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EU Parliament Approves Software Patents 678

Posted by timothy
from the typical-statists dept.
AnteTempore writes "The voting has just ended. Few good and several bad amendments were accepted. The directive proposal was accepted: 361 for, 135 against, 28 abstentions. The precise numbers and results for each amendment will be available on europarl.eu.int tomorrow." Reader swentel submits this report on the vote (French) with slightly different numbers (364 voting yes, 153 No, 33 abstaining) but just as bad. Watch this story for updates. Update: 09/24 15:44 GMT by T : Dr.Seltsam writes to say that the early reports are "not quite correct. The German publisher Heise states in this article, that the vote concerned strong changes on the directive." In particular, "pure software patents will not be allowed." Google's translation engine does a decent job with the German.
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EU Parliament Approves Software Patents

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  • Well Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:02AM (#7042756)
    Looks like lawmakers in Europe are just as stupid as US lawmakers after all.
    • by Jerry (6400)
      but probably not as well paid^^^^ campaign funded.
      • by villoks (27306) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @10:05AM (#7044083) Homepage Journal
        Slahdot-journalism at it lowest point ever. From FFII's PR:

        FFII News -- For Immediate Release -- Please Redistribute

        See

        http://swpat.ffii.org/#news

        Now we will have to see whether the European Commission is committed to
        "harmonisation and clarification" or only to patent owner interests.

        Yesterday's threats uttered by Bolkestein against the European Parliament
        suggest the latter.

        The detailed results are available on our site

        http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0923/

        It will now be our job to help the European Parliament assert itself against
        attempts by Bolkestein and patent lawyers wearing the hat of national
        governments to crush the directive project.

        The current text has some remaining contraditions in it, but basically the
        thrust has been turned around. It has become our directive which we
        must help the European Parliament to defend. This is also a question of
        the European Parliament's role in an emerging democratic Europe. On the
        whole this is very good news for the EU.

        --
        Hartmut Pilch, FFII & Eurolinux Alliance
    • Re:Well Well... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mjlner (609829) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:16AM (#7042899) Journal
      Looks like lawmakers in Europe are just as stupid as US lawmakers after all.

      Nah. Stupidity ain't the problem. Corruption is. EU lawmakers are simply just as easily bought as US lawmakers. Maybe even easier.

      ObNitpick: EU != Europe.

      • by hughk (248126) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:21AM (#7043557) Journal
        The main problem is a conflict of interest. Many politicians are lawyers by training and the EU is no exception. Software patents are an area where a lot of disputes will end up in court (mostly because an algorithm is less well defined than something physical like a jet engine or automobile). The guy who can pay the best lawyers will win.
      • The story gives a completely wrong impression. Have a look at this FFII news: EU Parliament Votes for Real Limits on Patentability [ffii.org] - the fact is, the majority voted for drastic changes of the directive and against the original draft - so actually this is very good for all of us opposing patentability of software.

        Hey editors, please change the story so that not everybody claims we european get a US-like patent law system, this is (not yet) the case!
    • Re:Well Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Corbin Dallas (165835)
      Perhaps it's time to move to a small pacific island, antartica, etc, and establish a corporate-free techno-utopia. Then we'll show 'em what a truly free peoples can acomplish when we're able to innovate without massive gobs of greed getting in the way.

      If we were successful, however, then the greedy whores would probably just sick thier puppet governments on us to eliminate the threat. ( Ohh, they've got butter knives! WMD! WMD! )

      I know this all sounds extreme, but moving out is becoming a simpler choice t
      • Re:Well Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Gonarat (177568) * on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:24AM (#7043598)

        I hope it doesn't come to that, but perhaps we need to start thinking about hosting open source software in a software patent free location. I would hate to see a great open source application disappear from Sourceforge because it "violated" some stupid software patent.


        Our whole current "IP" scheme makes me sick. We are tying our hands with software patents, many of our Elderly (at least here in the good 'ole USA) cannot afford their medicine due to Pharma charging them out the Wazoo, we have the RIAA sueing 12 year olds and 71 year olds instead of changing with the times, and I could go on and on. I still hope that there will eventually be a popular uprising against what is going on, but I am not going to hold my breath. On second thought, perhaps a corporate-free techno-utopia is our only hope...

    • Don't preempt (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:59AM (#7043321)

      This is only one step in a complex "codecision" process.

      The European Parliament get a say in this, but are not the final authority. Software patents are not yet EU law, and still have more stages of debate/voting to go through before they hit the lawbooks.

