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Software Patents

Sites Shut Down to Protest Software Patents 563

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the taking-a-stand dept.
blueser writes "I went today to TUTOS homepage to check for a newer version, and I was surprised to see that the author replaced the homepage by a 'Closed because of Software-Patents' page, with a brief explanation." Just one site? that's hardly a big deal, but there's more. maliabu writes "Knoppix is closed, apparently waiting for the European Parliament to decide about the legalisation and adoption of so-called 'software patents' in Europe." And still more. SLbigE writes "The Wine HQ website has temporarily shut down its webpage in protest to a proposed law in Europe regarding Software Patents." There's many more sites as well, these were just the first I was alerted to, Feel free to note some more in comments. Looks like they're doing a good job of illustrating what could be lost soon.
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Sites Shut Down to Protest Software Patents

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  • MRTG (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:07AM (#6822724)
    MRTG [mrtg.org] has also joined the fight.
  • I hold a patent (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Matrix272 (581458) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:08AM (#6822729)
    I hold the "Words on a webpage" patent. It turns out that all of you will have to pay me royalty fees! I want 1 penny for every word on a webpage... I should be a trillionare by the end of the hour.

    Seriously though, does anybody have a link to the actual patents filed that contain references to "scrolling within a window", or "progress bars"? I'd be interested in looking over the legal ramifications in the US...
  • Vote delayed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrew (625426) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:10AM (#6822744)
    Apparently this protest (and the physical one) may have had some effect, in that the EU vote has been delayed according to LWN [lwn.net]. Let's hope this additional time is beneficial to the anti-patent cause...
  • 'Shut down' (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Channard (693317) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:13AM (#6822760) Journal
    Has anyone got any links inside the sites that are supposedly shut down? Are the sites really shut down or has the index.html just been changed?
  • An MEP Replies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maroberts (15852) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:19AM (#6822806) Homepage Journal
    I wrote to my MEP to protest and got this back - the only problem is, that like a typical politicians speech, I'm not quite sure at the ened of the day what its saying. I get the impression this is a little double edged. See what you make of it.


    Dear Mr Roberts,

    Thank you for your email, which has been passed to me as your local MEP from Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP.

    Conservatives in the European Parliament have supported the objectives of the Directive to set out and defend the status quo in Europe following changes to the patent system in the USA and also planned for Japan. There is a clear intention across the EU Member States to see that Europe does not follow the USA and Japan in allowing widespread patent availability for software and business methods. Copyright will remain the principal method of protecting intellectual property in these cases. I and my UK Conservative colleagues support the general line that the Commission has taken which builds on and clarifies the existing patent law across the European Union and makes it clear that only software which forms part of a technological process will be patentable. This will allow patents to be provided for genuine technical inventions and stimulate European economic development in areas of economic strength like mobile telephony, digital television and computer controlled machine tools to name just a few possibilities. Contrary to the impression given in your letter there is no intention what so ever to allow generic patenting of software in Europe.

    The amendments agreed by the Legal Affairs and Internal Market Committee last week, and supported by Conservative MEPs, have clarified the test conditions for software (deciding whether it has a technical effect) before authorising a patent. The Parliament amendments improve the text while ensuring that its principles are supported. Codification of the existing position will also avoid raising complicated issues of the validity of existing patents across Europe or allowing current unpatentable technologies to claim new patents. This will allow European businesses the chance to develop ideas with certainty as to their legal position. It will also reduce the pressure from companies holding permissive American software patents who wish to gain an extension of their patent rights in Europe.

    Finally, I must point out that the Directive contains detailed provisions for review of its operation and for early revision should its provisions not work as intended. If it is clear, from the type of inventions being patented or from ongoing legal cases, that the goals of outlawing generic software patents are not being met, then a process of revision can be implemented quickly.

    Yours sincerely,

    Roger Helmer MEP
  • by usotsuki (530037) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:37AM (#6822931) Homepage
    If a large number of people don't protest they won't know that anyone gives a damn.

    I say go for it. 2003.1111, 6AM EST 3AM PST, for 24 hours? Go for it! Everyone in the US rename your pages and slap up a simple INDEX.HTM, you can toss together in a minute with notepad. 24 hours, forget it, I'll have it up for 72 ;)

    -uso.
  • Re:An MEP Replies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neillewis (137544) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:58AM (#6823105)
    Well it's rather vague and definitely boilerplate, I got exactly the same thing from John Bowis MEP (another Conservative.)

    From Glenys Kinnock (Labour) I got a paraphrased version of one of the directive's author Arlene McCarthy's own (self-praising) letters which is already posted on seveeral mailing lists. (I doubt Glenys uses Google much, or she'd be a little more careful what she sends out.)

    After receiving these two, I got seriously annoyed that this vague and partial directive would pass due to a mixture of horse trading, lobbying special interests and the old pals act, so I'm glad to hear it looks like it's going back to the committee stage.

    On a brighter note, Conservative Richard Balfe sent a thoughtful reply saying we should 'move carefully' and that he would 'take on board' my points when voting.

    Jean Lambert sent me the most positive response I've had, which shows the Greens are very strongly onside, and noting that "The influence of the Business Software Alliance (whose main members are Microsoft and IBM) behind the project has been widely condemned."

    At least these people actually bothered to answer, other MEPs haven't so far.

