http://www.affs.org.uk/patents/index.html Association for Free software
http://www.softwarepatents.co.uk/ (Speaks for itself)
First of all apologies for how long I've rabbited on here, but it's time
soneone blew the lid on this. There is a GNOME (alternative to Microsoft
Windows) global conference in Trinity College this week. I suggest you cover
it as it's a major coup for Dublin. I'm writing this paragraph after all of
what follows. I hope it makes sense to your researchers. We can't
sleep-walk ourselves into another crisis, and I'm not exaggerating. I'd love
if I was. The proposed enforcement of Software Patents is NOT a little
problem within the computer industry that nobody else should give a damn
I have on many occasions been sufficiently concerned by develepments in the
software industry to make contact with your programme.
I have to admit I'm nervous about going on air, but would be prepared to do so
on this occasion, for no other reason other than that I feel a duty of
responsibility to inform the public about what no-one in the computer
industry seems prepared to discuss.
The reason I feel I must go public is that I experience a perpetual
frustration by hearing people who should be educating themselves (and others)
about issues relating to privacy and their rights are continually burying
their heads firmly in the sand and in turn labelling those who see dangers
they either don't (or refuse) to see, as some sort of lunatic fringe.
What the EU is about to vote on this WEDNESDAY will effect EVERYBODY, not
simply computer people. So, what is it ? Software Patents.
A quick FAQ: (sorry it's computer-ese for Frequently asked Questions).
Q1: What is this about, and why should I care ?
A1: Software Patents, and you should care because it will effect what you are
allowed to do with your computer.
Q2: Give me an example.
A2: You expect your programs to do things for you, and reliably. If the
computer is unreliable, you should have the the choice of using a program
that does the job you expect of it.
A3: If a program doesn't do the intended job according to specifications, you
should have the ability to use a different program (if one is available)
which DOES the job you want.
Q4: Surely I can choose what program I use, can't I ?
A4: Today yes, but soon, who knows ? Maybe not, maybe YES but at a cost.
Q5: What's that supposed to mean ?
A5: I asked an elderly lady today how she would place a knife, fork, plate,
spoon and cup on a table...
Look at your own table at your next prepared meal. You know what to expect to
be placed on a set-table. It's standard practice for years. People
innovating software have practices that are as nautural as that, that are
used to build the software you depend on when surfing the web, sending email
and creating documents. If that software doesn't do what you want, you get
annoyed, for obvious reasons. The practices software developers deploy are
as natural as the layout of a dining position, or the tying of a shoelace.
Q6: I'm lost
A6: Good, that means you're listening. Now, let's suppose someone has
patented the layout of a dining position, then every time you layout a
sideplate, knife, fork, spoon and cup in that arrangement, you have violated
someone's patent, you owe them money for doing so.
A7: Yes, you heard me, if someone has a patent on the layout of a dining
position, then you owe them a licence fee every time you use their idea of
setting out a dining position in that way.
Q8: That's totally moronic, you're an idiot, nobody could propose this. Go to
A8: In the US, a law was passed called the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright
Act) which was used to jail a Russian Lecturer who gave a lecture about
cryptography (secure communications). He has since been released for his
"Crime" of giving an educational lecture and demonstrating how poor
cryptography is worthless. (Search the net for the Dmitri Skylarov case).
The EU has already passed equivalent legislation called the EUCD (EU
Copyright directive). Now, this idiocy is on YOUR doorstep. Now who's the
Q9: Surely, patent law can't be so stupid, anyway, people are entitled to
copyright their work.
A9: Yes, people are certainly entitled to copyright their work. Copyright
though, entails the tie-up of an IMPLEMENTATION of an idea to a particular
person. So, if a program to do a task doesn't do so, someone else can write
a new program to "Do it properly" and copyright that. With a PATENT, on the
other hand, it is NOT the IMPLEMENTATION that is tied to the COPYRIGHT
holder, the PATENT is tied to the PERSON WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA.
Q10: Surely an organisation as responsible as the EU are capable of
distinguishing whether the IDEA is worth a PATENT or not.
A10: Nice of you to use the word "Surely". But be careful. Much of the
modeling of the EU proposal is based on the US model. Under this model,
things which come as naturally as setting out a dinner table or tying a
shoelace have been patented, so anyone using this "novel idea" owes the
"inventer" for "stealing their idea".
Q11: So when are you seeing your pcychiatrist next?
A11: Sorry to disappoint you, I don't have one, and don't need one, and if YOU
are not careful, you'll be asking MY INDUSTRY for explainations when it's too
late, and developers are prevented from implementing the functionality that
YOU want from YOUR programs.
Q12: So, what do you want me to do ?
A12: Make contact with your political party representative, esp. Mary Hannafin
(who seems very silent) and the Green Party (who are apparently they are the
only ones who see the idiocy of what is being proposed). This has to be
blown out from under the carpet. Especially as it is only the tip of the
iceberg, you may already be using Windows XP, and about to buy a Palladium PC
next year from some sweet talking salesman... NO DON'T ASK, YOU'RE NOT READY
TO HEAR ABOUT THAT YET!
Q13: You're a crackpot and I don't give a damn anyway.
A13: No you don't, well good luck to you. But remember, the next time you
wonder why the computer industry is screwing you, remember that you have
contributed to your own frustrations and costs, by not listening to this,
just like the industry controllers want. Microsoft, Intel and IBM are
collecting patents for ideas that THEY FEAR MIGHT BE invented in the future.
Some moron even tried to patent "The internet link" half a generation after
it had been invented.
Q14: That's rediculous, the patents offices would never grant such patents
A14: Well spotted, on that occasion it was rejected, but other
not-very-much-less-stupid patents have been granted.
Q15: That's rubbish, patents aren't given out so willy-nilly, are they?
A15: You'd think not, wouldn't you, but the patents offices have not been able
to retain the staff that are sufficiently skilled to recognise what is
genuinely innovative and what isn't. They don't have expertise in
programming, you see. Practices as natural as the dining place are nobodys'
"Intellectual property". To arrive in a situation where they could be, is a
joke, yet this is what is at risk of happening, and has happened already to a
large extent in the US.
Q16: So, how is this going to effect ME, I don't give a monkey's about
A16: No, but you USE it, don't you. If your computer suddenly becomes more
expensive because it must include the cost of Patent Licenses in the software
that's pre-supplied on it, then YOU are paying for these laws. It's YOUR
money, and it's YOUR functionality that's at risk.
Q17: Why am I only hearing about this now?
A18: Because it's taken this long for an average Joe who knows about what the
industry agenda is, to overcome personal bashfulness to let you know about
it. The finer details would probably just turn you off. Because it's now
contemporary, you might just take heed.
Q19: OK, NOW I'm listening, what else should I know ?
A19: The holder of a patent, however unjustified it is, retains licence rights
over the IDEA. The definition of the idea could be as loose as "A device for
fastening a show to one's foot", meaning that anyone using a shoelace or
buckle is using an idea that somone else "OWNS" (has a patent on), and
therefore owes them money for "using their idea".
Q20: That's moronic.
A20: And that's why you should take heed of this, and ensure the EU doesn't do
anything so stupid as to implement this. Please visit http://eurorights.org/
and/or contact your MEP and canvass their disapproval for the move in this
direction BEING PROPOSED FOR THIS COMING WEDNESDAY IN THE EU.
Thanks very much for reading this far, and I hope you haven't been intimidated
by the subject matter. Somebody has to bring this up, looks like the mantle
has fallen to me.
Hope to talk to you or your researcher(s) tomorrow
(-:= http://www.linuxfactory.ie =:-)
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