      I think the final decision rests with the European Council of Ministers under the process in use (those Ministers not being directly elected, but being appointed by the national governments) but I'm sure someone will correct me on that if I've lost the plot.

    • Re:Well Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by olethrosdc (584207)
      Yes, they voted, but afaicu, with all the suggested amendments by FFII. So this is a victory, not a loss.
  • Bleh. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Deflagro (187160)
    Nice to see this virus is spreading throughout the world. Want the big bucks, become a lawyer and sell your soul.
    • Re:Bleh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JWW (79176) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:31AM (#7043035)
      I'm becoming more afraid that lawyer is going to be the only true moneymaking profession in the future.

      The way things are going now everyone in a profession other than lawyer, will be being sued by one.
    • Re:Bleh. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Groote Ka (574299)
      Want the big bucks, become a lawyer and sell your soul

      Ok, so I did (just a few months and I am a patent attorney in The Netherlands). But what's wrong with writing a software patent? IMO It's not the one who writes the patent who's to blame, but the one who enforces the patent in a way that bars all competition and development.

      A lot of software development costs large amounts of money and not every company is in the position to make far too much money on a crappy OS to support development of other softwa

      • Re:Bleh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kmurray (166822) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:53AM (#7043234)
        Small companies can't afford to go around patenting every little detail of their software, like some big companies. Lawyers cost money, lots of money. I know.

        The real problems is the broadness of the patent law. The people giving out the patents have no idea what makes the patent novel. Patents should be revolutionary, not evolutionary. Crap is getting let through and then it is off to the races with attorneys. Then who wins?
      • by mericet (550554) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:08AM (#7043422) Homepage
        Would you really like the NCSA or Netscape to have a 20 year monopoly on displaying images with text or on hyperlinks ?!?

        Yes, I prefer IE to exist, as long as I can also have lynx and opera and konquerer.

        Competition, even agains MS lets the better products surface instead of getting us stuck with patent protected monopoly, inferior products.

        Your gun manufacturer analogy is right on the money, patents can be used defensibly as can guns, but are essentially a destructive tool.

        Plus, EU software patents can only harm EU competiveness, EU companies could always register their software patents in the US while ignoring US software patents in the EU. Now US companies will rush to register their patents in the EU.

        Patents may have a place, but today's systems are really out of control.

      • Re:Bleh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross@ ... o.ca minus punct> on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:30AM (#7043657)
        I am sorry my good sir I most vehmently disagree with you.

        Patents do nothing but slow down an industry and promote laziness....

        1) Ford, which is considered the model on how to build cars and do processes HAD to get around patents so that he could build a car that EVERYONE can afford.

        2) Windsurfer which invented the windsurfing board had a patent, which they only enforced two years before the end of the patent. Until five years before the end of the patent there was no Wind surfing industry. Windsurfer then cashed in and forced bankruptcy of major windsurfers. Where is Windsurfer today? Sitting on money doing nothing.

        3) Laser had a patent which caused nobody to do anything with lasers. Once the patent expired we ended up with laser pointers, last light shows, etc, etc..

        4) Patents CANNOT be bought and defended by "small" people. Patents cost about 40,000 EUROS a pop and this is not money for the "small" company. This is money for the large company.

        Now about your reference to MS and Internet Explorer. Say what you will, but Netscape was no better than Microsoft. I was around in the Netscape days and they were bastards. Once I represented a company who wanted to purchase five thousand licenses to Netscape. Netscape ignored the company because it was too small and companies like Deutsche Telekom were more important.

        Microsoft might clone ideas, just like all of the other companies do as well in the industry. The software industry is like writing, we all clone!

        The problem in software are the contracts. For example why do I have to buy Windows 5 times for a single computer?

        Sir, I would have wished that you would have used your lawyer abilities to reign in the contracts instead of going for the easy cash in Patents. Remember you are going to be responsible for a mess that *I* have to live in.

  • Im sorry... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Epignosis (693350) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:02AM (#7042758)
    ...but I've patented voting, I believe you owe me some money...

