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Tom Cruise video leak on web: can Scientology delete it?

Sky News (24 hour UK news channel), 18 January 2008, 19:50

[first sentence not transcribed] The Hollywood star's appearance in a nine-minute film about Scientology has swept right across the internet. The Scientology movement claims his comments about curing drug addiction and world peace are copyrighted, and they should be removed from the web. But can anything really be deleted once it's entered cyberspace? Let's remind ourselves what Tom Cruise said.

[Extracts from the video]
Joining us from a central London studio is media lawyer Mark Stephens from Finers, Stephens, Innocent
Can you really stop something like this, Mark, once it's got out across the Web?

MS: I think it's very difficult. Of course the Scientologists do own the copyright, and they are entitled to go against YouTube and the people who've actually been posting this up.
But of course the problem with that is that although those people will have infringed copyright, as soon as you take that kind of action against something by Tom Cruise, you immediately make a news story.

One of the things about news is that you can report it without infringing copyright. So your use of the material there wasn't an infringement of copyright. And of course, every news organisation that's reputable across the planet, just like Sky, has got this on their web site; has got this on their television programmes and as a consequence of that, this is getting a lot more coverage, just because of the action that's been taken. They really have made a disaster out of a crisis.

Host: Now the Church of Scientology has been pretty litigious, hasn't it, in the past? In fact, the WikiPedia article - we've just looked it up - I've got it online now - lists some of the notable lawsuits against critics of the organisation.
[Screen shot of WikiPedia page mentioning Arnaldo Lerma and Zenon Panoussis. Caption: History of web disputes wikipedia.org]
One has to wonder, I suppose, is legal action always the best action?

MS: I don't think it is, and I think particularly in this particular case it's created a problem. They wanted to remove Tom Cruise from the internet because they felt that putting bits and pieces up of the material - it's not the whole video that he shot - really gives a distorted image. The problem of course is that as soon as you do that, you draw attention to it, and there are many organisations out there that have been the subject of criticism: major international corporations like MacDonalds, for example and they wisely very often ignore rather than take legal action.

Host: Now, a new book about Tom Cruise also grabbing the headlines, Mark. I'm sure you've heard of it. Andrew Morton, of course, who wrote the controversial biography of Princess Diana, turning his attention to the star. The book's not going to be published in the UK, though.

[We see a little extract from an interview with Morton]
AM: ...for rights and for freedom of expression for Scientologists and he's very quick to stop other people having freedom of expression. It's ironic, isn't it?

Host: Okay Mark, thank you for being with us. We'll talk about that book, maybe, when he gets into trouble a little bit later on, if indeed it does. Thanks very much for being with us today.

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