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EU Parliament to Vote on New Patent Rules 252

Posted by michael
from the patent-foolishness dept.
peter_sd writes "The Register has an article discussing the implications to the open source community and small software businesses of the new software patent law to be voted on tomorrow by the EU parliament. According to the article, it is very likely the new patent law will be accepted despite its grave consequences."
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EU Parliament to Vote on New Patent Rules

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  • What we need... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:58PM (#6327674)
    People to get software patents and license them ONLY for use in GPL'd software. It would be similar to making copyright into copyleft.
    • Re:What we need... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You mean we should now PAY to have some overkill copyright protection ? The cost of a patent in Europe is somewhere around 5000, no independant developer can afford this kind of registration.
    • creative commons (Score:5, Insightful)

      by poptones (653660) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:17PM (#6327754) Journal
      It's called creative commons. If more people would register new work here then there could exist a database of prior art such that it would become increasingly hard to defend patents in court.

      There's little, however, that can be done (in today's corporatist environment) to prevent the granting of idiotic patents. That pretty much means there's nothing to be done about companies "buying markets" unless (or until) there exists an organization that would have an economic interest in defending against such practices.

      No, in theory that could be the creative commons itself - i.e. acting as an IP defense fund in the interest of registrants and using the income from settlements and judgements to fund more actions. The problem there is, of course, that if it actually became successful at this then it's quite easy to see how people would then become critical of the org itself, bitching that it was an organization of judicial elite exploiting "free knowledge" to line it's own pockets. Whether or not there was any validity to thius would, of course, depending on the leadership of the organization. But it is a start, and there does exist a good bit of potential there - both for good, and for abuse.

      • by Rip!ey (599235) on Monday June 30, 2003 @12:19AM (#6328478)
        There's little, however, that can be done (in today's corporatist environment) to prevent the granting of idiotic patents.

        I cannot agree that the inaction of those who are in a postition to actually do something (most likely because they are polititians who have been bought out by big corporations) means that nothing can be done. Plenty can be done. It's a simple matter that those who can will not.
    • Re:What we need... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arth1 (260657) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:18PM (#6327758) Homepage Journal
      The only way to prevent an obvious patent only submitted for future litigation purposes is to beat the lawyers to it.

      What we need is a good site for registering "prior art". Where peoplee in the open source communities (and everyone else with an interest) can submit their ideas along with proof of a working implementation to prevent patents to be applied.

      It would double as an open idea bazaar, where people can submit and draw from ideas of others.

      Anyone think this could work?

      Regards,
      --
      *Art
      • Re:What we need... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        We need a pool of prior art, but even more than that we need a pool of defensive patents.

        IP holders can use their patents to countersue when a claim is made against them. This immediately puts open developers at a disadvantage... even if there's prior art to defend against previously-developed ideas[1], there is no way to defend against obvious ideas that have been patented.

        [1] Even though "ideas" were ostensibly once non-patentable, that's obviously not the case anymore.
      • You won't win. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by twitter (104583) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:58PM (#6327932) Homepage Journal
        What we need is a good site for registering "prior art". Where peoplee in the open source communities (and everyone else with an interest) can submit their ideas along with proof of a working implementation to prevent patents to be applied.

        The current SCO/IBM trials should be a stark warning for how well this will work. You will have lost with the first patent you fail to get. Your enemies will be taking your money to pay their lawyers to steal more or your ideas. That is what SCO is doing, now isn't it? It's not like they developed anything, ever. Is this what you want? In the end, you will be no better than your enemies or you will not exist.

        Self preservation is not an ideological argument. If the EU does this, large US companies will crush EU software developers, free software will die and all EU governments will end up running M$. These beurcrats need to do a typical M$ install and push that "I submit" button a few times. There's no two ways about it, dipshits like Bezos will flood their system with junk just like they do the US system. This EU deal with the devil will leave the EU burnt.

      • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @10:30PM (#6328036) Homepage
        Some people are already working on this, please work with them:

        http://www.nongnu.org/padb/ [nongnu.org]

        Development of the database is being worked on at:
        http://savannah.nongnu.org/projects/padb/ [nongnu.org]
        and the software used is Free Software, available at:
        http://savannah.nongnu.org/projects/topas/ [nongnu.org]

        Lobbying EU MEPs is still the best thing we can do right now, people from any country can do this. I gave an example for what an American can do in a later post:
        http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=69331&threshol d=0&commentsort=0&tid=155&tid=99&mode=thread&pid=6 327875#6328000 [slashdot.org]

        Ciaran O'Riordan
        • Do they have a patent on this?
        • by MickLinux (579158) on Monday June 30, 2003 @02:04AM (#6328797) Journal
          Look, there are a couple of problems with this database:

          (0) They require CVS. That's awkward. Lots of people have ideas who don't use CVS.

