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Art of Living Foundation v. Does 1-10, United States District Court, Northern California

Art of Living, an international religious cult based on the teachings of an Indian guru, used a DMCA take down notice to secure removal of some of its teaching manuals that appeared on two anonymously-published blogs that contained extensive criticism of the cult’s practices. “Leaving the Art of Living” http://artoflivingfree.blogspot.com/ and “Beyond the Art of Living” http://aolfree.wordpress.com/. Two months later, the cult’s US chapter registered the copyright in one of the manuals, brought suit both for copyright infringement and for defamation, and obtained subpoenas to identify the Doe bloggers. After the defamation claim was dismissed, Art of Living filed a new lawsuit limited to the claim that publication of teaching manuals for its courses revealed trade secrets, and that publication of the teaching manual for one of its free courses infringed the copyright in that manual, even though the copyright was not even registered until months after the manual had been taken down from the web site. A magistrate judge in federal court in San Jose decided that the copyright claim was a sufficient basis for identifying the Doe, departing from the general rule, previously followed in that very court, that a plaintiff needs evidence in support of its claims and that the judge needs to balance the First Amendment rights against the plaintiff’s interest in proceeding with a valid lawsuit. The judge relied on several mass copyright infringement cases brought against Doe defendants accused of improper downloading of musical recordings. Doe has objected to the subpoena ruling, and an amicus brief from Public Citizen, the ACLU and EFF supports the objections

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