USA critcism forces Sweden to change the law

Scientology bible. New bill limits the right to access public documents.

Dagens Nyheter, September 12, 1999

The goverment wants to introduce limitations to the rules on access to public documents (offentlighetsprincipen) after the quarrel about the so-called scientology bible. A new bill that will prevent people from accessing certain documents has now been handed to the law council for approval. It is among other things criticism from the US that has caused the government to want to change the rules.

A few years ago a person handed in the scientology scripture to several authorities. It was thereby registered as a public document.

When a citizen requests to view a public document, the authority has to decide whether it can give it out. The government and the chancellor of justice chose to seal their copies, pointing to foreign secrecy - it could disturb Sweden's international relations if the contents of the "bible" were spread to the public.

The parliament came to a different conclusion and made copies available that the public could access.

The scientologists were upset. They regard the "bible" as a sacred scripture that not anybody should be allowed to read.

The US questioned whether Sweden was abiding by the international agreements on copyright, the Bern convention and the TRIPS agreement.

In its referal to the law council, the government writes that the US have made it clear that the country will request an arbitration against Sweden if Sweden does not change the law so that such a situation can be avoided in the future.

According to the government's assessment, such an international dispute could lead to Sweden being forced to introduce limitations that go further than those that are now proposed.

The new bill targets works that can be assumed to not have been published, that are handed in to an authority without the author's consent. Such a work will not be handed out if it can be assumed that the author could suffer damage, for example through diminishing sales incomes from the work. The law is proposed to be in effect from the beginning of next year.

Zenon Panoussis, who put the scientology bible on the internet and spead paper copies of it was sued by the scientologists. The district court of Stockholm found him guilty of copyright infringement. He has appealed to the court of appeals, which has still not ruled in the case.

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