          (1) It's website is, by the URL, non-GNU. My worst nightmare would be submitting to this site, and later finding that they patented it. Microsoft would love to buy a site like this. How do I know this won't happen? They don't describe their process; they just say "oh, it's here." That bothers me. Can the FSF verify this site?

          (2) the PADB should be sending its ideas to the appropriate developers for possible development. Specifically, coders should be able to sign up for the class of coding they they do, and submitters should be able to direct information to them. But there's a name for this: a journal. At the very least, all ideas in the DB should *also* be published on the web. I should be able to go to a website, and either browse or search.

          ---Now, what I think the PADB should be doing instead:---

          (3) Time-stamping is easy: simply submit a copy of your information to the Library of Congress (US) or any other national library.

          (4) Both (2) and (3) can probably be accomplished by publishing a journal would do the trick. Typically, as people subscribe to journals, they also pay a small amount -- or advertisers pay.

          (5) As available, the PADB should also research true prior art, to break patents that are strangling free software. Those should be published as well, with a reference.

          (6) I have no idea whether this site will do this or not, but the site should keep a database of the inventors. Probably the inventors have more ideas, or have done more work than is published. Therefore, they are an ideal consultant.
          • I should offer one more comment here. I *do not* have good website development skills. I *do* have a prepublishing company. I think that starting a journal and publishing it would be well within the range of possibility and practicability, but what we do not have is money.

            So the only way I could publish a journal would be if there were enough subscribers and/or advertisers to cover the cost of page layout and publication. Initially, that would mean black and white print, "text ads", minimal layout, sma
        • Well, I have taken (some of) your advice. I have written a letter to most of the EU representatives from the UK. I enclose the text so that other slashdotters can use it in contacting any EU reps. I may not be the best rhetorician, and I certainly glossed over many technical details, but feel free to use/modify the following:

          I am writing this because the European Union is considering a alteration of patent law to bring it in line with U.S. patent law particularly with respect to software patents. I am

          • Well, I have taken (some of) your advice. I have written a letter to most of the EU representatives from the UK. I enclose the text so that other slashdotters can use it in contacting any EU reps. I may not be the best rhetorician, and I certainly glossed over many technical details, but feel free to use/modify the following:

            I am writing this because the European Union is considering a alteration of patent law to bring it in line with U.S. patent law particularly with respect to software patents.

            IANAPL

    • Then you couldn't use the patents in such Free Software as Apache, XFree86, Python, much of KDE, etc. And if the patent laywers were anal enough, they wouldn't let it be used in in the Linux kernel either, because with its exception it's no longer 100% pure GPL.
    • Great Article by RMS (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Software patents - Obstacles to software development
      Richard Stallman

      [Transcript of a talk presented 2002-03-25 at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, organized by the Foundation for Information Policy Research. This transcript and audio recording by Nicholas Hill, HTML editing and links by Markus Kuhn.]

      You might have been familiar with my work on free software. This speech is not about that. This speech is about a way of misusing laws to make software development a dangerous activity. This is
    • Re:What we need... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Groote Ka (574299)
      If you can't beat them, join them. I've said that before here.

      However, check the country you want to start your lawsuit. UK is 300.000 Pounds, rest of Europe is cheaper, in some countries even 80% cheaper.

      Start there, win, continue up to more expensive countries

      How to collect the money for patent attorneys and lawsuits to get your patent and enforce it? Set up a foundation/ association and collect money from other idealistic software developpers. And I'm sure there are also patent attorneys around who

    • A problem with this is, that it commits OSFS developer's resources to patent research and not to development!
      It is merely a temporary solution.
  • So where can we go to unencumbered by software patents?

