Karin Spaink

Karin Spaink (born 1957 in Amsterdam) is a journalist, writer and feminist.

Missing image
Zenon Panoussis and Karin Spaink, with Xenu, at the 2003 Leipzig Human Rights Award ceremony.

She is known as somebody who will actively, but legally fight "the system" in order to right wrongs. She has fought, amongst others, new-age writers who claim all diseases are only a psychological phenomenon, the Church of Scientology, police officers whom she claims sexually harassed teenagers, and American pro-abortionists who got an anti-abortionist site banned because of texts that may be construed as a literal, illegal call for mutilation and murder of medical doctors who perform abortions. (Spaink herself is pro-choice on the issue of abortion, but felt that freedom of speech prevailed in the latter case.)



Spaink was born in Amsterdam and trained as a secondary school teacher from 1975 to 1981, specialising in English. From 1981 to 1984 she studied sociology at the University of Amsterdam.

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986. She started writing freelance around this time.

In 1986 and 1987 she trained as a computer programmer, at Volmac and Fokker, working at Fokker from 1988 until 1990.

She writes a regular column for Het Parool (1992 to present) and previously wrote for De Groene Amsterdammer (1998 to 2000).

Between 1988 and 2003 her partner was Zenon Panoussis, who she met during the battles with the Church of Scientology.

Taking on New Age proponents over physical ailments

Spaink first came into the national limelight by accusing New Age writers such as Louise Hay, Thorwald Dethlefsen and Bernie Siegel of over-simplifying physical ailments by reducing them to a purely psychological phenomenon. Spaink, herself suffering from multiple sclerosis, was insulted by the suggestion that her disease was nothing more than the result of her own lack of willingness to heal. (Compare Idealism and responsibility assumption with Materialism; see also New Thought Movement.)

Her essay Het strafbare lichaam ("the punishable body") coined neologisms such as kwakdenken ("quack thinking") and orenmaffia ("mind mob") that even made it into the Dutch language dictionary. The latter term derived from the expression that something is "all between the ears," in other words, "all in the mind."


In 1995, the Church of Scientology unofficially declared war on the Internet. Spaink was one of the first famous Dutch Internet personalities and was one of about a hundred Dutch people to put up pages containing the Fishman Affidavit in protest against the actions of the church.

The Church of Scientology responded by suing Karin Spaink and a large number of internet providers, including XS4All, for copyright infringement. Part of the Fishman Affidavit were documents that Fishman had claimed to be the official teachings of Scientology. The defendants responded by challenging the church to prove it was actually the copyright holder of the disputed documents.

This put the church in a tough spot, because it claimed that those documents were church secrets; once it had proved the genuineness of those documents, the cat would be out of bag. This was important to the church, because it claims that the believers have to read the documents in a certain order, and only when they are ready for them, in order to reach a state of Clear.

The church finally gave in and let a Dutch notary compare the church-copyrighted documents with the texts on Spaink's homepage. Through her lawyers, Karin Spaink received a copy and started rewriting her homepage, just a week away from the court date for the kort geding (a sort of pre-lawsuit, in case the claimants feel there is a certain amount of urgency (for instance, when they fear copyrighted documents will be spread further before their distribution can be stopped). Spaink replaced the contested documents with an analysis of the documents, quoting liberally, but not too liberally from them; Dutch copyright law does not have a fair use provision, but allows quotation for purposes of scientific dissemination. Interestingly, a representative of the Church of Scientology used this occurrence to back up a claim that the church had actually won the court case.

The following 'real' court case was decided more along both lines: it was found that service providers do have a responsibility for documents that users put up on their web site; however, any claims that Karin Spaink was breaking the church's copyright were found unfounded, because Spaink had reworked her homepage as soon as she had discovered that the church indeed had valid claims to portions of the documents on that homepage. This implicitly meant that the scholarly study of the church's documents on Spaink's homepage was in fact legal.

Court costs were divided equally between parties. In the Netherlands these usually run into (only) thousands of euros; contrast this with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that American Scientology adversaries had to pay after losing their own, US based court cases. This may be an indication of why Spaink can still fight the church, and why it is claimed by Scientology critics that the barrage of law suits brought on by the church is not the making use of a legal right, but a form of harassment (barratry).

The Church of Scientology appealed this decision. A court date was originally planned for September 2002, but was postponed several times. Finally in September 2003, the court decided in favor of Spaink and the internet service providers on all points, including the below-mentioned decision on links.

The three judges found that Spaink and the providers might indeed have broken Dutch copyright law; quotation is not allowed of works that have not been previously published, and whether or not the release as evidence in a US court case counts as 'publication' was considered dubious. However, the judges felt that they did not have to rule on this subject, because European law states that quotation is legal in case the quotation serves a higher goal. The court held it proven that Scientology is an organisation that tries to undermine democracy Template:Ref, and therefore ruled that Spaink had the right to quote the Church in its exposť.

Effects of this court case

In the original court case, the judge held it for law that ISPs whose customers on their homepages link to copyright infringement are as liable as if the customers infringed on that copyright themselves.

This part of the judge's decision caused quite an uproar in the Dutch internet community, where many claim that a link is not a mechanism for publishing works but merely a reference to a work, although there are a fair number of voices who feel the judge's decision was correct.

In the verdict of the appeal in September 2003, this ruling was reversed.

See also: civil law


  • 1991, Aan hartstocht geen gebrek, Handicap, erotiek en lichaamsbeleving (No lack of passion, Handicap, eroticism, and perception of the body)
  • 1992, Het strafbare lichaam (The punishable body)


  • Template:Footnote "Uit de hiervoor onder 8.3 vermelde teksten blijkt dat Scientology c.s. met hun leer en organisatie de verwerping van democratische waarden niet schuwen. Uit die teksten volgt tevens dat met de geheimhouding van OT II en OT III mede wordt beoogd macht uit te oefenen over leden van de Scientology-organisatie en discussie over de leer en praktijken van de Scientology-organisatie te verhinderen." [1] (http://www.rechtspraak.nl/ljn.asp?ljn=AI5638) Translation by Spaink: "The texts previously quoted show that in its teachings and its structure, Scientology c.s. do not shun the rejection of democratic values. From these texts it is also apparent that one of the objectives of keeping OT II and OT III secret is to wield power over members of the Scientology organisation and to prevent discussion about the teachings and practices of the Scientology organisation."

External links

  • Karin Spaink's homepage (http://www.spaink.net) in Dutch and English
  • Religious freedom watch (http://www.religiousfreedomwatch.org/extremists/spaink1.html) entry about Karin Spaink. A Scientology-associated website accuses her of illegally infringing copyright, encouraging hate of Scientology, and encouraging harassment of Scientology parishionersnl:Karin Spaink

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