Elan Vital's Copyright Complaints
against www.ex-premie.org

At the end of April 2003, Elan Vital tried to silence its critics on the Internet in a concerted action against the hosts of Ex-Premie.org and its mirror sites, and against Google (Google caches EPO's pages in order to index them in its search engine). Had these attempts be successful, it would have been difficult to find any reference to Ex-Premie.org on the most popular search engine of the Internet, and this website would have lost a fundamental part of its documentation on the origin of Prem Rawat's so-called teachings.

Elan Vital tries to intimidate Ex-Premie.org's hosts

Elan Vital tries to intimidate Google

On 24th April, 2003, Verio, the hosting company for www.ex-premie.org (EPO) received a letter from Stroock, Stroock and Lavan, a law firm based in California acting for Elan Vital Inc. (EVI), claiming that pages on EPO infringed EVI's copyright. The letter included a list of 65 pages from EPO which included quotes from Prem Rawat, song lyrics, and photographs. Many of the quotes are from publications that Rawat ordered destroyed over 20 years ago. The photos include Rawat dressed as Krishna, Rawat dancing, Rawat having his feet kissed by his followers, Rawat with one of his previous aeroplanes, etc. The song lyrics are from songs that praised Rawat as the Lord. The research into what is owned by EVI and what isn't was clearly not thorough, e.g. Hans Yog Prakash, written by Rawat's father, is almost certainly the property of SatPal Rawat's organisation in India, if it is not in the public domain.

disputed pages were removed, as later were links to the mirror sites, and legal advice was sought. This led us to believe we had every right to publish the text and photos in question, and so a counter-notification was issued. This set out our grounds for disputing EVI's claim. Under US copyright law as it applies to the internet, Elan Vital Inc. had 14 days to test their claim in Federal Court, or their claim fails. We were happy to take this to court, as it would allow deposition of Prem Rawat, who has avoided serious questioning for far too long. In the end, though, Elan Vital Inc. failed to take their claim further, and Verio's legal department gave permission for the disputed pages to be reinstated. The disputed pages can be browsed by following the links.

In the meantime, EVI became aware that there were three mirror sites for EPO, www.ex-premie2.org (EPO2), www.ex-premie3.org (EPO3) and www.ex-premie4.org (EPO4). As mentioned above, EVI complained that EPO still linked to the disputed pages through the links to the mirror sites, and Verio said that even though they were not hosted on Verio servers, the links should be removed. The hosts for EPO2 and EPO3 then received identical complaints from Stroock. EPO3 is in the US, and a similar counter-notification has been issued, and the disputed pages have been removed from EPO3. EPO2 is hosted by a company registered in Scotland. Under Scottish law, an internet hosting company has the same legal liability as a paper manufacturer has for what is written in a newspaper. For Stroock to take their action further would require them to study Scottish law a little more closely. The EPO2 host was very supportive, and at no stage were any pages removed from EPO2. We have no knowledge of a complaint made to the hosts of EPO4.

Current followers of Prem Rawat may wish to consider the wisdom of EVI's action. Clearly it was expensive, and even if they had been successful in getting the pages removed, there were only 65 out of over 750 English language pages, and apart from the song lyrics, the only words that would be missing from EPO would be Rawat's own words. The best EVI could hope for was a little disruption to EPO during Rawat's recent propagation tour. The disruption was minimal. Is that what Rawat's supporters made those donations for? And surely Stroock must have advised EVI that the action would fail, so why did EVI insist that the action was taken?

During the US tour EPO page reads increased by an average of 500 pages a day to around 2000 a day.

Not only did they complain to ex-premie.org's hosts, but Elan Vital (via its lawyers) also complained to Google.

On April 24, 2003, Stroock, Stroock and Lavan also sent a letter to Google, very similar to the one sent to EPO's host.

In that letter, EV complains about Google caching those 65 infamous pages (see above) - allegedly violating EV's copyrights, and threatens Google with legal action if they didn't immediately remove the offending pages from their cache (see copy of EV's letter to Google).

It looks like Google is familiar with these sort of threats, and wasn't impressed by EV's lawyers' letter. And something that Stroock, Stroock and Lavan (and Elan Vital) probably didn't expect happened: Google sent a copy of the letter to the "Chilling Effects" website.

Chilling Effects is a "joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, and University of Maine law school clinics" that's been set in order to illustrate how "some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users. Chilling Effects encourages respect for intellectual property law, while frowning on its misuse to 'chill' legitimate activity".

And the case of EV's complain to Google ("Premies" Complain to Google of "Ex-Premie.org" Site) is used by Chilling Effects to illustrate how law can be used to try to silence critics !!

We didn't expect so much support !!

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