  • by Martin Kallisti (652377) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:00PM (#6327686)
    It is really a pity that they did not listen more to the companies against software patents, user groups, petitions, and people like Smets-Solanes (who wrote a very interesting paper on the subject). The end result will likely be a smaller number of actors on the market, due to higher information costs, the need of negotiating cross-licensing with other actors and other stupid, unproductive patent related invention-stifling activities. There is no such thing as a law that can not be revoked, though, so keep on fighting.
    • by devphil (51341) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:31PM (#6327832) Homepage


      As the Register article points out, one of the reasons we're going to lose is that we didn't even try to convince them. We shouted, we hurled abuse, we held huge meetings and didn't invite the other side, but we didn't actually contact them with an explanation of why the proposed change was bad. ("Open letters" don't do shit, no matter how well-written they are.)

      • yes, they said wining and dining and flattering were the approved methods, which is another way of saying bribing and scmoozing and conning.

        It's all tied together, these and so many other apparently illogical actions on the part of many current governments...

        There's a solution, but it involves a more... umm... pro active response on the part of millions of people, all acting in concert with each other, across the EU..and the US....

        We will have a few superpowers in name, all run by a handful of multinatio
  • by chill (34294) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:01PM (#6327693) Journal
    ...only outlaws will have Free software.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:01PM (#6327694) Homepage
    Great News
    The vote has been postponed until September 1st.
    All info at:
    http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/index.en.ht ml [ffii.org]

    This means we must have their attention.

    Please contact your national FreeSoftware or digital-freedom group to organise an Adopt-an-MEP campaign. If the vote did take place tomorrow, we would lose but with the help of a few concerned citizens, we will win.

    Ciaran O'Riordan
    • by Klaruz (734) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:16PM (#6327749)
      I saw something the other day about an MP (that's what they're called, right?) who said he'd never seen such and outpouring of support from the people against a law (or EU direction, sorry, I'm not 100% on EU politics) ever. Almost nobody was for it.

      I think the article went on to say that despite it being against the people's wishes, it was going to pass. It's what the US wants, and it's what the corps want. It doesn't matter what the people think.

      Does anybody have a link to that article?
      • I should note that if that is true, then that implies that money has bypassed the popular power already, before the EU has even gotten its constitution.

        In such a case, that doesn't mean that the people are without power -- far from it, it means that the people have more power (it isn't reigned in by governmental process), but only with the power modes that are normal to popular voice.

        Typically, that's ended up being Russian or French revolution. That's bad; very, very bad.

        On the other hand, let us consi
      • I think the article went on to say that despite it being against the people's wishes, it was going to pass. It's what the US wants, and it's what the corps want. It doesn't matter what the people think.

        In Europe, both at EU level and in many countries within it, it's quite normal for governments to come down heavily in favour of a particular piece of legislation to begin with, but then to back off rapidly if faced with a backlash of popular opinion. The fact that this has been brought up now doesn't mea

    • by sn00ker (172521) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:27PM (#6327806) Homepage
      This is indeed good news.
      However, for it to actually make the slightest bit of difference the points raised in the parent article must be noted.

      Abusing the MEPs is not a good use of time. Neither is trying to sway them using the David-and-Goliath argument.
      In a perfect world, RMS would keep his mouth shut. The man does far more damage to the cause than he does good. If someone's willing to lock him in a sound-proof room 'til after the vote, it might be a good idea.
      Given that Finland is an EU member, and Linus is a Finn (assuming he hasn't become a US citizen), he would be a very good person to get to speak to MEPs. As a constituent, he has a legitimate voice. As a highly visible, respected figure within the community that will be most affected by this law change, his opinions will carry weight. He is also known as something of a moderate (contrast his relatively muted statements with the vitriol of RMS, for example), and politicians are more likely to listen to moderates than extremists unless the extremist position is amenable to their own.

      • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:47PM (#6327893) Homepage
        I very strongly dissagree.

        Knocking RMS is quite popular among armchair generals but he is an inspiration to the people getting real work done on software freedom issues.

        His software patents speech makes the issues very easy to understand:
        http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/stallm an-patents.ht ml

        He has also brought the issues to the mass media through an article he and Nick Hill wrote for The Guardian (UK newspaper):
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,385 8,4683640,00. html

        RMS has mobilized large numbers of people in the EU to fight this directive. Without his work, I and many others would not be working on this issue at all.

