Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hana Beshara (Phara) Goes To Jail for Criticizing the Government

Hana Beshara, the self-proclaimed attractive co-founder of NinjaVideo, was recently sentenced to 22 months in jail. Now this really isn't a big surprise, given the government's fairly recent push to demonize and vilify people who push the limits of fair use online. As a copyright attorney myself, I can't really say I'm in favor of weaker copyright protection. I just wish copyright protection would be pushed harder in areas where it is more needed than in the entertainment industry.
But what makes Hana Beshara's case even more interesting is the degree to which the government is trying not only to punish her, but to silence her as well. Immediately after her sentencing, Ms. Beshara was released to go home until a bed became available at her intended prison. Makes sense, and seems like a decent thing to do. But then the government actually petitioned to send her straight to jail instead, apparently to sleep on the floor. Why, you ask?
Hana Beshara of NinjaVido sentenced to 22 months jail timeBecause she posted something on her Facebook wall! That's right, the government got pissed because Ms. Beshara posted something about being sentenced to prison and asked her followers to try and get her a modelling gig with a men's magazine, like Maxim.
Here's an actual quote of what the U.S. Government argued as grounds to rescind her freedom:
Beshara posted more than 25 additional Facebook messages, which variously criticized the government, celebrated’s copyright infringement, and sought to assemble a public relations team to engage media and documentary filmmakers to help her 'fight back' and 'change[ ] history . . . again.'
WHAT?!?!? How dare she criticize the government? How dare she attempt to assemble a public relations team? Have these people even heard of the First Amendment? When a person is convicted of a felony, they can lose certain Constitutional rights, like the Right to Bear Arms or to Assemble with other felons. But you don't lose the right to criticize the government, EVER!
Ours is a free society precisely because we never lose the right to criticize the government. I'm certainly not suggesting that we should be free to violate the copyrights of others because of this, but wait a minute. Two wrongs do not make a right. In its zeal for "complete justice," these government lawyers have allowed their perceived victory to cloud their judgment. They have put the success of their crusade above justice, and above the Constitutional rights of us all. And yes, that includes Hana Beshara. As far as I'm concerned, Hana Beshara is a political prisoner until someone can demonstrate how a Facebook posting creates a clear and present danger to anyone.