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European Parliament Clashes Over Software Patents 213

Posted by michael
from the civilized-debate-as-usual dept.
D4C5CE writes "The European Parliament's Daily Notebook reports on the turbulent final plenary debate this morning regarding a draft Directive to legalize Software Patents (which are currently unlawful under Art.52 (2) (c) of the European Patent Convention). The Notebook quotes some truly bizarre views and arguments (which no doubt you'll take the time to point out to Members of the European Parliament before tomorrow's vote), with some MEPs even claiming to feel harassed because they are suddenly also being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens, rather than solely by industry representatives as usual."
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European Parliament Clashes Over Software Patents

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  • Could be worse... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gortbusters.org (637314) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @05:58PM (#7038648) Homepage Journal
    at least it's a clash and not everyone for the patents!

    Ah, hopefully things will go well and all these great software projects (and their home pages) will go back to normal!
    • Re:Could be worse... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Spy Hunter (317220) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:31PM (#7038891) Journal
      I'm rather confused. If you read the article, you see people claiming "The aim of this directive is neither to abolish nor to extend the patentability of pure computer programs", and if you read the directive itself, it does not appear to make it any easier to patent software. In fact, most of the stuff I read was simply clarifying existing statements that "computer-implemented inventions may be patented" (not software itself, but inventions that incorporate a software component), adding additional clarification on when it would not be appropriate to consider pure software or business methods "computer-implemented inventions". To me, this amendment only makes it harder to patent software, algorithms, and business methods.

      An example: some inserted text reads:

      "Computer-implemented inventions must be claimed with reference to either a product such as a programmed apparatus, or to a process carried out in such an apparatus. Accordingly, where individual elements of software are used in contexts which do not involve the realisation of any validly claimed product or process, such use will not constitute patent infringement."
      Remembering that "Computer-implemented inventions" are quite clearly already patentable under current law, this passage only restricts their applicability. The amendment itself is full of such restrictions, and doesn't add any new ways of patenting computer programs that I can see. "The open-source community" is mentioned specifically in a part of the amendment. There is even a new passage making it legal to implement patented methods for the sole purpose of software interoperability, and protecting reverse engineering! Where exactly is the problem with this legislation? You might disagree with the fact that it is possible to patent "computer-implemented inventions" at all, but you can already do that now. This amendment only makes it harder. If you want to strike this concept out of current law, you should lobby for a different amendment and leave this one alone.
      • Re:Could be worse... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by \/\/ (49485) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @07:01PM (#7039092)
        It's supposed to be confusing. Yes, to the unsuspecting computer guy (and MP!) it reads like pure software patents should not be allowed. What it means in reality, you can read on FFII's [ffii.org] web site.

        Especially read 4. How CEC/JURI ensure Unlimited Patentability: Some Sample Provisions from their Directive Proposal for a translation into real English: For a patent laywer, the term "computer-implemented inventions" means that everything that potentially runs on a computer (like, Software) can now be patented! Compare this to the existing law, which explicitly forbids pure software patents, yet the EPO (European Patent Office) granted ~30,000 software patents, from one-click shopping over email archiving to progress bars (so much for the "don't extend current practice" bit).

        What it would mean for Linux et al. if this practice will be officially sanctioned we all know...
      • by rhysweatherley (193588) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @07:09PM (#7039161)
        In fact, most of the stuff I read was simply clarifying existing statements that "computer-implemented inventions may be patented" (not software itself, but inventions that incorporate a software component), adding additional clarification on when it would not be appropriate to consider pure software or business methods "computer-implemented inventions".
        And herein lies the slippery slope. The current version makes it illegal to patent software on its own, but not software used as one component in some otherwise physical product. The standard example given, regurgitated by some of the MEP's in the referenced article, is that of mobile phones.

        However, the mobile phone argument shows exactly why this is still a bad law. Mobile phones these days are essentially "software plus an antenna". So what happens when we allow people to patent "algorithm X plus an antenna"?

        What we get is this: some open source programmer writes algorithm X, and deploys it in a usual fashion. Some patent miscreant then jumps up and says "hey, you're running algorithm X on a laptop with a wireless network card! You're infringing my patent and owe me royalties!".