        Ciaran O'Riordan
        • Fine, he's good at mobilising the troops. There's no doubt about that. However, when he speaks to the politicians he takes aim squarely at both feet with heavy artillery.
          Motivating the geeks is important, nay essential. But motivating the geeks isn't enough. One must sway the MEPs, and RMS's petulant, vitriolic attacks on IP are not the way to go about it.
      • by obi (118631) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @11:06PM (#6328159)
        You obviously haven't heard him speak yet.

        He doesn't assume his audience is familiar with everything geeks are, so he builds his case from scratch. He has very good arguments. He gives pertinent real world cases. He explores hypothetical, but very realistic cases to illustrate the possible dangers.

        All in all, he's a very good speaker, and I don't get where the idea he's a raving lunatic comes from. Maybe it's because he hammers too much on the GNU/Linux thing, which, I agree is a bit silly. (Personally, I say something to the effect of "systems based on the linux kernel" which avoids the whole issue.)

        But I do think he's a good speaker, and he spends a lot of effort to get important points across.

        Linus is great, but not interested in the politics of open source, and rightly so. Stallman is, and has a good grasp of all the issues involved, and contrary to what alot of people seem to think he is not a scary zealot at all when you see him in real life.

        • I've seen him speak (Score:2, Informative)

          by pjc50 (161200)
          I saw him at a conference in 2000 on "Collaboration and Ownership in the Digital Environment" - a big multidisciplinary thing on IP. He was as you say, a prepared, coherent and persuasive speaker.

          Then the next speaker came on, an EU patent lawyer, to describe the current system. He pointed out that you can already patent software in the EU, you just have to use the right phrasing. Somewhere in the middle of this, RMS went bersek and started ranting from the audience. People had to persuade him to leave bef
        • All in all, he's a very good speaker, and I don't get where the idea he's a raving lunatic comes from.

          The problem with RMS is that he's a wildcard.

          He is capable, as you say, of putting together a very coherent argument to support his beliefs, and of presenting it very professionally. This is good.

          However, he is also capable of launching into spontaneous rants that are totally one-sided. He will completely ignore the good points of things he disagrees with, while outright exaggerating the damage done

      • I'm not quite sure what you mean. Can you show me some examples where RMS has made damaging comments in situations such as this? In fact, in most of the speeches I've heard or read he comes across articulating his views in a very sane, coherent and convincing manner.

        Not to say he cant be goaded, but that's not very relevant to a non-geek audience.

        I'd by far prefer RMS talking about these issues rather than Linus Torvalds. Linus is a tech guy from beginning to end, and I havent seen many comments from him
    • Ciaran O'Riordan, what can Americans do to help?

    • The vote isn't until 1 September.

      But in effect there are only three weeks to go, because for most of that time the MEPs are away on holiday.

      To be more precise:

      • Next week [30/06 - 04/07] we can lobby in Strasbourg (Session).
      • The week after [07/07 - 11/07] we can lobby in Brussels (Committee meetings).
      • ... after that there is no official business scheduled all summer ...
      • Finally [25-29/08] there is one week in Brussels before the September session which starts on 1st September.

      Even then, atte

  • Petition (Score:5, Informative)

    by zmooc (33175) <<zmooc> <at> <zmooc.net>> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:05PM (#6327717) Homepage
    If you don't like this - which you should:P, please sign this petition [eurolinux.org].
  • by Azadre (632442) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:07PM (#6327721)
    If this passes, it could slow or even halt the development of the open source community. SCO and Microsoft could claim an open source OS like SuSE stole something from their OSes. We'd like to make the defendent pay all the court costs and we'd like to sue them for their use of the MS logo. - A prosucutor in a Berlin Court
    • by poptones (653660) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:42PM (#6327879) Journal
      If this passes, it could slow or even halt the development of the open source community.

      You mena the way closing napster shut down all that file trading and development of new file trading apps?

      SCO and Microsoft could claim an open source OS like SuSE stole something from their OSes

      Whoopdeefucking doo. How is that going to stop open source development? How is that going to prevent organizations from using software they can get anywhere on the internet?

      If anything, this absurdly extreme scenario you've constructed would be good for worldwide competition, since it's dead certain countries like China and Ukraine would become even MORE wary of signing onto the (extremist) WTO model of "IP enforcement." The only possible responses to this would then be either to adopt more sensical rules or abdandon all hopes of exploiting license agreements across increasingly large chunks of the globe. Ideally it would even cause a complete collapse of the Berne convention, although that's probably far too grand a dream.

    • I think the worst thing that can happen with this SCO thing and software patents and all, is that the legal system will collapse.

