Alleged 'rights group' tries to have 4,000 anti-Scientology videos removed from YouTube

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Monday, September 8, 2008

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a rights group called the American Rights Counsel LLC has attempted to have at least 4,000 anti-Scientology videos removed from the video sharing website YouTube. Upon further investigation, Wikinews found that most videos and clips were added to YouTube by the copyright holders of the material; as DMCA requests are for the purposes of requesting removal where service providers host material that infringe on the copyright of the complainant, the merit of these requests remain questionable. It was also discovered that the alleged rights group does not exist as a physical entity. In an in-depth report, Wikinews investigated the incident and obtained exclusive information and comments from individuals, including XenuTV producer Mark Bunker.

Within the past 24 hours, according to the EFF, the Counsel "sent out over 4000 DMCA takedown notices to YouTube, all making copyright infringement claims against videos with content critical of the Church of Scientology." A DMCA notice, or Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice means an attempt to limit the use of copyrighted material that is often infringing on the rights of an alleged copyright.

Wikinews made attempts to contact American Rights Counsel LLC for comment on the take-down notices, but was unable to obtain contact details for the alleged organisation. One post on a YouTube discussion page related to the organization states that they "do not appear to exist outside of these claims on YouTube." Wikinews contacted YouTube several times asking them if they have a process of verifying DMCA requests from individuals or entities claiming copyright infringement, but when they responded, they directed Wikinews to their terms of service saying, "item 8 addresses the DMCA and 8 B addresses counter-notice procedures."

YouTube's terms of use in regards to filing DMCA requests states that only "A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed" can make such claims. It also goes on to say, "Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site."

The EFF says the videos attempting to be removed had shown clips from Anonymous protests of the Church and news footage from Australia and Germany which were critical of Scientology. Some videos were also messages from Anonymous to Scientology, and vice versa. Others were also video clips from a City Commission meeting in Clearwater, Florida. Accounts hosting the material were "suspended by YouTube in response to multiple allegations of copyright infringement."

YouTube does, however, have a process for users that wish to file a counter-notice against a take-down under the DMCA. After the DMCA notices were sent, YouTube users began to revolt, by sending "DMCA counter-notices" to YouTube. The EFF states that the counter attack resulted in many of the accounts being reinstated and their videos restored.

One user claimed that he had shot and uploaded one of the videos that was taken down. "How can someone else file a claim against a video I MADE?," said ShadowVsScientology, one of the YouTube users who had a video deleted. Since he owned the rights to the video, he alleges that the American Rights Counsel had no legal grounds to request its removal.

A video posted on YouTube by a user called 'Church0fScientology', who was responsible for the original 'Message to Scientology' in January of 2008 created after the Church had a video of a Tom Cruise interview removed from the site, states that the organization responsible for the DMCAs does not exist and is run by a man named Dr. Oliver Schaper. They state that he "fronts" the organization for Scientology. It also calls Schaper's actions "deceptive". Schaper also had an account on YouTube which has since been suspended. Wikinews obtained a cached version of his account page in which he states to the group Anonymous, "I respect your efforts as long your efforts remain within the limits of the law and remain fair. Although I don't censor any postings, I would appreciate if any conversation could remain civil and insult free." Schaper also states that he "will not censor because I strongly believe in the freedom of speech." They accuse him of running and owning media companies that distribute gay pornography, something Schaper later admits, but only that it's an "adult television network." Homosexuality is not accepted within the Church of Scientology and is not tolerated. Scientology believes that homosexuality is a disease and can be cured.

A user named "Oschaper" has written articles on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia about Peephole TV and Volksmusik TV. Oliver Schaper is the founder of Peephole TV, and is also involved with Volksmusik TV. In an e-mail to Wikinews, Wikipedia user Oschaper claims that his first name is Olaf, and that he is "not related" to Oliver Schaper. "Olaf" writes: "My name is Olaf Schaper and I use the handle oschaper on Wikipedia. I'm not related to Oliver Schaper and we share only the last name ... If you like to contact Oliver Schaper please see his companies website at". When asked how he managed to get an e-mail address with that last name, Olaf replied, "I got the email because my best friend works for his networks hence the creation of my postings on Wikipedia."

Used to describe the war which begun between the internet and the Church on January 19, 2008. Map details internet coverage in countries.
Image: Jason Safoutin.

