Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-Line Communication Services, Inc.

907 F. Supp. 1361 (N.D. Cal. 1995)

Dennis Erlich.

The Religious Technology Center is the branch of Scientology that holds all the copyrights and trademarks of the church. Shortly after this case was decided, the RTC settled out of court with both Netcom and Dennis Erlich, pictured left. Activists online have collected news articles and documents preserved from this era.

Mr. Erlich first began posting messages about Scientology on a bulletin board system. These systems were one of the first ways computer owners could communicate with each other. Predating the World Wide Web, BBS's allowed individual to post files on the host computer to share with other users.

Usenet newsgroups provided the same type of functionality, but allowed messages to be seen by anyone connected to the Internet and not just the specific BBS. The newsgroup that Mr. Erlich posted to, alt.religion.scientology, was dedicated to discussing the religion. (For more information on how Usenet newsgroups are named, look here.)

Scientology is highly controversial, and has a number of dedicated critics. His posts began the battle of words and lawsuits that has come to be known as "Scientology versus the Internet." Since this case, Scientology's secret tenets have been obtained by Wikileaks and HBO produced critically-acclaimed and successful documentary critical of the organization.