Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Europeans say no to software patents... for now

If you didn't know, the EU has no software patents. Recently, pro-patent forces have been trying to change this, and the most recent move to implement software patents has been defeated. The speculation is that the pro-patent forces will be ready for another push soon.

Richard Stallman, one of the oldest leaders of the open source movement, recently published a commentary in The Guardian:

Soft Cell

The commentary has some interesting sections. It also demonstrates some possible problems with how the EU really works.

One of the sections reveals just how dirty big business is:
Some governments ceded to threats from mega-corporations. Danish newspapers reported in 2004 that Microsoft had threatened to move a recently acquired company out of Denmark if the government did not put its hand up for patents. Earlier this year, after we had thanked the Polish government for rejecting patents, it bowed to four European mega-corps that threatened to move a laboratory out of the country where they spent perhaps $15m (£8.5m) a year.

In Bill Gates' book, he specifically says that the role of patents is to stifle innovation, and that's the reason why big companies that are on top should pursue as many patents as possible in order to stifle the rest of the industry. Microsoft is currently trying to patent everything they can. They have patent applications for phrases used in software products even.

One of the other comments reveals just how strange this fight is:
The relevant part of the European commission works hand in glove with the Business Software Alliance (BSA), and a BSA lawyer actually wrote much of the text of the draft directive the commission proposed. (We know this because they were so foolish as to publish it as a Word file, which contained information about who wrote what.)

That last parenthetical expression is telling. It says that the people who are in charge of legislating technology are technologically illiterate. Isn't that scary? I mean, isn't that really frightening?

And add to that, the EU is in bed with the BSA. So you have two bodies who know nothing about technology writing crap that does nothing but provide a smoother hand cream for the handjob that government continually gives to business.

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