Squashed like a bug without a trial

A recent Houston Chronicle story details the plight of Scott Yeager. In 2002 Scott was indicted in the wake of the downfall of Enron, where he worked up until the company’s demise.

Scott’s message is pretty simple, direct, and no-nonsense: you don’t have to be guilty to have the government ruin your life. Quotes like this from the article say it all:

[H]e’s had his civil rights curtailed—not allowed to own a gun or visit his grandson in Canada, required most months to report to the federal probation department.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to destroy your life. People need to understand there is no down side for them,” he said of the prosecutors who filed the Enron cases.

and later:

“I was told I might get five years if I would make up lies about people or I could fight this and to go prison for life if I lose,” Yeager said.

and perhaps most damning of all:

“I don’t know … your upbringing, your sense of justice, honesty. It was counter to what I was taught my whole life. I’m an American patriot. This is my country,” Yeager said.

He said he knew the odds were against him but he refused to lie to get a deal.

Despite some of my prior life experiences, I have little sympathy for those who have committed egreious crimes, such as most of those who participated in the fraud surrounding the now-defunct Enron Corporation. However, at the same time, it disgusts me that just being accused of a crime is enough to ruin someone’s life the way Scott’s has been ruined.

There should be some way to hold prosecutors accountable for proceeding this far with cases that wind up not having merit. Otherwise, they’ll continue to wreck lives that don’t deserve it. The unjustly accused deserve more than a “sorry, we screwed up, you’re free to go now.”

I don’t care what anyone else says. Mark my words: Scott Yeager is a hero for those who face unjust accusations by a so-called “justice system” which often fails to dispense justice and sometimes isn’t much of a system.

Shining light on abuse of copyright for censorship

ReadWriteWeb recently reported on the EFF’s launching of its Takedown Hall of Shame. One of the most notable parts of this site-within-a-site is that there is a specific guide to YouTube video removals. (Aside: yes, I noticed the EFF is yet another organziation that insists upon using the loaded term “intellectual property” and maybe they are unaware of why it is so bad).

It’s sad that we even need something like this. Copyright is not inherently evil; as originally implemented, the Statute of Anne accomplished a quite noble goal when originally passed back in 1710. However, somehow, someway, we as a society (and it’s not just the US anymore, but most of the world) have gone from a reasonable, single 14-year term to what is a nominally limited term that in reality, may as well be perpetuity (70 years from the author’s death, 95 years from publication, 120 years from creation).

In addition, the entire concept of fair use has gone out the window. I wrote a bit about the NFL’s heavy-handed abuse of copyright back on 2009 January 15. (It’s been almost ten months, long enough for the next NFL season to have started, and nobody ever sent me a URL of a video of this play that is still online.) This is a clear example of fair use, about as clear as they get. And yet, YouTube yanks it because the NFL says “that’s copyrighted.”

I could go on and on. It’s time we move to restore copyright to some modicum of sanity: fourteen years, plus a fourteen year renewal, and then public domain. We also need more exceptions to allow for the preservation of works that would otherwise just disappear due to decay of the media onto which they are recorded.

Otherwise, we have something intended to encourage innovation, but which in fact discourages and destroy it. We don’t need that, and it’s time to wake up and realize that’s where we are headed. Don’t believe me? Patents are already being abused this way against computer software.