      I mean, I think we've avoided almost all patent issues by developing/distributing infringing software in Europe, but I don't think that it'll stop here if software patents become a law.

      Instead it's probably only going to hurt the corporations, that now have to take closer watch at what they are using. As for individual developers, I hope there will be thousands and thousands o

  • by Travoltus (110240) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:07PM (#6327722) Journal
    The Register said (at http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/31472.html) :
    It is politicians who make the law, and it is politicians who need to be persuaded if the law is to move in the direction that you desire it to. But while they are a peculiar and varied breed, there are three things you can be fairly certain will not hold much sway with them:

    1. Ideological argument. Politicians are nothing if not pragmatic. Their very survival is based on seeing which way the wind is blowing and adjusting accordingly

    2. Little-man defence. Politicians will not risk upsetting rich and powerful people and companies unless there is a principle at stake: that principle being that the government ultimately decides. Therefore arguing a point on the basis that it will restrict or impair a powerful body is counterproductive

    3. Criticism. Politicians do not respond well to criticism. In fact, the more they get, the more stubborn they become. Flattery is the surest route to their heart, and this means making them feel important. Wining and dining, listening, applauding their insight and then putting your point across

    1) That means profits over politics. The Open Source movement should have found some weapon to blackmail politicians into not allowing these new patent law changes to pass. For instance: "If you pass these laws these particular (thousands of) businesses will flee Europe and go elsewhere and take hundreds of thousands of jobs with them."

    2) Tyranny of the few is still as true now as it has ever been. Hello, feudalism! Er, welcome back. Er, feudalism never really left!

    3) Long live sycophantry!

    We need less 'irony'ism and apathy, and more hard core fanaticism in this society.
    • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:29PM (#6327823) Homepage
      The Open Source movement should have found some weapon to blackmail politicians into not allowing these new patent law changes to pass. For instance: "If you pass these laws these particular (thousands of) businesses will flee Europe and go elsewhere and take hundreds of thousands of jobs with them."

      This is more a reply to the Register than to Travoltus' post, but did it occur to Kieren McCarthy that blackmailing politicians into action is not the kind of government most people want and that we are trying to exhibit the kind of considered action we want to see more of in our government? I would not consider doing one's homework and presenting a complete case "blackmailing", so perhaps that wasn't the best language for the author to pick.

      I have some experience working on political campaigns (two local: one Congressional, one for local city council) and I'm active in my community on a number of other issues, so I'm aware of McCarthy's argument and how to wage it. And it would be valuable to do the research to be able to make that argument. But I think this is one of the weaknesses of the free software and open source movements--we don't mobilize our varied talents well.

      Does anyone reading this have the skill needed to address the jobs concern? Or know of anyone who can help? We need help now.

      I'm quite familiar with Stallman's excellent speech on the matter of software patents and how it adversely affects free software development. Part of that speech encourages us to consider that patents for one area of endeavor doesn't mean all areas of endeavor should have patents. Has this point been made clear to legislators? Has it been supported with examples of areas where patents would be a big problem (two hypothetical examples off the top of my head: legal argument strategies and surgical techniques--either of which could both lead to people losing their lives due to waiting for the patent holder to choose to represent or operate on them)?

      • It was me who put in the blackmailing part (the stupid site messed up my Blockquote tags so the two sets of quotes look all enmeshed! Damn!!)

        Our governments need to listen to principles more than what is 'pragmatic' (i.e. "profitable for the powers that be"). But then again we also need to re-think our ethics which give all the concern to the people on top at the expense of everyone on the bottom who support the ones up on top.
    • "We need less 'irony'ism and apathy, and more hard core fanaticism in this society."

      Um... hello? "Ironic" and "apathetic" people don't vote. It's the "hard core fanatics" who are die-hard party loyalists that keep these people in office to begin with.

      What we need is less of either of these kinds of people and more truly informed and concerned voters.
  • Spreading FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Branka96 (628759) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:07PM (#6327724)
    We have software patents in the US and have had it for many years. I'm not aware of any case where Microsoft or any other big company is trying to shutdown an Open Source project using patent laws. The claim that "with patent law allowed, the floodgates would be opened and Linux distributors swamped and bankrupted by court claims - with Microsoft leading the charge." is baseless.
    • Re:Spreading FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

      by greppling (601175)
      The problem starts much earlier than with a law suit shutting down a project. Just the impression that a project might get into troubles with IP issues can severely hinder its acceptance in the business world.