    My name's Darl McBride and I'm a CEO
    • Switch (Score:3, Funny)

      by damiena (263598)
      I was, like, working on this lawsuit on my, like, computer. Then suddenly, it was like beep, beep, and all my evidence was gone. It was, like, a very good lawsuit

      My name's Darl McBride and I'm a CEO
  • Zut Alors! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gilmour14 (693816) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:03AM (#7042763)
    J'ai oubliez tout mon francais!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:03AM (#7042764)
    The European Parliament approves the patentability of the software STRASBOURG (Reuters) - the European Parliament approved Wednesday the draft Directive very disputed on the patentability of the software inventions, after having amended it to limit its field of application to the "true inventions" having a technical range. The text, presented in first reading, was approved by 364 votes, against 153 and 33 abstentions. It specifies the European Commission proposal, which establishes a distinction between the pure, famous software nonpatentable in European right, and the "inventions implemented by computer", which would become it, with the proviso of presenting a technical projection, likely to receive an industrial application. The text of origin was considered to be "fuzzy" and "ambiguous" by considerable members of Parliament who feared that it too largely does not open the way with the taking out of patents on the software, with the risk to constitute a brake with l"innovation in this key field of the economy. Eurodeputes added a paragraph specifying that a "invention implemented by computer (a software) is not regarded as contributing a technical share only because it implies the use of a computer". In light, so that a data-processing program is patentable, it is not enough that it is new, it is necessary still that it allows a technical innovation independently of its own execution. Another amendment specifies that the use of a patented technique is not regarded as a counterfeit if it is necessary to ensure the communication between various systems or data-processing networks. It acts for eurodeputes to prevent the monopoly which certain giants of the software could exert on the data-processing networks, Microsoft being named but probably not aimed. The European Parliament being a colegislator in this field which concerns the domestic market, the text must now be examined by the Council of Ministers, before returning in second reading to Strasbourg. The European police chief charged with the domestic market, Fritz Bolkestein, had warned eurodeputes, Tuesday at the time of the debate, on the "unacceptable" character of a certain number of amendments deposited.
    • by timbloid (208531) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:10AM (#7042843)
      so that a data-processing program is patentable, it is not enough that it is new, it is necessary still that it allows a technical innovation independently of its own execution.

      So, if I write a dataprocessing program that can be used by another piece of software to do something new....then I can patent it...or the other bit of software...or neither...

      The text of origin was considered to be "fuzzy" and "ambiguous"

      Looks like they did a good job clearing it up... ;)
    • by misterpies (632880) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:11AM (#7042849)
      erm, in the last sentence that should be "European commissioner", not "European police chief". The EU is not yet at the stage where the police can dictate what parliamentarians can vote on...Also the French text clearly says that Microsoft was _not_ named but probably implicated, rather than the other way round...ach, that's what you get when you rely on Babelfish.
    • Frits Bolkenstein of course being the famous Dutch politician who spent a decade or so sitting in the government lobbying on behalf of a pharmaceutical company (was a funny situation when it was discovered and all the commissions/bonuses paid etc were made public.He's quite cheap apparently. Of course he didn't resign or anything). So this is where he went. Great.
    • OK, now for the interpretation:

      With respect to patenting, probably not very much will change, departing from this press release. It looks much like the policy of the European Patent Office (!= EU, Switzerland and Monaco are Contracting States as well).

      I wonder what will be done with this one:
      Another amendment specifies that the use of a patented technique is not regarded as a counterfeit [an infringing product] if it is necessary to ensure the communication between various systems or data-processing netw

  • Screw this! (Score:2, Informative)

    by FrostedWheat (172733)
    I'm going to Mars, who's coming with me?
  • Depressing. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eddy (18759) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:05AM (#7042792) Homepage Journal

    The most positivt thought I can have is that "maybe things must go to worse before they can get better".

    <sigh>

    • Re:Depressing. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by root 66 (72128) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:26AM (#7042989)
      the problem is that we had worse far too many times already.

      But people just don't learn from history.

      Example: my dad is born 1930, thus lived through the decade of Hitler's regime, and luckily survived the bomb raids on Cologne as well as nearly being shot because his father told him not to go to the HJ.

      Yet he does not see that today our freedom is taken away again, not by a dictator. But by the system itself.

      Capitalism as we face it today is a holocaust in itself (and was since the beginning of industrialisation).
      The system tries to assimilate everything and everyone, erasing everything that's different (nature being one example).
      It makes us part of a machine: no choice, no freedom in the end. Just food for the money printers. Synchronized, automatized living - great.
      Of course, there are few people that take advantage of it. The low percentage of people that despite economic depression gets richer everyday. But they themselves don't understand that they are only part of a giantic world machine.

      Panem et circenses.