        No, the current "clarifications" are no good. Software patenting must be abolished completely, in all of its forms. If the physical device does not have some unique and novel feature of its own, sans software, then the device should not be patentable. Period.

        • Re:Could be worse... (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Spy Hunter (317220)
          Ah, I see. I was reading this amendment wrong. I thought it was amending current law, but it is only amending a proposed law. I agree that this proposed law, even as amended, does appear to authorize a lot of software patents.
          • Re:Could be worse... (Score:2, Informative)

            by kogs (221412)

            You were more correct initially.

            The current law is EPC and national laws that are based on the EPC. The European Patent Office is not related to the EU.

            All EU states are EPC contracting states but not all EPC states are EU states, e.g. Switzerland and Turkey.

            The EU cannot change the statutory definition of what is patentable because this would conflict with the member states obligations under the EPC or creating a situation where nation patents are granted on a different basis to European patents, wh

  • by Delron Da Thugg (708237) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @05:59PM (#7038662)
    "because they are suddenly also being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens, rather than solely by industry representatives as usual." Let's see if the citizens have as much sway as the real lobbies...probably only when they come with pitchforks and torches.
    • "because they are suddenly also being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens, rather than solely by industry representatives as usual."

      Total nonsense. All MEPs get lobbied by the public, stop trying to make them out as ivory tower-dwelling bureaucrats. Only Arlene MacArthy, the sponsor of this whole mess, complained of harassment. Seeing as she has been the focus of this whole mess and been unnecessarily painted as a heartless crone, it's not surprising some compaigners have gone over the top. Other repres
  • by Atario (673917) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @05:59PM (#7038665) Homepage
    with some MEPs even claiming to feel harassed because they are suddenly also being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens, rather than solely by industry representatives as usual.

    Imagine that -- contacted by (ugh) commoners. Oh, the ignominy!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:32PM (#7038898)
      Symptoms: "...some MEPs even claiming to feel harassed..."
      Diagnosis: results of /. effect hitting a real person, not a computer
  • Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:02PM (#7038691)
    some MEPs even claiming to feel harassed because they are suddenly also being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens, rather than solely by industry representatives as usual.

    Interesting. So now when citizens try to express their views on upcoming legislation to elected officials, it's "harassment". Only industry reps should be allowed this privilege?

    • Re:Interesting. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by s20451 (410424)
      Describing your opinion over a $200 dinner and a 1965 Merlot = Lobbying

      Describing your opinion to an aide in the lobby after waiting for hours to talk to someone = Harassment
      • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:24PM (#7038848)
        READ THE ARTICLE YOU CRETINS! Only Arlene Macarthy complained of harassment for reasons that are perfectly obvious to anyone who knows ANYTHING about the situation. Who the hell is modding this shit as insightful?
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by iabervon (1971) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @07:00PM (#7039084) Homepage Journal
      There are a whole lot of citizens, and MEPs only expect to need a relatively small staff. MEPs, even if they don't favor industry representatives, really prefer hearing from representatives over hearing from the entire represented group. On most issues, concerned citizens organize or join existing organizations, which lobby on their behalf. This has become important to a lot of people pretty suddenly, which means that a lot of people are talking to their MEPs directly. It doesn't really give the MEP a good idea of the argument; if that many people are trying to talk to you individually, you can't even figure out what side each one is on, let alone sort out the different arguments or notice arguments you haven't heard before.

      In such situations, the correct thing to do is really to deal the legislation, so that the citizens can sort themselves into groups based on their views and make coherent presentations of their concerns.
      • ...is really to deal the legislation...

        I'm sorry, you completely lost me here. I'd love to know the correct thing to do, but the answer doesn't seem to make sense to me. Could you explain further, what you mean?
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I guess the "harrasment" came from this comment:

      Joachim WUERMELING (D), [...] He regretted the sometimes personal and irrational lobbying that had taken place. [...]

      Just for the record: I am an EU citizen, I wrote an Email to Mr. Wuermeling, and he took the time to reply personally, explaining his position and adressing my concerns.
      So him feeling "harrassed" doesn't seem to hit the nail here.