  • Re:To the point.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by botzi (673768) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:02AM (#6823143)
    Absolutely right. We're talking about sites intended and visited for/by developers. Unless a high-traffic news site(but not for nerds;oPPP) shuts down(very unlikely and NO I'm NO talking about DoS;o))) this whole thing will pass unnoticed. I don't believe that even /. stopping for a nap will change something, but I do believe that the NEWS of /.(and others BIG ONES) actually shutting down will make it to some of the mentionned news sites, that way more people will learn that this law is being prepared(let's face it, nobody knows shit for the moment)....

    Anyway, none of this will ever happen....
  • by brokencomputer (695672) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:04AM (#6823154) Homepage Journal
    We have software patent laws in the US and slashdot is in the US so slashdot would be protesting a law that were already enacted in the US. I dont think it would be helpful to shut down slashdot. if slashdot were shut down, a lot of people would not know about the protest and lots of other news.
  • Re:Rpm find (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rknop (240417) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:05AM (#6823167) Homepage

    These site shutting down in protest is not very professional. This is one of the problems with the free software community, politics plays too heavy of a role in their actions.

    If you are too timid to take actions that are going to inconvenience somebody you will never be noticed. Software patents are serious. You lose your Linux dodad today; software patents could eventually make you lose them forever.

    For instance, do you really believe that the labor movement would ever have gotten anywhere if they never held any strikes? That the civil rights movement would have gotten anywhere if they never got in anybody's face?

    The road to hell is paved with business as usual. Shutting down your websites may be "unprofessional", but it makes a meaningful protest that gets across the point of just how serious these sites believe the issue is.

    -Rob

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:12AM (#6823240) Homepage
    Patent for the wheel [uspto.gov]. There are others. The USPTO has gone beyond farce and reached a point where it's become simply too sick to live.
  • Change the Law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:15AM (#6823265) Homepage Journal
    The section of my article called Change the Law [goingware.com] in Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads [goingware.com] explains steps you can take to change the laws.

    While it focusses on reforming copyright laws, most of what I say applies to patents. Note that in the U.S. at least, patents have the same legal foundation as copyrights, being authorized by the same clause in the Constitution.

    The steps I suggest are:

    • Speak Out
    • Vote
    • Write to Your Elected Representatives
    • Donate Money to Political Campaigns
    • Support Campaign Finance Reform
    • Join the Electronic Frontier Foundation
    • Practice Civil Disobedience
    Well I don't think the EFF deals with patents but they do a lot of other good work.

    The above article is going to be put under a Creative Commons license to encourage copying as soon as I have the final draft done. I expect that to happen this weekend. So check back and copy the article to other websites when it's ready.

    Also I closed my consulting business website [goingware.com] a couple days ago and will keep it that way a couple more days.

    While I don't get a huge amount of traffic to my homepage, I also don't expect most of the people visiting it to already be free software enthusiasts who know all about the patent controversy.

  • by psxndc (105904) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:18AM (#6823316) Journal
    True, lawyers are not "innocent", but "kill all lawyers" makes them out to be _the_ problem, not part of it. Why not say "kill all that cause frivilousness"?

    As for saying "no" to ridiculous lawsuits, patents, etc. it _is_ done, probably moreso than most think. Secondly, it is not always in an individual lawyer's ability to do so. If a lawfirm partner says "ClientX, who is a very valuable client, has 23 valid IP patents and 1 so-so patent. But someone is infringing on the so-so one. Go get them Associate-Boy" it's not like the associate can say "Sorry Mr. Partner-Man, no can do". They could, but it would be like an IT person in an all Windows shop saying "We must switch over to Linux because Windows is Non-free". There is moral merit to the argument, but it doesn't make business sense and it's not really the whipping boy's decision to make.

    Again, I don't absolve all lawyers of guilt in the matter, but I want people to recognize and point fingers at the other parts of the problem

    psxndc

  • by suwain_2 (260792) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:53AM (#6823649) Journal
    I have to question the impact this will have. Sure, we who already dislike software patents are upset by it. But will anyone in the closed software world be upset by this? If anything, I think some larger companies will be delighted that their 'competition' in the Open Source world is taking their site down.

    Don't get me wrong; I'm against software patents too. But this seems no different than if, say, abortion clinics closed their doors to protest potential anti-abortion legislation -- it's going to make the other side happier, and I doubt anyone in the EU would even notice. Frankly, I think all this is doing is inconveniencing those in the OpenSource community who are trying to download the programs, forcing those who really need it to find a closed-source (and patented!) equivalent. They're hurting their cause, not helping it. The petition someone here linked to would be a far more effective way of protesting.
  • Not just a handful (Score:3, Interesting)

    by too_bad (595984) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:49AM (#6824162)
    Just google for "closed because of software patents" and there are so many
    companies doing the same.
  • by Sphere1952 (231666) on Friday August 29, 2003 @12:18PM (#6825051) Journal

    Accidentally hit reset on a few well chosen machines all at the same time -- say maybe midnight GMT tonight.

    I bet the shock to the Internet would be nothing compared to the political earthquake of headlines reading "Slashdot readers bring down Internet in protest over software patents."
  • by The_Real_MrRabbit (541342) on Friday August 29, 2003 @05:29PM (#6828671)
    Simply cannot get to the web site today... It's pingable, can browse site initially with telnet://www.php.net 80 and do a GET /index.html. Elsewise, no cookie when using browser... Just hangs... =8-(

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