      The Linux kernel mailing list had long flamewars over patents for realtime Linux due to this. And, IIRC, in one of the MS memos posted by ESR they stated that possible trouble with patents was the most successful message to deter managers from steering towards FS/OSS.

    • by pslam (97660)
      We have software patents in the US and have had it for many years. I'm not aware of any case where Microsoft or any other big company is trying to shutdown an Open Source project using patent laws.

      It is, dare I say, ironic that Microsoft hasn't engaged in that activity, but there are plenty of other big companies that have and still are trying to shut down open source projects using patent laws. I'm not even going to bother quoting any, there's so many instances.

      The claim that "with patent law allowed,

    • living under a rock (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 73939133 (676561)
      We have software patents in the US and have had it for many years.

      For most of its history, the US software industry developed in the virtual absence of patents. Widespread use of software patents is largely a phenomenon of the late 1990s.

      I'm not aware of any case where Microsoft or any other big company is trying to shutdown an Open Source project using patent laws.

      People usually don't even start open source software projects that might infringe software patents. If they do, they usually do so in na
    • Re:Spreading FUD (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @09:36PM (#6327852) Journal
      Try SCO.

      SySVR4 is about to expire but has not yet. This explains their frantic lawsuit phase. Yes the lawsuit with IBM is about an internal agreement between SCO and IBM and not patent or copyright issues but it does give SCO power.

      The whole reason why they are suing is because IBM had no choice but to license SySV from USL because they had a patent on it.

      Linus himself maybe sued if this case is won or lost because Linux uses SySV. Linus also stated he does not believe in patents which makes a damming case agaisnt him since SCO lawyers can use it as proof of a corporate espianage conspiracy. Unlike the current SCO case which is mostly hogwash a patent lawsuit and injunction to end Linux is certainly favorable.

      Anway my point is if software patents did not exist we would not have this mess. They are a threat and yes bussinesses like Unisys do sue for damages when they are abused. SCO is no execption.

      I also remember a very old slashdot article which showed 5 patent violations just at slashdot's website. I think the big one is using fonts to display information.

      • Try SCO.

        From what I recall SCO doesn't own any UNIX patents - they are still property of Novell.

    • There is a problem with this thinking. Typically, European countries thumb their noses are US Companies. After all, Microsoft has problems in Europe. But now, the EU is considering the same thing we have in the US. Now software based in Europe (as in Debian non-US) is subject to similar laws. Now Microsoft can start flexing it's muscle a bit more because now they have a law on their side, where before they didn't.

      You can only stand up to them (US or Other Software companies) if you are based in a coun
    • Re:Spreading FUD (Score:3, Informative)

      by lpontiac (173839)
      I'm not aware of any case where Microsoft or any other big company is trying to shutdown an Open Source project using patent laws.

      Microsoft used patents to kill ASF support in VirtualDub [virtualdub.org].

  • In this world the 'regulating' government bodies will call the regulated 'customers' (See mike powell head of the fcc) and consumer will be defacto criminals (see RIAA, MPAA etc)

    I have coined a phrase for this, the high-tech dark age.
  • Gat a lawyer, and be ready to file these patents. Patent everything in the Linux Kernel, and the GNU tools that come with most distibutions.
    If GoodGuy {

    Then set it up so that it and anything that could be considered a derivitive is royalty free.
    }
    ElseIf BadGuy {
    demand royalties from anything remotley similiar
    }
    Else {
    Go gat a mocha and wait for the /. Fallout
    }
  • New patent system (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JVert (578547)
    Good news everyone I have if figured out.

    Ok my the new patent system works like this, you have to apply for the patent before you actually invent it, if the invention exists at all at the time you first place you patent you are denied (this would include if you already have a product on the market and you are just now patenting it). Second your patent is put in holding where anyone else can see it and if someone else produces a working model within the time frame the patent is void.

    If the point of patents
  • by i_am_nitrogen (524475) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @10:04PM (#6327956) Homepage Journal
    This story was hit by the biggest crapflood I have ever seen.. Is this what all those trojaned Windoze computers are used for? Trolling on dotslash?