      Also, after being against this EU derective for long time, I had to change my viewpoint somewhat.
      This directive
      • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by asscroft (610290) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @08:40PM (#7039794)
        It's so sad that you're calling the US brain-dead and I can't disagree. It's mind boggling. The internet and world wide media was supposed to show the rest of the world how great we are, but it's done a lot to show me how f-ed up we are.

        Just today on Fox News Oreilly had a big thing comparing America's teen pregnancy and STD rated to Europes, and then comparing America's Abstinence as the only option approach versus Europes Libertine sex-ed approach. We have four times the pregnancy rate as France and 12 times the ghonnorhea rate as Denmark. F-in Amsterdam where prostitution is legal, and there are more STD cases per 100000 here. WTF? Something isn't working.

        Same holds true for binge drinking rates at college and underage drinking rates in the US versus alchohol use and abuse in europe. Suprisingly, toleration of alchohol creates a healthier mentality versus abolition (for those under 21). Exact same issue as sex.

        The same holds true for Marijuana use/abuse. Not to mention the waste of money the war on Marijuana is.

        Software Patents aren't an idealogy problem like these. They are instead a business vs. consumer problem. Yet, the business vs. consumer stance of europe makes so much more sense than America's sell-out policies.

        I'm so disappointed in this puritanical corporate-sell out country. ( I know, if you don't like it, leave). Well maybe I will. I'll live where I'm free to code without fear of the DMCA and where I'm free to read without the government looking up my library records and where my children will get education and we'll all get health care and where my neighbor can smoke a J and it's no big deal because it really isn't a big deal and all that drug war money is instead spent to make life better. Imagine a land where you're free to tinker, and where we're brave enough to allow personal choices. Hmm, how ironic, home of the free and the brave. That should be HERE. That should describe America.

        oh well. maybe someday.
        • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Wolfbone (668810) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @09:38PM (#7040130)
          "Software Patents aren't an idealogy problem like these. They are instead a business vs. consumer problem. Yet, the business vs. consumer stance of europe makes so much more sense than America's sell-out policies."

          Actually old bean, at least from where I stand, it is indeed a matter of ideology - the ideology of free speech, freedom to engage in the arts and sciences, freedom to communicate ideas and culture, freedom of thought.

          It has been a long time since the failure of your great compatriot, Phil Salin and others to prevent the tragedy of ideas patenting in the U.S. and we Europeans have had the opportunity to prepare for this inevitable onslaught on our fundamental human rights. Yet it looks likely that the forces arrayed against us will prevail anyway.

          I call them 'ideas patents' because that is what they really are - I am not primarily a software developer or a businessman but a mathematician and I see software patents from a rather different perspective than has been customary in the 'debates' in the E.U. Parliament. Ever since I first came across the abominations that are the RSA patent and the DHT transform patent and others like them I have become more and more disgusted and horrified at the level of intellect displayed by those charged with the responsibility of formulating and enacting laws on my behalf.

          Every debate has centred on the economic consequences of patenting with no attention whatsoever paid to the rights of which I speak. Of course you'd think I needn't worry when a quarter of a million people (mostly programmers) signed a petition against software patents and an organization representing half a million European S.M.Es stated their opposition to them too. So it must be obvious to the MEPs that there isn't even an economic case to be made for patenting software - right?

          Wrong! Unfortunately we have to contend with a level of disingenuity, stupidity or underhand venality - I don't know which - capable of making statements like this:

          "With regards to calls for abolishing, within the EU, all patents on computer-implemented inventions, EU companies would be at a severe disadvantage in the global market place if they were not able to apply for a patent over their invention."

          (From Arlene McCarthy's website). Even a child would laugh at such a cretinous non sequitur - not so your average MEP.

        • I'll live where I'm free to code without fear of the DMCA and where I'm free to read without the government looking up my library records and where my children will get education and we'll all get health care and where my neighbor can smoke a J and it's no big deal because it really isn't a big deal and all that drug war money is instead spent to make life better. Imagine a land where you're free to tinker, and where we're brave enough to allow personal choices.

          You just described Canada... except you m

          • by aastanna (689180) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @11:38PM (#7040726)
            You just described Canada
            I was thinking the exact same thing, but I wonder how many people won't know that the bit about bears and coyotes roaming the cities is a joke.

