate illegal or unethical behavior on our
servers.

> 3. What protocols are in place to stop hacking by CoS (or anyone) from happening to me?

We are not aware of any computer intrusions by CoS in the past. That
said, we do keep all servers up-to-date with the latest patches and
monitor accounts for suspicious behaviors commonly associated with such
activities. While there is never a guarantee that we can prevent such
things from happening in the first place, we would not tolerate such
behavior from anyone (including the Church).

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Jeff

All in all a very measured, reassuring response. If I’m a critic or parodist or malcontent, I’m glad to know that DreamHost would stick up for my rights to criticize/parody/bear a grudge against CoS.

Now I’m not one to take the next step beyond outspokenness and past civil disobedience and straight on in to cyber warfare, but that’s me.

5 thoughts on “Scientology and Dreamhost

  1. I had seen the parodies and bits and pieces of the original, but am just now watching the original in full. Nut job!

    I think the story behind this is going to make for quite a case study in viral marketing. Why are they now allowing this video to remain on YouTube after so stridently opposing it staying there earlier?

    Theory: they are just fine with it going far and wide, and in fact want it to, but knew that early legal action would generate that much more publicity for it.

  2. thatguy says:

    I support Anonymous efforts. Not the illegal part but the public protesting is great. The “Church” of Scientology has been getting away with this kind of behaviour for far too long. For some reason they seem to have entirely circumvented the laws as soon as they claimed that they were a bonafide “religion”, which happens to coincide with them getting tax exemption by the IRS whom they strong armed into submission. This also means that the mainstream media doesn’t have the guts to fight the “Church”‘s army of lawyers.
    Hopefully there will be alot of people going to the streets about it, because that would be the backlash that has been long overdue.

  3. Rusty, thanks for the comment. It’s an interesting theory that I wouldn’t put past CoS.

    I’m actually more interested in what bloggers and other folks who use the internet regularly think about the tactics of both CoS supporters and detractors.

    What role does a blogger have? What should a web host do if approached by either side with some of their tactics?

  4. Yes, I strayed off topic there.

    Technically, I think CoS has a good case to say “this is our copyrighted video that you have no right to republish in full.”

    I do think there’s a great argument for fair use if only posting excerpts though. And parodies are obviously protected.

    As far as the web host’s role, I couldn’t really fault DH if they capitulated and took full copies of the video down.

    CoS are total nut jobs, but they are entitled to the same copyright privileges as anyone else.

  5. I’ll agree that CoS are both in the right regarding their copyright AND completely nuts.

    I think the Anonymous/DoS/Project Chanology is beyond the pale, though. Why would you stoop to the level of secrecy and bullshit of your enemies?

    Isn’t it as disingenuous as using torture to extract information from supposed terrorists or am I reaching?

    Either way, I’m curious to what DreamHost interprets my rights to be and what role they play.

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