Why burn the Quran?

As reported by the Houston Chronicle, among others, a minister in Florida is only a couple of days away from burning copies of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, on the ninth anniversary of the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This plan by the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) in Gainesville, Florida, has drawn outrage and criticism from many people, including President Obama and those in charge of our military. Indeed, the US government is considering contacting the pastor to attempt to change his mind (VOA).

It is understandable that many are outraged, some going as far as to say it would endanger our troops overseas in countries such as Afghanistan. I’m not a fan of the Quran burning or the viewpoint behind it either. I’m not sure what exactly it will accomplish besides further anger an already irritated Muslim population, both inside the US borders and outside. But neither am I a fan of censorship, which is what would effectively be happening were the pastor of DWOC prohibited or threatened with arrest for his expression. According to the second story linked above, Rackspace has already taken the DWOC website offline. I’m not really a fan of this either, but it’s certainly understandable that they chose to call the site “hate speech” given the circumstances.

The DWOC’s pastor has the right to his point of view. It is equally our right, however, to express ourselves and put distance between ourselves and those with such radical views. Burning the US flag is protected free speech; as objectionable and politically dangerous as it may be, I see no reason the Quran should be treated differently. However, I believe the DWOC pastor’s pyrophilic protest it is patently devoid of any sense of good taste and it is our duty as Americans–actually, as human beings, whether in the US and abroad–to let our opposing view be known, to condemn this act and others like it, as tasteless, senseless, vile, and putrid. The majority expressing their tolerance and respect for each other will easily drown out a minority expressing hate and disgust, especially in such an ill-advised fashion.

I believe the majority of Muslims are peace-loving people, as I am. It is just as wrong to judge all Muslims based on the actions of the September 11 terrorists as it is to judge all Christians based on the actions of David Koresh and the Branch Davidian cult. And nobody sane would dare try that one.

Redefining “work for hire”

A recent post to the ThinSkull Blog at advicescene.com highlights a case in Canada which takes the concept of “work for hire” as it relates to copyright and quite literally turns it upside down.

From the post:

John Hawley was sentenced to ten years in prison for armed robberies committed in his mid-twenties. After he was released on parole, John started a “successful commercial art and design studio in Toronto” (Hawley v. Canada, [1990] F.C.J. No. 337). When he served a part of his sentence in Frontenac Institution, a minimum security prison, he created a large painting entitled “Mount Whymper.” This work of art became the subject of a lawsuit he brought against the federal government claiming copyright in “Mount Whymper.”

The Federal Court denied his claim. It found that John was an employee of the Crown at all material times…

According to the court, if you’re in prison, you are [a federal employee], at least for the purposes of IP ownership. It ultimately doesn’t matter that your employment is forced and that your spare time is artificially limited and controlled.

Prison has two separate and distinct roles: punishment and rehabilitation. Unless a defendant is serving a sentence of life without parole or a sentence which will not expire until after the defendant does, rehabilitation cannot be ignored. Yet that is exactly what has happened here.

I find the notion that John was considered “an employee of the Crown” (what they call the government in Canada) ludicrous. The money John made from selling that painting would certainly help his rehabilitation quite a bit. It would also teach him a valuable lesson about making money in the world of honest people and decent society, a lesson that I wish more ex-felons were eager to learn.

Instead, the Canadian government has chosen to stunt John’s rehabilitation using a quite elastic interpretation of “work for hire” as it relates to copyright. The chilling effects here will be obvious: prisoners will simply resort to concealing their artistic works while serving their sentences and will be more clandestine about pocketing the profits. In short, the Crown is encouraging known criminals to keep acting like criminals, a dangerous and short-sighted move.

Shame on you, government of Canada. This galactically stupid leap of “logic” is due to set criminal justice back decades if not over a century.