            Also, I'd like to throw in the obligitory comments about being able to walk down the streat and not get shot, and being able to visit other countries with your flag sewn on your backpack and not get shot...and...just generally not get shot.
        • ( I know, if you don't like it, leave)

          NO! -- if you don't like it, fix it!

          What kind of patriot turns tail and runs? I can't stand it when flag-hugging idiots spout that shitty "love it or leave it" copout.

          --

          • will of the people (Score:3, Insightful)

            by alizard (107678)
            NO! -- if you don't like it, fix it!

            What kind of patriot turns tail and runs? I can't stand it when flag-hugging idiots spout that shitty "love it or leave it" copout.

            From the evidence I've seen, a country where the decisions are made by "benevolent" multinationals is exactly the kind of place where Americans want to live. Some of the evidence of this comes from our own community.

            Why don't we have a PAC capable of going head to head with "the big boys"? Because all of our high-tech millionaires, includ

        • Not to mention the waste of money the war on Marijuana is.

          Yes, drug prohibition is a complete waste of the taxpayer's money, but more importantly, drug prohibition creates violent crime. Just as alcohol prohibition gave rise to organized crime, drug prohibition gave us the bloods and the crips, and drive-by shootings. Of course the government would never admit this; instead they will claim that the people are the problem, not the law. But, it's hard to argue with the fact that nobody is out in the street

    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Informative)

      by fname (199759) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @07:26PM (#7039282) Journal
      Geeze, RTFA. Or at least search TFA. The article says,
      Arlene McCarthy regrettably added that in all the years that she had been an MEP, she had not been treated in such an aggressive manner. She said she and her staff had been bullied and harassed.
      Ok, apparently the submitter of the story has a much better idea of what makes the MEPs tick than the write of the real article does. I mean, she says she was harassed-- maybe there were dozens of people lobbying her about the patents while walking to her car. I don't know. But the article clearly does not state that she feels harassed because, "they are suddenly being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens." The idea that she considers lobbying by citizens to be harassment is just a BS statement thrown in as redmeat to the anti-patent Slashdot crowd. It worked.

      Obviously, the writer has an agenda, which is clear based on the link for the software patents. By knowingly mis-representing and mis-stating the complaint of the MEP, he only serves to call into question his own ethics. Ya, the story submitter seems like just the type who might actually bully an MEP, because he knows he's right. Slashdot lives down to its reputation once again.

      And yeah, software patents seems like a bad idea (at least as implemented in the USA). That doesn't excuse the deliberate misrepresentation of facts (or, obviously, actual harrasment) by its opponents.
    • I'm getting a 500 Internal Server Error on the link.
      Nice going guys, you slashdotted the EU!
  • Read the text! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TwistedSquare (650445) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:03PM (#7038695) Homepage
    regarding a draft Directive to legalize Software Patents

    Most of the speakers emphasised that this was not about legalising software patents, and the impression from the linked article is that over half of the speakers understood what the debate was about and were against software patents.

    Surely this is a good sign from the European Parliament?

  • by The Lynxpro (657990) <`lynxpro' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:04PM (#7038703)
    If I were an EU citizen, I'd certainly run for office. How can you not win a constituency when less than 10% of people turn out for the voting?

    10. Gain EU Citizenship through the liberal citizenry laws in the Republic of Ireland.

    20. Move to an EU country, err, excuse me, "Member State."

    30. Run for the EU Parliament. Have 2 people vote for me and I win my seat!

    40. PROFIT!!!

    • less than 10%????
      wtf?

      most votes would be deemed illeagal under such a low turnout.

      and yeah i do live in eu, and yeah the partys(that i vote regularly) representive isn't in favor of software patents.

      it certainly isn't "easy" to get elected as there are no shortage of candidates(if not for any other reason then because they get nice pay).
      • "less than 10%????
        wtf?
        most votes would be deemed illeagal under such a low turnout.
        and yeah i do live in eu, and yeah the partys(that i vote regularly) representive isn't in favor of software patents."

