March 20, 2001, 9:26 AM —
It seems we are no longer a nation ruled by law, but rather one ruled by lawyers. No, it's not the presidential race -- or should I say cases -- that makes me say this. It's something that happened in Virginia Beach, Va., and may be happening today in your hometown.
Do you remember a basic principle of law that says we are presumed innocent until proven guilty? As George W. Maschke pointed out in a brief essay on the subject (see Resources for a link), the heart of that phrase is not about presumption, but the burden that presumption implies. In other words, the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff, not the accused. But even that underlying principle is not written in stone. It appears that you can sign away that protection of law, and of due process, merely by signing a contract with Microsoft.
The story of what happened in Virginia Beach is sure to strike fear and dread into many organizations. Fear and dread are happy partners with Microsoft's global "anti-piracy" campaign; the campaign is orchestrated by Redmond, but mainly conducted by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which acts as Microsoft's private police force.