      I wish there was still a free, sane place on this planet.
  • Well, I've been thinking about becoming a patent lawyer in the UK, and not this seals the deal!
  • Indicative (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rhadamanthus (200665) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:06AM (#7042798)
    I cannot think of a better demonstration that Business-Government "contracts" are entirely out of control. There were a lot of people and organizations that spoke out against this, to the point that some voting members felt "harassed" by non-industry folks. Nevertheless, the vote went to those who can pay the "lobbying fee". It is disgusting that this is becoming so prevelant the world over. Corporations have all the rights of citizens, but less responsibility, and damn near better access to the politicians who are supposed to represent the people/national interest. Mod me down as an anti-corporate flamer, but this is just all too indicative of the overall trend of every government.

    ---rhad

    • Re:Indicative (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sammy76 (45826)
      You have a good point, but the counter-argument is that the corporate interest _is_ the public interest -- if corporations don't have an environment conducive to business and profit, the economic engine of the country becomes weakened. This ultimately leads to a loss of jobs across society.

      Sure, I find it hard to believe that it is impossible or even difficult to make a profit without these software patents laws, but this is the logic that is used to make decisions such as these and cast them as being in
      • Re:Indicative (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rhadamanthus (200665) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:35AM (#7043069)
        "the counter-argument is that the corporate interest _is_ the public interest"

        That is a disturbing statement. It reminds me of the quote by General Motor's President Charles Wilson: "What's good for the country is good for General Motors, and vice versa." This is flawed logic. Corporations may employ people, but their only interest is profit. Time and time again we see that the interest of the people is NOT the interest of corporations. Read some books, google Monsanato's milk hormone problems, Exxon's complete disregard for people in Alaska afer Valdez, car manufacturer's intentional ignoring of safety studies in the 60s, big pharmaceutical companies that cover up defects etc. It goes on and on. Corporations do serve a purpose in employing people, but that purpose is moot if they then go about eroding centuries of work to place the will and health of the people above any other entity. You have a good point too, but it is rendered dangerous and defeatist upon investigation: working solely for the corporate interest is courting disaster without appropriate regulation, or better yet, true accountablity.

        --rhad

    • Flashpoint (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Esion Modnar (632431) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:23AM (#7042959)
      There's going to come a time when 95% of the people have an epiphany that they truly are no longer being represented in a democratic system.

      Then the shit's hitting the fan. It'll make 9/11 look like a fender-bender.

      • Re:Flashpoint (Score:3, Insightful)

        I'm sorry. You've violated 86,732 sections of PATRIOT, PATRIOT II, and DMCA.

        Please stay where you are. Your exectioner will be along shortly. It does not matter if you are outside the U.S. There is no outside the U.S. anymore.

    • Re:Indicative (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:48AM (#7043187) Journal
      the politicians who are supposed to represent the people/national interest.

      Ah, but the politicians are representing national interests in this case... or at least they think they are.

      I know Bolkenstein, the man who drafted the original Directive, from when he was active in national politics. His line of thinking is 'good for corporations = good for the economy = good for the people'. He fails to see how this equation is false in many cases, including the case at hand. Because of this line of reasoning, he will give more weight to the opinion of large corporations, whose impact on the economy is largest. Smaller companies carry less weight, and the least weight of all is given to the voice of an individual person.

      Another issue with Bolkenstein and many, many, many other politicians is that they believe that most issues are way too complex for the common people to understand. That is why they think they act in our interests even if they go against our express wishes'. And it's not just the majority of the common people, but all of them: professors and garbage collectors are all equally ignored. In true spirit of the Dutch 'poldermodel', the only groups that have this politician's ear are corporations, unions, and other politicians.
      • The more I read about all this, the more I think that a bloody revolution is long overdue...
      • Re:Indicative (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ralphclark (11346)
        Says JaredOfEuropa:

        [Bolkenstein's...] line of thinking is 'good for corporations = good for the economy = good for the people'... he will give more weight to the opinion of large corporations... the least weight of all is given to the voice of an individual person ... they believe that most issues are way too complex for the common people ... they think they act in our interests even if they go against our express wishes ... professors and garbage collectors are all equally ignored ... the only groups tha

  • by JPMH (100614) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:06AM (#7042805)
    The EU Parliament passed the amendments recommended by the FFII on almost all points.

    This is a massive success, due to a level of lobbying unprecedented at this stage of a technical European measure.

    • What were those recommendations and amendments? And, more importantly, why were they chosen, and what is their effect?
    • by JPMH (100614) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:14AM (#7042870)
      This was the instant comment from slashdotter Halo1, who was in the Parliament all last night and this morning, on the spot as the vote happened:

      Tino is sending a full list with results.

