The Supreme Court left intact a ruling Tuesday that limits the right of authors to quote unpublished material like diaries and letters. The court, without comment, refused to hear an appeal by a company that published a biography attacking the late L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling last April that was denounced by scholars, publishers and free-speech advocates, imposed strict limits on the use of quotations from unpublished material.
The appeals court said federal copyright law generally bars use of such material without permission. It rejected arguments that the ban violates constitutionally protected free expression.
The April ruling relied, in part, on an earlier 2nd Circuit court decision barring Random House from publishing a biography of author J.
D. Salinger unless quotations from, and paraphrases of, Salinger's letters were deleted.
Because of a technicality, the appeals court refused to block further publication of the Hubbard biography, entitled Bare-Faced Messiah. The appeals court said the copyright owners, who are affiliated with the Scientologists, waited too long to seek a court order blocking publication.
Ironically, that made Henry Holt and Co., publisher of the biography, the technical winner before the appeals court.
The company, nonetheless, filed the appeal acted on Tuesday. The appeal argued that Holt suffered damages because U.S. publication of Bare-Faced Messiah was blocked for nearly a year before the appeals court ruled.
The publisher also said the Hubbard estate and the Scientologists were largely successful in "using their copyright monopoly to manipulate the public perception of Mr. Hubbard and to prevent disclosure of the uncomfortable truth about a man who held himself out as a prophet."
Bare-Faced Messiah, by Russell Miller, accuses Hubbard of fakery and deception. Holt said quoting from Hubbard's unpublished letters and diaries was intended to expose his lies.