    Speaking of patents, one of the most ridiculous software patents I've seen in the US is the interface to the game The Incredible Machine. Nobody can make a game with gizmos used from a gizmo-bar to make things happen.
  • by TyrranzzX (617713) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @10:36PM (#6328055) Journal
    Don't fuck with the open source software community. Right now big companies are trying to knock it out using the goverment and the media because they don't like it, and trust me on this one, if they ever managed to make open software illegal, how many white cap hackers do you think would go black overnight and decide permenantly and perpetually destroying the infastructure of companies like microsoft, ibm, sun, etc is the way to show protest?

    I don't know about you guys, but protests aren't working, letters aren't working, e-mails aren't working. Voting is not working, propaganda isn't working. There's only 1 alternative after peacful protest; violent protest and our leaders are too dumb to realize that if they piss enough people off, they are dead meat literally.

    So label me a terrorist for conveying the message bitch, I'm getting to the end of my rope and patience.
    • I don't know about you guys, but protests aren't working, letters aren't working, e-mails aren't working. Voting is not working, propaganda isn't working. There's only 1 alternative after peacful protest; violent protest and our leaders are too dumb to realize that if they piss enough people off, they are dead meat literally.
      Are you completely out of your mind? Actually, what apparently isn't working is the informing of the media, because the article at the Register is factually wrong. First of all, the European parliament voted (unanimously!) last Thursday (2003/06/16) against rushing the proposal through, so there is no vote today on it. Secondly, a lot of MEP's are *against* the software patents proposal. I don't think the author of the article bothered to contact any politician, she just enumerated a couple of popular preconceptions about politicians.

      I do have contacted my (Flemish) MEPs and it turns out all Flemish parties but one are against software patents (only the liberals haven't chosen a side yet). Arlene McCarthy is starting to get strong opposition from within her own (socialist) faction... Although I by no means want to suggest the fight is over or won, the article at the Register is spreading a lot of uninformed FUD imho.

      It does make some good points, but it's by no means accurate about how a lot of politicians think about this issue, unless only the Belgian factions are against and the representatives from all other European countries are pro, but I doubt that... Most of the times, these factions try to take a common stand.

      PS: I'm not politically active (except by writing an email [ugent.be] - in Dutch - to the Flemish MEPs on this issue) or tied to one or other party in any way.

    • It's one thing to say that violence comes from ignoring the power of the people. That's a political science theorem. It might be right, it might be wrong.

      It's entirely another thing to advocate violence. Be very careful what you say, therefore. Don't advocate violence.

      For one thing, violence is a kind of war as are many others, including terrorism, nuclear war, cold war, insurrection, revolution, and civil unrest. Not one war has ever had a winner. Everyone loses in a war, but some lose more than ot
    • You just became the idiot described in the Register article, whose outright evangelism and hyperbole cause the politicians to ignore them and their viewpoint in favour of more reasoned replies.

  • Money talks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PingPongBoy (303994)
    I like the part about inventors being protected. Any poor schmuck can invent an algorithm and sell it to earn a living rather than allowing some rich jerk reverse engineer it and use it in a business.

    Software is typically not locked into a jurisdiction. It's production is not confined to a factory. There is no bricks and mortar as long as the software is not used to run a business with a bricks and mortar element.

    If the Internet is fast enough, software can be running on a server far away where no patent
  • by cifey (583942)
    How will these patent laws effect governments which are trying to use open source? They might have more pull than anyone.
  • by autopr0n (534291)
    It looks as though, despite widespread and deep criticism, the report will be adopted. And this will probably mean a shift of power from small software companies and the open source community to large multi-national corporations.

    OK, this is laughable. Two reasons. 1) Corporations already have the power, and 2) Without patent law, individuals and small companies would have more power over huge corps. Anyone can file a patent, it only costs a few hundred dollars. And believe it or not individuals can
  • According to MacBidouille [macbidouille.com], the vote date has been pushed back to the original September 1st date.

    Can anyone confirm this?

  • by Balaitous (126540) on Monday June 30, 2003 @02:41AM (#6328917) Homepage
    It is known since Thursday 26 June that the vote will not occur on 30 June. Despite pressure from the pro-patent UK labour rapporteur Arlene McCarthy, the conference of group presidents in the Parliament has decided that the vote in plenary will occur only in September.
    A little more time to convince Members of the European Parliament of all parties of the the common sense decision: rejecting patents for software ideas and information processing methods.
    • We have three weeks (Score:3, Informative)

      by JPMH (100614)
      Sorry to repeat myself [slashdot.org], but the time for action and contacting MEPs is now

      The truth is, we have about three weeks to go, because for most of the summer the MEPs are away on holiday.