      However, we got the full article 2 (2a and 2b from kauppi, PSE 69 + non-conflicting part from 55/97/108. We also have the industrial definition!

      Art 3 is deleted, not amended

      Art 4 is the biggest loss: for 4.1 and 4.2, the commission proposal has been voted. 4.3 is 110 somewhat amended ("compromise" Kauppi, but the compromise does not change the meaning in any way).

      Art 5 is 102/111 (and 18 killed).

      Art 6a is 76(1), without 76(2), so we got interoperability.

      We lost most recitals, except for deletion of recital 6 (so no modification by NGL though) and also most other smaller amendments to the articles. So all in all, we sort of crushed the backbone of the proposed directive. I think we have a very strong start for the second reading.

      Jonas

      • by JPMH (100614) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:24AM (#7042971)
        Explanation:

        Article 2 = Fundamental definition of "technical": what is patentable and what is not. OUR DEFINITION ACCEPTED.

        Article 3 = All software by definition patentable. KILLED.

        Article 4 = Detailed conditions for deciding patentability. AMENDED. Will now be re-negotiated between the Parliament, Commission and Member States.

        Article 5 = Program Claims. KILLED.

        Article 6a = Right to use of patented techniques, without authorisation or royalty, if needed solely to achieve software interoperability. UPHELD.

        This was achieved against massive counter-lobbying from the BSA and other industry giants.

        • I'm confused is this good or bad? Should they have voted for or against? 6a at least sounds like a good thing. Does that apply to existing patents or new patents only?
        • Can someone explain for me Article 6A, "Right to use of patented techniques without authorization or royalty, if needed solely to achieve software interoperatibility"?

          Does this imply that, for example, Linux MP3 encoders are now legal in the EU, without royalty or authorization [or will be]?

          • This isn't the final law yet. As Halo1 posted, it is only the first reading, and will now get negotiated between the parliament, commission and member states, before coming back to the parliament for second reading.

            Article 6a, which the parliament voted for today, reads:

            a) Member States shall ensure that wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for the sole purpose of ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or network so as to allow communication and ex

          • HOLY FUCKING SHIT (Score:4, Insightful)

            by 0x0d0a (568518) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:53AM (#7043892) Journal
            "Right to use of patented techniques without authorization or royalty, if needed solely to achieve software interoperatibility"?

            Wow. The closest US equivalent (a clause in the DMCA) only applies to legitimate copy control bypassing, and only applies to interhost network protocol interoperation.

            This is *incredible*, and could have a sweeping impact on patents. It's a *huge* lever.
          • by Halo1 (136547) <jonas DOT maebe AT elis DOT ugent DOT be> on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:58AM (#7043956) Homepage
            First of all, the MP3 patents are software patents and as such are not valid in Europe. The base MP3 patent is on quantising a sound signal and then iteratively executing a (the patent doesn't mention which) mathematical function over these quantised values until they can be represented using the desired number of bits. That's it, it's not any more specific.

            Now, suppose we would get software patents, then this article would allow you to use an mp3 decoder to connect some audio aparatus to another one which only outputs sound in MP3 format. It will not allow encoders, unless they are only used for encoding sound which is then fed into something which can accept only mp3 encoded audio. So it also won't allow plain mp3 players (I don't think that the argument "I want to make my MP3's interoperable with my earbuds" would hold).

            It really is a restriction to make sure that a company with a dominant market position cannot exclude everyone else by making all of the interfaces of its machine depend on patented technology and thus doing a vender lock-in (since compatitors cannot make any compatible devices). Jonas

        • The devil is in the details and considering what we were up against, all is not lost. It looks like we have salvaged the critical points.

          Which were the ones we lost? /me is listening to "The Number Of The Beast" (1:19 / 4:53 26%) by Iron Maiden from "The Best Of The Beast" (1996) [MP3 @ 175 kbps / foobar2000 v0.7]

          Mods: please reserve your points for the reply, do not squander it on my post. Thanks.
        • 6a is great for SAMBA f.e.

          Next time a MS rep, hints that "they owe the patents" to a SAMBA maintainer, now they can not only smile as a response, but plain laugh aloud! /Dread
    • by Deusy (455433) <`charlie' `at' `vexi.org'> on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:15AM (#7042885) Homepage
      I wonder how many people will actually bother to understand what was and what wasn't passed.

      Judging by the average post so far on this story, most readers are seeing this as a very black and white situation.