        Which EU *Member State* do you live in? If I am to believe what the Financial Times reports, the turnout for EU Parliament elections in the U.K. are frequently at or below the 10% threshhold. I would also imagine that in other EU Member States that have a low regard for the Eurocracy also poll quite low as
        • i live in finland. eu and emu member(and yeah we did meet the requirements too).

          the turnouts for european parliament voting last time was around 35-40% iirc(under 10% would be considered total fiasco on the marketing side of the poll and i'd imagine heads to roll just because of that), can't be very sure though. the eu parliament votings are a bit hard for to motivate people(because it's not on the news all the time like the local parliament and it's politicians are, and since uk has had the crazy system w
          • and since uk has had the crazy system with nobles and shit i can't really blame them for not thinking that their vote doesn't matter

            How can you claim the British system is crazy when its governing structure has lasted a good 800 years? Compare that with France which since 1789 has had 5 1/2 Republics, 2 Monarchist Regimes, and 2 Dictatorship/Empires? Just because someone was born a noble does not make them crazy or less fitting to sit in the House of Lords. Were there crazy Lords? There were some. But
        • by ahillen (45680) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @02:13AM (#7041396)
          Which EU *Member State* do you live in? If I am to believe what the Financial Times reports, the turnout for EU Parliament elections in the U.K. are frequently at or below the 10% threshhold. I would also imagine that in other EU Member States that have a low regard for the Eurocracy also poll quite low as well (Sweden perhaps?)...

          Why dont you just inform yoursel before just writing some wild guesses and thus givin a wrong impression? A simple Google search ("europarl European Elections") gives you as 4th link the UK office of the european parlament with information on the election turnout (http://www.europarl.org.uk/guide/textonly/Gelectt x.htm#facts) (please not the word facts at the end... ;) ).

          To quote some numbers:
          UK turnout has been between 24% and 36% in the last 5 elections, which is not at or below the 10% threshhold.
          Sweden had a turnout of 41.6% and 38.3% in the 2 elections it took part.
          Denmark had between 46.1% and 52.9%.
          Belgium had aturnout alway >=90%.
          EU average had been between 49.4% and 63%.
          Unfortunately there is a negative trend, so in 20 years your statement might become true (which is especially sad because the EU parlament becomes more and more important...)

          if France and Germany are not forced to meet their treaty obligations...

          As a German I can say that at least the fact that Germany is breaking the stability pact for the second year in a row is not due to unwillingness, but due to inaptitude
          • Belgium had aturnout alway >=90%.

            That's because in Belgium voting isn't a right but a duty. If you don't turn up during elections you can get fined (although judges have been very easy going on people who don't turn up to vote during the last couple of elections).

            The idea is to protect the weaker groups in society as they usually are the first to forsake their voting rights. By forcing them to vote, you make sure that politicians will take them into account in their programs instead of just listening
            • "That's because in Belgium voting isn't a right but a duty. If you don't turn up during elections you can get fined (although judges have been very easy going on people who don't turn up to vote during the last couple of elections)."

              I envy your country (Member State) then... Australia does that as well (or is it New Zealand?). Unfortunately here in the U.S., we do not require people to vote (although you have to sometimes question the intelligence of some voters, especially ones in Florida who voted for
          • UK turnout has been between 24% and 36% in the last 5 elections, which is not at or below the 10% threshhold.
            EU average had been between 49.4% and 63%

            Well, using Britain as my example for the 10% score and the Member State I'd want to run in, the 10% score is closer to the proported voter participation statistic of 24% in comparison with the EU average which you quote as being between 49.4% and 63%. An American holding dual citizenship with Britain would probably favor a better chance of being elected tha
    • Only a programmer would even dream of numbering their lines in multiples of 10.
    • 10. Gain US citizenship

      20. Move to California and become body-building movie star

      30. Run for governor without even bothering to wait until the last one's term is up

      40. PROPHET!!!
      • 30. Run for governor without even bothering to wait until the last one's term is up
        40. PROPHET!!!

        Hey, I like Arnold too and will vote for him, but that does not mean I think he's a Prophet! That title belongs to people like Ezekiel, Isaiah (sic), John the Baptist, Jesus, Mohammed, and Nostradamus... I think you meant "profit." But that's not much profit. The elected position of Governor of the 5th (soon to be 4th) Largest Economy in the World is not much more than a Member of the European Parliament...
    • 10. Gain EU Citizenship through the liberal citizenry laws in the Republic of Ireland.

