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Cybercrime and Patents in Europe 141

Posted by michael
from the what-you-dont-know-can-hurt-you dept.
Hairy1 writes: "The Council of Europe has been working on a Cyber Crime Treaty for some time. The final version is now available, and makes interesting reading." The submitter points out that treaty signers will be obligated to create legislation, as the UK already has, to force people to disclose passwords and encryption keys to the authorities. The U.S. may well sign this treaty - we've participated in the drafting process. On a slightly different note, people are up in arms because the European Patent Office has decided, apparently on its own, that software programs are patentable. Update: 11/09 15:23 GMT by M : A reader sent in this interesting bibliography of the treaty's history.
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Cybercrime and Patents in Europe

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  • Patents (Score:4, Informative)

    by iBod (534920) on Friday November 09, 2001 @08:54AM (#2542868)
    The Register has a piece on the patents issue here...
    Eurolinux goes ballistic over Euro patent 'coup' [theregister.co.uk]
  • RIP in UK (Score:3, Informative)

    by Martin Spamer (244245) on Friday November 09, 2001 @09:02AM (#2542881) Homepage Journal
    This site [magnacartaplus.org] details RIP (the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000)), which has nothing to do with reglation, but with allows unwarrented searches of computer data, without the data holders knowledge or permission.
  • by 4im (181450) on Friday November 09, 2001 @09:20AM (#2542937)

    So, what can we (EU citizens) actively do?

    I've already signed the EuroLinux Petition [eurolinux.org]

    Maybe a membership with FSF Europe [fsfeurope.org]?

    What else? Find politicians that'll listen?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2001 @10:18AM (#2543210)
    This is more or less how software patents are supposed to work over here in the U.S., too. However, because the PTO has pathetically little software expertise, the result is that you can patent pretty much any stupid idea that is obvious to everyone else if your patent description ends with "...on a computer!"

    But the PTO will eventually have a vast store of software experience. They've been making movements to hire more examiners with a CS background. In the meantime, software patents which should be invalid can be invalidated in court. It the patent is a stupid idea, then challenge it and get it overturned. By stupid idea, I assume you mean an "obvious" idea, if by stupid you mean "economically wasteful" then who cares if they have a patent. A patent on something truly trivia should have no value to the patent holder and no effect on the world.

    The other big problem with this is that the patent system is explicitly not supposed to cover algorithms or mathematical formulae, because these are deemed fundamental properties of nature. However, patenting software is a surprisingly easy backdoor to patenting algorithms.

    It is and it isn't. The idea that algorithms can't be patentable is an oversimplification of a string of Supreme Court decisions which don't necessary say that "algorithms are not patentable." The first software case was really Gottschalk v. Benson (409 US 63, 1972) which affirmed denial of a patent on a program which converted binary numbers to decimal. The Court should have struck down the patent on grounds of obviousness, but didn't, and that mistake is probably why we have a patent mess today. The more recent case of State Street Financial Trust v. Signature Financial Group (149 F.3d 1368, 1998) proposes that algorithms are patentable so long as the numbers mean something. In that case, the numbers were money.

    That distinction is made to avoid the decision in Benson, but if you're saying it doesn't make much logical sense, I agree. I think patenting software should be allowed, but examiners should be better trained to recognize obviousness. I think in the long run (say 10-20 years) that will happen. And the Jeff Bezos of the world will have their patents struck down in the meantime.

  • Legal basis (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Friday November 09, 2001 @10:53AM (#2543420) Homepage
    The legal theory behind this law is that the encryption around a file is equivalent to a safe holding a document. If the authorities have a warrant to search the contents of that safe (or the contents of that location, for that matter), they will ask you for the key.

    The difference is, of course, that if you don't give them the key, they can cut open a safe. With data under a high level of encryption, they can go spit. So instead, a judge issues an order requiring you to disclose your password, and if you refuse, you're held in contempt and jailed indefinitely. Never mind the conflict with the 5th Amendment; they want to search your (virtual) personal papers, and you aren't allowed to stop them.

    (As an aside: The FBI wanted passwords to files they got from Kevin Mitnick's hard drive, the last time they caught him. Mitnick refused to provide them... But on Mitnick's release, the judge ruled that Mitnick couldn't have his files back, since he couldn't prove they didn't contain pirated information. I'd call it a violation of 4th Amendment rights.)

    As to whether such a law would hold up in court, for that we'll just have to wait.
  • Re:Amusing. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2001 @12:39PM (#2544300)
    [quote]In fact I like the how far they went in the Child Pornography section in banning even "Over 18 looks like 14" stuff. [/quote]

    It also states that anything that may be construed as looking like child pornography is illegal, which has been an issue with a lot of child pornography cases lately (ie 3d renderings or 2d computer drawings as opposed to actual images). Of course, the whole 'over 18 looks like 14' thing is based heavily on the person viewing the material. This is also why they specifically stated that the individual governments can decide not to enforce those last 2 clauses (the 'over 18 looks younger' portion and the 'looks like child pornography but is actually a computer generated image' portion).

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