      Passing bad, not passing good.
  • by Talonius (97106) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:07AM (#7042812)
    ..when so many corporations own patents on so many intangible things that a corporate dynasty like IBM can bring anyone in the world to their knees financially.

    Even foreign governments.

    Intellectual property in all of its various forms is being abused by the corporate world - both friends and foes of Linux and otherwise. The madness is the laws supporting this behavior continue to pass, bypassing the individual and wholeheartedly supporting the corporation.

    Isn't the government supposed to be working for us? Aren't our rights supposed to be first and foremost in their minds? There is a balance to be maintained, and our rights are not unlimited, but more and more across the entire globe the individual is lost.

    Not to be funny but has anyone considered the implications of all these recent intellectual property rights and how it seems more and more that we're being pushed into the draconian future of Johnny Mnemonic and Shadowrun? The only way you get information is to steal it. The only way for another corporation to get information is to hire you to steal it.

    I grow more and more distressed at the world my son will grow up in, the conditions he will consider normal, the laws he will break just by trying to think.

    Talonius
    • by rhadamanthus (200665) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:14AM (#7042879)
      Intellectual property is a myth. You CANNOT and SHOULD not be able to own an idea. I am beginning to think that this may be a real turning point in civilization as we know it. Imagination and the associated innovation based off that imagination is what makes us able to do so many amazing things. Now, you can imagine building something to change the world, you can even imagine how to build it, but if someone has previously thought of it, you are in for a losing legal battle. This may be an extreme statment with regard to software patents, but the premise is frightening in either scenario. This is a legal restriction on free thought and development. Software patents are just one piece of the larger takeover.

      --rhad

      • Emitionaly, I agree with you. But you can not deny that development of several huge software packages for very small market segments are not feasible without pattents.

        It's like farmaceutical industry (a total fuckup too by now) who need pattents to make sure they get return of investment over a period of several years. Unfortunate as it is, a lot of indistrial & technological progress would not have been made if pattents didn't exist. But I do agree wholeheartedly that this construction, which was ing
      • "You CANNOT and SHOULD not be able to own an idea."

        Hey, I thought of that first.

        Seriously though, a lot of this is a holdover from the burgeoning corporate structure. Patents originally were geared towards protecting people's ideas _from_ companies that had the available cash to sell products based on those ideas. Now they're just a method for companies to beat other companies.

        For one thing, I don't agree with corporates being given the rights and priveleges of individuals without also having to ad
    • Johnny Mnemonic was a rip-off movie that portraied Neuromancer (William Gibson). The game, Shadowrun, is a magic added version of the book.

      If anything, the future looks something like Neuromancer. I sure am ready for it..
    • I grow more and more distressed at the world my son will grow up in...
      This is one of the reasons why I joined VHEMT.
  • Is there (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Timesprout (579035) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:07AM (#7042815)
    anything to stop me running thru the US patents list , picking some choice patents and taking out new patents based on them (perhaps ever so slightly modified) in Europe ?
    • Re:Is there (Score:3, Informative)

      by misterpies (632880)

      Yes, and it's called prior art. You can't patent something that has already been invented (even if you didn't know about its invention).
    • anything to stop me running thru the US patents list , picking some choice patents and taking out new patents based on them (perhaps ever so slightly modified) in Europe ?

      The massive amount of money required to do it.

      That's why this is a big coporate thing; they can make lots of patents and extort money out of those that can't afford to patent everything from a straight blade of grass to comfortable desk that helps you to be more productive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:07AM (#7042816)
    Shit, merde, pichka, schijt, geci, cach, fan, chuj, puta, rov, vittu, scheisse and a big "vai se foder" to our representatives in Brussels...
  • Cynical? Me? Nah, it's just that I keep seeing the same thing over and over and have given up expecting any better.

    Oh, wait...

  • Oh, well, seems we really want to get a mini-US. *sigh*. On the bright side, the french article mentions this:

    Le parlement europeen etant colegislateur dans ce domaine qui releve du marche interieur, le texte doit maintenant etre examine par le Conseil des ministres, avant de revenir en seconde lecture a Strasbourg.

    Freely translated: Because the European Parliament is a co-legislator in the domain that concerns the interior market, the text must now be examinated by the Counsel of Ministers, befor

  • It seems that (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jimius (628132) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:09AM (#7042836)
    It seems that the struggle to avoid Europe becoming like America isn't really working. There are a lot of things happening over here in Europe which we call "American circumstances". Things such like frivolous lawsuits, higher gun-related murders/accidents, apathy and now software patents.