      20. Move to an EU country, err, excuse me, "Member State."


      Wow! I'm only two steps away from profit!
  • by FonkiE (28352) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:06PM (#7038717)

    SuSE wrote an open letter [www.suse.de] [german] today. Translation is here [google.com].
    They are of course against software patents...
  • Boo hoo hoo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Esion Modnar (632431) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:09PM (#7038741)
    MEPs even claiming to feel harassed because they are suddenly also being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens, rather than solely by industry representatives as usual.

    Apparently they're not used to actually representing their constituents, as opposed to just their industry lobbyists.

    • Re:Boo hoo hoo (Score:5, Informative)

      by nsample (261457) <nsample AT stanford DOT edu> on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:32PM (#7038896) Homepage
      This is complete crap. I'm a Linux user, not a fanboy, so maybe that's why I read the article and can see it for what it was.

      It was the European People's Party (aka, "Christian Democrats") that had some WAY over-zealous advocates harassing MPEs. Yes, that's an accurate word, "harassing." I believe it's accurate because of you read the article (and the poster clearly didn't), the EPP rep. APOLOGIZED for the extreme behavior of its zealots.

      Joachim WUERMELING (D), for the EPP-ED group, broadly supported the rapporteur, and he alluded to the technical and legal difficulties surrounding the issue. He regretted the sometimes personal and irrational lobbying that had taken place.


      He apologized because they were out of control. Showing up at an MPEs residence and hurling insults at them on their front door step in the name of OSS (or whatever) isn't "lobbying." It's harassment. Plain and simple.

      Arlene McCarthy regrettably added that in all the years that she had been an MEP, she had not been treated in such an aggressive manner. She said she and her staff had been bullied and harassed.


      And they were bullied. Hurling invectives in the name of OSS is still rude and over the top. Contrary to what /. readers believe, acting like an idiot isn't restricted to the folks from Redmond...
      • You do realise that to regret something is not the same as to apologise? I don't see from where you are inferring all this stuff about the behaviour of EPP members.
  • Malcolm Harbour MEP (Score:5, Informative)

    by alext (29323) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:15PM (#7038787)
    Malcolm HARBOUR (EPP-ED, West Midlands) stated that patents played an indispensable role in making the EU the most dynamic knowledge based economy in the world. Patents, he said, help to stimulate investment and encourage invention. Protecting genuine invention and creativity would help business to develop products that people want to buy.

    Needless to say, this guy has a page to himself [ffii.org] on the FFII site.

    My impression from this (admittedly brief) note is that even the most aged and out-of-touch members of the (British) House of Lords would have managed a more coherent debate on this. Still, it's not gone all the megacorps' way.
  • by Ikeya (7401) <dave@kuck . n et> on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:15PM (#7038789) Homepage
    I mean, software patents work so great over here with no problems at all! They should just model their system after the U.S.!
  • EU == US? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Ape With No Name (213531) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:18PM (#7038800) Homepage
    with some MEPs even claiming to feel harassed because they are suddenly also being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens, rather than solely by industry representatives as usual."

    Heavens to Murgatroid! The Humanity! I'd expect this sort of contempt from a US Representative but not from such a democratic body as the EU Parliament.
  • by Hamster Lover (558288) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:21PM (#7038824) Journal
    From the notebook article:

    "Neil MacCORMICK (Greens/EFA, Scotland) warned against possible "leakage" from genuine protection of computer implemented inventions to companies being able to patent computer software. He stated that the present system, where genuine inventions are patentable and software is protected by copyright worked well. The responsibility, he underlined, lay with the Commission to find a balance between over and under protection for inventions."

    This is exactly the problem with the directive to begin with. What exactly is the point of "legalizing software patents" if software itself cannot be patented?

    I am not asking for software to be patentable, far from it, but I fail to see the need for this entire exercise if the end result will be patent rules that are substantially similar to the current rules with more complicated language.

    It is good to see that at least one MEP understands that no matter how persuasive the language, patent applicants will attempt to find ways to patent the supposedly unpatentable. "Systems" and "processes" in a patent will cover such obvious ideas as one click purchasing and on-line auctions. If anything, this entire directive has done nothing but muddy the waters about what is and what is not patentable, something patent inspectors and the public do not want or need.
    • What exactly is the point of "legalizing software patents" if software itself cannot be patented?