Wikinews contacted Schaper for exclusive comments. Schaper replied saying that he is a "very strong advocate for the Church of Scientology, the religion of Scientology and a free speech advocate" and "I don’t need to go into details but I felt that my family and myself have been direct targets and in an attempt to control the situation, I started to track down and remove online links between me and my religion. This included postings made by HouseSpiderAnon on his videos, who publicly connected the dots and made them available to a larger audience."

"I requested several times to have my information removed from his videos as I wanted no association with his work but he refused, even after I stated several times that he has the right to protest but that I would like to enforce my right of privacy. He refused and demanded documentation of the attacks, something I refused because it was not my attention to allow more documents to be available online in public hand," added Schaper who also said he has been a victim of identity theft and now has the FBI involved in investigating his claim.

"Tustin PD [police department] has been on the case and now the FBI is involved as well. Social Security has been notified and we have seen about 200 attempts to use the SSN [social security number] for fake credit cards applications," Schaper told Wikinews.

Schaper admits that he contacted YouTube to have videos which contained images of him that were being used without permission and videos "which violated [his] privacy removed." Those requests made by Schaper were eventually accepted by YouTube but "videos that contained just a text messages directed against me or my church remained," he added. He also admits to owning "several broadcasting companies, ACOS Broadcasting Corp. (eight mainstream television and two radio networks) & Media House Enterprises, Inc. (adult television network PEEPHOLE TV)."

"I had the power to go fully against copyrighted material because we own or licensed large amounts of content. But it was not my responsibility to enforce all copyright violations on YouTube. In addition with the attacks on our servers, websites and infrastructure, no time would have been available to take on a fight," added Schaper.

Schaper also denies any involvement with the alleged rights group and also states he was just notified that it doesn't even exist.

"As many other people, and even members of the Church of Scientology received information about a company that removed anti-Scientology content from YouTube, shit hit the fan and members of Anonymous went on a full attack on me. I still have to this date no information about the American Rights Counsel and I have no connection, knowledge or involvement in this company which I have been informed of does not even exists," Schaper told Wikinews.

One critic of Scientology, television producer Mark Bunker also had his accounts deleted by YouTube, but had them quickly restored. Bunker also believes that the American Rights Counsel does not exist.

Mark Bunker.
Image: XenuTV.

"American Rights Counsel LLC does not exist. When I got my take-down notices from YouTube I tried to file a DMCA counter-notice but in order to do that you need to get the name of the contact person to be served with the notice and the contact information of the company which the government lists on the web," said Bunker to Wikinews who also added that their name is not registered with the United States copyright office.

"I next did a google search for American Rights Counsel LLC which brought up absolutely no results so clearly this was fraud from the beginning. I contact[ed] YouTube and they quickly restored everything to my account and others," added Bunker.

Wikinews has also learned that a contributor on Wikipedia, claiming to be a member of Anonymous, has posted what is allegedly personal information of Schaper. The edit, made to the article Peephole TV states that he is a lawyer, employed with a firm on Ricklinger, Stadtweg in Hanover, Germany. It also stated that he is affiliated with the "Tustin Org" in California. In what seems to be a gathering of information on Schaper from other online sources, according to, the result of releasing the information has resulted in legal and physical threats from Schaper to someone, known as 'HouseSpiderV2' on Enturbulation, who has claimed to have released e-mail correspondence between him and Schaper.

"Don't think I will not be able to track you down and serve you with papers. I would make the case so expensive for you that you would not be able to even fight this on your own funding as I have the money at my disposal," allegedly states Schaper to 'HouseSpiderV2' in an e-mail. "You have 24 hours to remove the postings or I will start to make this a legal issue. That makes it simple," he added.

Despite the claims that the Wikipedia contributor is Oliver Schaper, he claims to have never registered an account with Wikipedia. He also says he has never made any threats of physical harm to members of Anonymous.

"I had not the need to register an account with Wikipedia and after all this trouble will not get involved at all. There has never been any threat of violence against Housespideranon or any other member of Anonymous made by me," Schaper told Wikinews.

It would be worth a subpoena to find out who committed this crime.

Mark Bunker

Bunker, who recently spoke with Schaper, says he believes Schaper is not involved, but that he also doesn't know who or what was responsible for filing the DMCA requests.

"I had never heard of Schaper before he was accused of this. I don't know anything about him other than he contacted me and said he was not involved. I don't know who was responsible. 4000 deletions in a matter of hours is a pretty major feat. It would be worth a subpoena to find out who committed this crime. I wouldn't blame Schaper without knowing he did it," Bunker added.


This exclusive report features first-hand journalism by one or more Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
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