    I believe poeple don't want to live in an "American Europe".
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... governments don't understand what they're governing because it has all becoming too complicated. They go along with whatever their advisors would say.
  • Unfortunate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Headius (5562) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:15AM (#7042891) Homepage Journal
    I suppose you Europeans can't hassle us Yanks as much for having draconian patent laws. Now you see how difficult it is to inform those in power what a bad idea they are.

    However, it is certainly a sad day for software freedom in the EU and around the world. What is it we are not communicating effectively? Why does this keep happening again and again?
  • by RenHoek (101570) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:18AM (#7042924) Homepage
    The IT business seems more and more hostile..
    I never wanted to do this job in the first place!
    I... I wanted to be... a chimney sweep!

    Leaping from smoke stack to smoke stack,
    as they belch out noxious yellow smoke.
    And all we'd do is.. sweep and sweep..

    On a totally unrelated note, Marry Poppins is hot and I wouldn't mind sweeping.. euhm....
  • It sounds not so bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tiger (9272)
    The babelfished translation makes a few comments about distinctions that make this sound not so bad.

    Distinguishing between a 'true invention' implemented on a computer and an existing invention that just happens to be implemented on a computer for the first time is a big one. It means that Joe Q Random can't patent his chopstick indexing program just because noone's ever indexed their chopsticks with a computer before.

    (Provided, of course, someone's come up with a chopstick sorting system at all... Um.
  • by elpapacito (119485) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:26AM (#7042993)
    I was on a IRC channel followign the voting and that's what I've made of its log. Please don't hold your breath over it's unofficial.

    Carried - Approved amendments:
    12 - 24 - 28 - 36/42/117 - 107 - 69 - 55/97/108 - 38/44/118 -15S - 16 Part 1 and 2 - 100 Part 1
    57/99/110 - 70 - 17 - 60 - 102/111 - 72 - 103/119 - 104/120 Part 1 - 76 Part 1 - 71 Part 1
    81 - 93 - 94 - 89 -1 - 88 - 31 - 32/112 - 84 Parts 1,2,3 - 114/125 - 34/115 - 85 - 86 Part 1
    86 Part 3 -75

    Rejected amendments:
    29/41/59 - 116/126 - 37/39/43 - 127 - 46 - 48 - 82 - 100 Part 2 - 87 - 76 Part 2 - 106 - 71 Part 2
    30 - 123 - 124

    Falled ? :
    105 - 50 - 91/21/90
  • EU Patents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alex_lake (710436)
    I think I'm going to cry. Words fail me.
  • what now? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @08:38AM (#7043100)
    Now that the vote has come and gone, it seems to me there's no point in bitching till the cows come home. What I'd like to see is a real debate in the open source community to discover all the possible legal loop holes.

    For example, from the french article, it appears that any program which simply copies a procedure that can be done by hand cannot be patented in the EU.

    The loop hole, as far as I understand it, is that to be patentable, a program must show a significant technical innovation (go figure what significant means). More precisely, this is phrased in the negative: A program which merely allows a computer to do something is not patentable.

    So if we write a program, and can prove that it merely performs a task by computer, which could be done by hand, it can't be patentable. So for example xcalc is not patentable in the EU.

    There's got to be other loop holes like that. Why doesn't the Free Software Foundation develop a knowledge base specifically containing recipes for exploiting loop holes in patent legislation? I could be writing a program, and when it's finished, I could browse that knowledge base for tips on how to argue that what my program does could be done by a couple of trained people with a stack of papers and lots of pencils.

  • by Halo1 (136547) <jonas DOT maebe AT elis DOT ugent DOT be> on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:03AM (#7043367) Homepage
    As JPHM already mentioned above, I've been here in the European Parliament in Strasbourg since Monday lobbying. I haven't slept last night at all because, together with other people (hi Xavi, Tino, James and Hartmut :), I was making the final voting recommendations of ffii.org. We distributed a paper version of this voting list this morning and also had an MEP mail it to all other MEPs so they all could look at it and use it if they wanted.

    In general, pretty much all important amendments to the articles were incorporated. There is a lot of patch-up work to do and in its current form, the directive is a complete mess because of this, but the basic line has been completely turned around.

    Yesterday, Commissioner Bolkestein was still complaining that we (the opponents) were trying to destroyt the directive and warned against voting against the directive, because it would not fix the current legal uncertainty (software patents are being granted but not enforceable before a court of law as they are illegal). Today, rumors are doing rounds that the Commission is considering retracting the directive, because it was so successfully amended by us.