      To let greedy people find a legal way to lie and cheat their way into money without producing anything that people would actually pay for.
  • > Arlene McCarthy regrettably added that in all the years that she had been an MEP, she had not been treated in such an aggressive manner. She said she and her staff had been bullied and harassed.

    I would really like to find out what exactly those actions were. Although, if they were serious I'm quite sure that she would get the law involved.
    • by penguin7of9 (697383) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @07:39PM (#7039387)
      I don't know, but here is my guess. She probably got a lot of angry phone calls, to the point that other calls weren't getting through. Perhaps people also figured out her home telephone number and called her there.

      However, I think whatever happened, as long as it was legal and didn't involve threats, that's something that an MEP should put up with without whining about it or calling it "harassment". If McCarthy had received such a response at something, oh, on some directive on child pornography or retirement benefits, I suspect she would not have considered it harassment but mainstream, widespread outrage. If you look at McCarthy's web site, you'll see that this issue isn't featured there prominently (in fact, I didn't see any reference to it at all on the web site).

      MEPs need to come to understand that this is something that geeks and technologists are genuinely outraged over. It is something that matters to a lot of people, and it is something they need to take very seriously.

      Of course, people trying to contact them should also realize that MEPs still just don't quite get it and perhaps adjust their behavior accordingly.
  • by Ricin (236107) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:34PM (#7038913)
    There *is* discussion. There *is* a stir up. There *are* delays. It hasn't been passed as, err, suggested by a certain lobby, without any debate.

    If all that matters is the mere glorious victory, well, then find a cave and have your victory there. It's not going to happen. A small win is a win even if it only means less of a loss.

    So perhaps we can finally be a little positive about this. OSS has a lobby. It is being heard. More importantly it's being listened to and more people seem to be understanding what's at stake. That's quite something.
    • Getting to smoke a cigarette before being shot isn't exacly what I call "something"...
      • 'Getting to smoke a cigarette before being shot isn't exacly what I call "something"...'

        If you're a smoker (I am) I'm pretty sure it will be "something" at such a point.

        Which was my point. I wasn't cheering.

      • Read the line about the mailaddr...

        kurious

        sounds like a debatable KDE app :-)

        (sorry)
        • given the amount of spam that hits it I might as well disclose my email in uncrippled form; it wouldn't make any difference. Actually my email isn't kurious but curious etc at katamail... how did you get that wrong? It's named after an Ozric Tentacles album... cool stuff...
    • Or in other words, Democracy in action.
  • There was supposed to be a presentation of Free Software at Sao Paulo's congress tomorrow - Sao Paulo being the richest and most populated state in Brazil.

    I just got an e-mail from an entity that was responsible for part of the presentation taliking of a last minute change: instead of presentation there will be a debate, and the people invited to debate are, instead of free software advocates were experimented proprietary software advocates.
  • by SlashingComments (702709) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:38PM (#7038941)
    This is very interesting and I am following the story for last few weeks.

    I never realized that so many sites could be / would be affected and will join the protest against this.

    I would not have been aware of this unless there is this thing called INTERENET and EU people contributed a major portion of GPL Software.

    If this works out, then, it will show that the "Europe" is still probably the place where people have the voice and can make a difference.

    Balance of power between state and people is getting one sided in US--unfortunately. Before the IRAQ war more than 40% of the people in US actually thought that there is a connection between IRAQ/WMD/Terrorist etc. etc. Govt. is too strong compared to the people at this point to pull this and still stay in power.

    (I supported the war anyway--this type of dictators need beating--well so is Pakistan/North Korea but that's another story).

    So, congratulations EU people--you did well.

    P.S.

    Probably does not make much sense here, but, If you just happen to visit a bookstore, pick up the last issue of Foreign Policy ... read and get depressed.

  • by GeekDork (194851) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:44PM (#7038974)

    For Antonio MUSSA (I), who spoke on behalf of the UEN group, "computers are the backbone of development in all countries of the world and innovation is predicted through patentability".

    Is it just me or is the "innovation/patentability" part not making sense at all? Is this something like "war is predicted through declarability" or more like "rain is predicted through cheese"??

