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Software Patents Circumvent European Parliament 378

Posted by Hemos
from the the-joy-of-special-interest-groups dept.
Tom writes "Despite the european parliament's vote to exclude software patents, the patent lobby is pressing forward and patentability of software is on the agenda of a workgroup whose advise the european council will likely follow. The european council is at odds with the parliament concerning their stance on software patents. The patent lobby is facing a narrow loss in the parliament, which has voted against software patents, but now circumvents democracy by convincing the council. If they succeed, software patents could be coming to Europe before christmas." <update> The links above seem to have stopped working for me - however, ffii is carrying the news as well.
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Software Patents Circumvent European Parliament

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  • I think it means (Score:2, Informative)

    by koreaman (835838)
    Whose advice
    not
    Whose advise
  • The European Parliament has no ability to propose legislation - it's always the Council of Ministers that does this.
    • by Anspen (673098) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:10AM (#11071824)

      Don't you hate it when you correct a mistake with a mistake? :)

      Actually the only institution that can propose legislation is the European Commission. Both the council and the parliament can amend though.

      What I'm wondering is how they think to get this past parliament. "sneaking" it into the text or not, the subject is one where the EP has co-decision right. Which means it's shouldn't become law until the EP has voted on it

    • by dyfet (154716) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:50AM (#11072109) Homepage
      "The European Parliament has no ability to propose legislation - it's always the Council of Ministers that does this..."

      And this is precisely why the EU is the least democratically accountable institution in Europe today. In every sitting national government on the European continent today, legislation is created and passed by a (presumably) democratically elected parliament, or that house of a bicamel parliament that is directly elected. In many cases, European governments are formed either directly out of the elected body of parliament itself (as in the British model) or out of some more complex relationship that certainly includes the directly elected house of parliament and a democratically elected executive (such as the French system).

      By contrast, the European Concil is a body appointed by national governments, that has the authority to directly legislate. While the EU Parliament can approve or "rubber stamp" an act of the EU Council much like the "soviet" era parliament, if it chooses to reject a council law, the Council is given the power to override Parlaiment unless a super majority (66%) chooses to oppose it.

      Indeed, the EU transational governance is not very different in functional arrangements and democratic principles to that that of the old Soviet Union. And they wish to further ratify this defective system through a constitution that retains this principle undemocratic form of governance as well as expanding the power of the EU into a true European Government.

      As noted, the original council draft on European patents was rejected by the European parliament. In a democratically functional society and government this would in effect have been a veto. It is to the shame of Europe and to the very principles of democratic governmance that this alone was not enough to kill the council directive, and that the will of the elected parlaiment, and most importantly of all, the ONLY democratically "legitimate" and accountable institution in the entire EU, can so easily be rejected.

      Personally I do not believe Europe is ready for transational Governance. There is no true transational political expression today, perhaps with the exception of the "Greens". By contrast, when American federalization occured, there was already well established and popular trans-state political movements and proto-parties, such as Federalists, etc. By contrast, when we look at the EU parliament, it is composed of people elected from strickly individual national political parties. There are no "European Socialists", for example, though there are members of the French socialists, Finland national party, German Social Democrats, etc. This lack of true transational European political expression I believe is why Federalising Europe is impractical at this time, and certainly helps to explain why some believe they could bully through an undemocratic and defective institution onto European nations like the EU system of today.

      • "There is no true transational political expression today, perhaps with the exception of the "Greens"."

        Well, actually, I think there is, as expressed in the parliamentary groups in the EU parliament. The parties cooperate more than we get told.

        However, the media mostly utterly and completely fails to report EU politics (they only report national EU politics), and the local governments have a tendency to blame 'the EU' for things they themselves voted through council or lobbied the commission for.

        It must
      • by Khazunga (176423) * on Monday December 13, 2004 @11:20AM (#11072357)
        Personally I do not believe Europe is ready for transational Governance. There is no true transational political expression today, perhaps with the exception of the "Greens". By contrast, when American federalization occured, there was already well established and popular trans-state political movements and proto-parties, such as Federalists, etc. By contrast, when we look at the EU parliament, it is composed of people elected from strickly individual national political parties. There are no "European Socialists", for example, though there are members of the French socialists, Finland national party, German Social Democrats, etc. This lack of true transational European political expression I believe is why Federalising Europe is impractical at this time, and certainly helps to explain why some believe they could bully through an undemocratic and defective institution onto European nations like the EU system of today.
        Although I agree with the gist of your post, this paragraph is simply untrue. Major parties are organized into international parties (example [socialisti...tional.org]), from where an european-level party could easily emerge, if required.