    Finally, I would like to say that our lobbyiong in general has absolutely nothing to do with open source or Free Software. We simply think software patents would be bad for all SME's, independent developers and innovation/society as a whole. Of course, there are a lot of free software in the independent developers category (and especially in the Free Software category, quite a few people concerned with society as well).

    Being stamped"linux junkies that want everything to be free/gratis" corner is however the last thing we want (our opponents have tried that, and failed until now since they have no basis that supports their claims), and we having backing from several commercial closed source companies (such as Opera Software).

    • thanks.. and if somebody needed +20 informative this would be it.

      and i'm pretty much replying just to get this noticed among the +5 modded crap that's just bitching about moving to mars.
      (actually slashdot would need a '+20 storybreaker' moderation or something)
  • by theolein (316044) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:04AM (#7043371) Journal
    The amendments made make this law much improved compared to its original incarnation. It is way better than the US version. Software is not patentable in itself, nor are business methods.

    Yeah!!!!
  • by infolib (618234) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:29AM (#7043650)
    Europarl votes for Real Limits on Patentability

    FFII News -- For Immediate Release -- Please Redistribute
    See http://swpat.ffii.org/#news [ffii.org]

    Now we will have to see whether the European Commission is committed to "harmonisation and clarification" or only to patent owner interests.

    Yesterday's threats uttered by Bolkestein against the European Parliament suggest the latter.

    The detailed results are available on our site

    http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0923/ [ffii.org]

    It will now be our job to help the European Parliament assert itself against attempts by Bolkestein and patent lawyers wearing the hat of national governments to crush the directive project.

    The current text has some remaining contraditions in it, but basically the thrust has been turned around. It has become our directive which we must help the European Parliament to defend. This is also a question of the European Parliament's role in an emerging democratic Europe. On the whole this is very good news for the EU.

    --
    Hartmut Pilch, FFII & Eurolinux Alliance tel. +49-89-18979927
    Protecting Innovation against Patent Inflation http://swpat.ffii.org/
    270,000 votes 2000 firms against software patents http://noepatents.org/
  • by ggeens (53767) <.moc.dnalyggi. .ta. .sneegg.> on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:33AM (#7043684) Homepage Journal

    Some points from the article (loosely translated):

    1. "Purely" computing programs are not patentable, "inventions created by a computer" are.
    2. Something is not an invention just because it uses a computer. The program needs to demonstrate a scientific innovation independent of its execution.
    3. An implementation would not infringe on a patent if it is necessary to assure the communication between different programs or networks.

    1 and 2 seem to prevent most of the abuses of software patents. Taking a normal business practice and adding "over the Internet" (wait, that's old fashoned. Nowadays it's "using XML") would not be accepted.

    With number 3, it would be useless to patent file formats or communication protocols (if they even are patentable), since anyone would be permitted to write their own implementation.

    (But anyway, IANAL.)

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:36AM (#7043732) Homepage Journal
    According to heise.de software patents are not aproved.

    Most or all points under discussion in the latest /. storries are REJECTED.

    There are no software patents, no business methods and no algorithms patentable.

    Interoperability between software, even if parts belong to patented devices, is granted.

    Again ... hundrets(nearly :-) ) of insightfull ratings on complete false comments :-) No wonder when the /. storry itself is false.

    angel'o'sphere
  • Hold your fire! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WalterSobchak (193686) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @09:48AM (#7043849) Homepage Journal
    It is interesting how a headline can change things... German c't magazine [heise.de] - not suspicious of being pro-software patents - believes that the "good" (i.e. "anti-patent") amendments outweigh the "bad" ones. Their headline is something like "EU Parliament Stops Software Patents.

    I would advise you not to get on to the rocket to mars yet, but wait for a thorough analysis of the laws actually passed.

    Just my 0.02,

    Alex
  • by xutopia (469129) on Wednesday September 24, 2003 @10:19AM (#7044259) Homepage
    the law has past but this part here : "Un autre amendement precise que l'utilisation d'une technique brevetee n'est pas consideree comme une contrefacon si elle est necessaire pour assurer la communication entre differents systemes ou reseaux informatiques."

    which means :

    Another amendment specifies that the utilisation of a patented technique is not considered law-breaking if it is necessary for communication between different systems or networks.

    I don't know if anyone knows what that means but OSS software has nothing to worry about.

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