The Church of Scientology has forced Google to remove sites from its search engine using the controversial US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Lawyers representing the group, created by former science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, used the DMCA to force Google to remove links to copyrighted material and has compared its actions to fighting terrorism.
In a statement, the Church said: "Copyright protection is one of the oldest rights afforded in [the US]. It is enshrined in the US constitution."
Google complied and removed references to xenu.net, a high profile anti-Scientology website, and Operation Clambake, the name of the site's campaign.
The site was ranked first in any Google search for the word 'Scientology'. Google listed 128 pages served by xenu.net, including www.xenu.net itself.
A Google spokesman stated: "Certain pages of the xenu.net website were removed from our search engine earlier this week in response to a copyright infringement notification under the DMCA."
The company would not comment further on the events surrounding the case.
According to xenu.net's webmaster, Norwegian resident Andreas Heidal-Lund, Google only notified him of the delisting after he repeatedly asked to know why his link had been removed from the site.
Heidel-Lund explained: "I can't respond to this complaint [in the US courts], because there is a clause in the DMCA that says I have to submit to US jurisdiction in order to do so.
"The people at Google are not bad people, they have just been forced into doing this by the DMCA.
"If this case becomes a precedent, it could mean a lot of work for Google. There is no precedent in the US at the moment for search engines linking to material that others want removed under the DMCA.
"It is in Google's best interests to make sure that this does not become common practice."
Under the Act, copyright owners can force sites to remove copyrighted material. The legislation has been roundly criticised by civil rights groups in the US.
But the Church of Scientology defended its actions, maintaining that it took the steps to prevent attacks on its members. The statement read: "To attempt to make this into a 'free speech' issue is a red herring and, in effect, advocates lawlessness on the internet.
"Hate speech and other extremist propaganda on the internet has provenly [sic] driven unstable individuals to commit felonious acts against church members and church property."
Among other criteria, Google ranks sites depending on how many other sites link to it.
Xenu.net's rankings have been boosted massively in recent weeks through a practice known as 'Google bombing' where weblog editors link to the site they want to boost in the ratings using a key word.
In the case of xenu.net, the word used in the link was 'Scientology'.
Google later reinstated xenu.net in its rankings. The front page of the website does not contain information that is copyrighted by the Church of Scientology.
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