      To be more precise:

      • Next week [30/06 - 04/07] we can lobby in Strasbourg (Session).
      • The week after [07/07 - 11/07] we can lobby in Brussels (Committee meetings).
      • ... after that there is no official business scheduled all summer ...
      • Finally [25-29/08] there is one week in Brussels before the September session which star
  • It's OK, the Italians will ignore it and create a safe haven for open source in Europe! (Seriously, the Italians are notorious for supporting every piece of EU legislation during its creation, then failing to comply once it comes into force.)
  • Easy solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ath (643782) on Monday June 30, 2003 @03:58AM (#6329101)
    I am sure this is not an original idea, but why do open source developers just make a minor change in their license. Basically that under no circumstances can a patented software application make use of any functions built into the open source software.

    This would simply use a software licensing term to send a clear message. Want to patent your software? Fine, but you won't get to use it with any open source software.

    Everyone is trying to put their damn finger in the dike regarding this stuff. I say we pull our fingers out of the holes and let the place flood. Then we will see how companies like it when they want to use everyone else's work to their financial benefit while not sharing.

    You think Amazon and it's "one-click" crap doesn't use open source software to actually implement the idea?

    • For one thing a new clause like that would be incompatible with the GPL. Authors can re-release their code under the new licence, but projects like LINUX have several thousands authors. You could never contact them all therefore you'd have to re-write almost everything from scrach.

      -
  • Constant battle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by freedog (635260)
    I am getting so sick of this constant battle having to be waged just so I can have my right to freedom of speech and my right to earn a living with the tools that I choose. These are all being threatened by the basest of interests, a pure Machievellian credo.

    A pondering/suggestion:

    I think it is time to put our money where our mouths are, since it seems that at the present hour, this is the only way to be heard. The saying "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," seems to be apropos right now.

  • by melonman (608440) on Monday June 30, 2003 @06:09AM (#6329344) Journal

    Predictions of the demise of computing, or even the demise of European computing, seem a little premature, IMO. Whenever this sort of thing is discussed on /., people respond as if we are talking about the law of the Medes and the Persians, ie once it's passed it can't be modified or recinded. A brief look at EU legislation in any other area shows that this is not the case.

    Take farming legislation. At one point, the EU was paying farmers to remove hedges from between fields to allow US-scale farming technology. Lots of people said it was a dumb idea, the EU persisted, the topsoil blew away, and now the EU is paying farmers to put the hedges back. Probably not the best environmental scenario imaginable, but it could have been a lot worse.

    On the 35-hour week, one of the cornerstones of EU employment law, countries like the UK never bothered to enforce it, and countries like France who did are now backpeddling like mad before unemployment rises any further.

    The EU is not the Beast, it's just not clever enough. It doesn't have much of an ideology, despite France's best efforts to give it one. It's the world's biggest fudge factory. The people who draft the legislation like regulation, but if it hurts national interests those people get stomped on.

    IF software patents are approved, and IF they are enforced at national level (in Italy?? Greece???), and IF large companies set out to destroy small companies, the legislation will be changed. The first time a non-French company threatens French jobs through patents enforcement, I would expect the French government to take unilateral action, backed by the majority of their population and the Germans, and simply refuse to budge until the EU caves in, much as they did over BSE (the UK had the law squarely on their side, but what difference did it make?) I saw an article in a national French newspaper six months ago about a powerful French lobby demanding that French computer games be classified as 'art', like films, so that the government can limit and tax US imports, subsidise French computer games, enforce quotas in shops and cybercafes...

    So if you guys the other side of the Pond want to see this law withdrawn, lobby a big American company to threaten a French one, and Chirac will do the rest :-)

    The same is true for patents in the US, except that the rebound would be faster and harder. Politicians are stupid, but they aren't that stupid.

  • I have yet to fully understand the problem that software patents cause OSS. Could somebody explain it a bit better to me? It seems to be that the opensource ideology is that *EVERY* piece of code in an OSS program has been written, ground up, by a developer who has licenced the code to be opensource. This can't possibly infringe a software patent; the opensource program is different in substance from any patented program/code, and was written seperately.

    It was my understanding that originally, Linux was

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