  • watched it live (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rjkm (145398) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:46PM (#7038999)
    Somebody in the Linux DVB group was so kind to point out yesterday that there is a TV channel with live feeds of such discussions on http://europa.eu.int/comm/ebs/reception_en.html.

    I watched the discussion on software patents this morning. I have to say that without knowing the real backgrounds you could really fall for the arguments of the proponents. No, they do not want laws like the US, they want to restrict software patents. I don't know how they can keep straight faces saying that. Luckily, some other speakers did not fail to mention that software patents are actually against the law and the new proposal would legalize those patents. Restrictions to the new law (like those discussed on Slashdot yesterday) are not needed. Simply do not pass the new law and enforce the existing ones.

    The so-called harrassments by citizens also were described quite differently depending on the side the speaker was on. The speakers for patents pretended to be offended by such wild actions.
    The speakers against rather described them as reasonable concerns by middle sized businesses who fear for their survival.

    "Linus aeh Linux" was also mentioned. But one speaker talked about "Unix, which is free"?! Hmmm, let's not let Darl hear about this.

    • Well that's excellent. Let people think that "UNIX is Free". Pour it onto them. "UNIX is Free".

      Bye SCO
      Bye HP
      Bye Sun
      Bye IB ... err, wait...

      Well seriously, the more people thinking "UNIX is free" while perhaps pointing at Tux -- who cares -- each and every one of them would be just excellent. It will plant the idea that *NIX belongs to "the" community. That's good. We need mind share. At any level.
    • No, they do not want laws like the US, they want to restrict software patents. I don't know how they can keep straight faces saying that.

      Funny thing is, every year there's another big story about Europe wondering how to stop the "Brain-Drain" (Scientists going to the USA) and yet they continue on with things like this.
  • Publicise this BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Unregistered (584479) on Tuesday September 23, 2003 @06:47PM (#7039000)
    with some MEPs even claiming to feel harassed because they are suddenly also being lobbied by numerous concerned citizens, rather than solely by industry representatives as usual."


    When election time pass this around to the candite of your choice running against the reps that said this. I'm sure the opposition would be happy to have those quotes.
  • If it's enough to make "concerned citizen" lobby against the law, then - considering the apathy for politics here - it should give them a reason to think.
  • by o'reor (581921) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @02:47AM (#7041508) Journal
    From the notebook :
    Mrs McCarthy rejected the criticisms from small and medium sized enterprises, stating that she had received letters from SMEs calling for such legislation to be introduced. A company from the South West of England, specialising in voice recognition technology, had written to her welcoming her report.
    Could it be the Cambridge-based Entropic company, specialized in speech recognition? I do not suppose that there are many SMEs specialized in that field in the South West of England.

    Now here's the beef : Microsoft acquired Entropic in 1999 [microsoft.com].

    So unless the SME mentionned by McCarthy was another one (which I doubt), she's probably been telling us another whopper of a lie.

    • Cambridge is in the South East of the UK. Not the South West.

      So I guess the SME was a different one.

      So no beef. Completely cow-less and without bovine.

      troc
  • What amazes me is the enourmous amount of nonsense arguments.

    Just stumbled across an article in an on-line paper [nu.nl] (sorry, Dutch only) that puts forward two really ridiculous arguments:

    • Developpers would have to pay for using common words(?) and constructions in software for use in for example vacuum cleaners and laundry machines
      WAKE UP! A patent cannot keep you from using a word. This sounds more like a trademark isssue and trademark protection has been there for already a long time.
      Furthermore, there
    • What amazes me is the enourmous amount of nonsense arguments.

      Don't worry, they're probably equally bad in fields you don't know about :-)

      an article in an on-line paper (sorry, Dutch only) that puts forward two really ridiculous arguments

      First of all the meat of it is anti-swpat arguments filtered through an MEP and a non-tech journalist. (My impression) What did you expect?

      Then there is the Stallmann quote. I think you're too quick at condemning it. "Combinations of tones" can mean simple chord
    • Well, you can already protect combintation of tones.

      No you can't. You can protect a sequence of tones but not a combination. I think Stallman is asking the question "How many tunes would be written if chords could be copyrighted?" The answer, of course, is "very few".

      TWW

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