        However, European elections are nowadays largely a nationwide affair, so there's no need for a public view of an European level party. The infrastructure for european-wide parties is there, but not the need.

        I can't imagine federalism wouldn't provide the parliament with more power so, even for that effect alone, it would be a Good Thing(tm). Europe is more prepared for federalism than for the current undemocratic, bureaucratic model of government.

      • by nutshell42 (557890) on Monday December 13, 2004 @12:02PM (#11072711) Journal
        Now I don't want to interrupt your rant *but* the council consists of ministers of the different EU countries. These governments are democratically elected so the council is democratic. Even better we should ask ourselves why the "more European" institution -the parliament- is apparently more interested in the good of the people than the council of national governments, which -following the accepted logic around here- are less removed from the local concerns and therefore somehow superior.

        I also remind you that the Dutch government explicitly *ignored* a decision of the Dutch parliament on how to vote (which was binding iirc. It was on /. a few months ago but I don't remember exactly and I'm lazy so perhaps someone else could look it up). Me thinks we should be less concerned about what is wrong with the EU and more about what is wrong with our national governments. (doesn't mean that there aren't enough things that are wrong with the EU. Unfortunatly the constitution which would solve some of them -e.g. a more powerful parliament- has no chance of surviving the British referendum)

        • by KontinMonet (737319) on Monday December 13, 2004 @12:41PM (#11072991) Homepage Journal
          governments are democratically elected so the council is democratic

          You clearly went to the political party school of logic. Political hacks appointed into the job by a very small coterie of senior politicians giving a pat on the back to one of their own (who doesn't ever have to have been elected to any post at any time) does not mean the council has any democratic credentials. They might vote amongst themselves but 25 appointed (and very possibly corrupt if history has any say) special interest individuals coming to a conclusion does not fill me with unbridled confidence...
        • Now I don't want to interrupt your rant *but* the council consists of ministers of the different EU countries. These governments are democratically elected so the council is democratic.
          No, it isn't. The Council's decisions are largely not taken by the ministers, but by faceless bureaucrats holding secret meetings of which the results are often kept secret [ugent.be] as long as possible.

          In case of the software patents directive, those faceless bureaucrats are the same people that conduct the day to day operations of the European Patent Office. The same EPO that introduced software patents. They are mostly delegates from the various national patent offices.

          And of course, the ministers don't decide how to vote on texts by themselves, they have advisors. You can have two guesses who those advisers generally were in this case.

          Because the Council operates so intransparently, it's very difficult for the national Parliaments to keep their governments in check. Further, the Council itself does not operate democratically at all. Just look at how Poland is being bullied by the Dutch Presidency to accept a directive it does not like at all.

          Even better we should ask ourselves why the "more European" institution -the parliament- is apparently more interested in the good of the people than the council of national governments, which -following the accepted logic around here- are less removed from the local concerns and therefore somehow superior.
          Because the MEPs are directly elected by local people and their reports are fully public and their way of working is quite transparent. They obviously aren't all saints, but in general they are quite reachable by "common people" (unlike governmental ministers, let alone governmental bureaucrats). I also remind you that the Dutch government explicitly *ignored* a decision of the Dutch parliament on how to vote (which was binding iirc. It wasn't binding, but the government said they would abide by the result. However, they made a peculiar interpretation of it which does not oblige them to change their vote after all.
          It was on /. a few months ago but I don't remember exactly and I'm lazy so perhaps someone else could look it up). Me thinks we should be less concerned about what is wrong with the EU and more about what is wrong with our national governments.
          There are definitely also problems there.
          (doesn't mean that there aren't enough things that are wrong with the EU. Unfortunatly the constitution which would solve some of them -e.g. a more powerful parliament- has no chance of surviving the British referendum)
          Many people doubt whether it will improve more than it will hurt. For example, one of the articles in that European Constitution simply states "Intellectual property shall be protected", without further specifying in any way what this intellectual property is. So forbidding software patents may actually become unconstitutional under that text. Maybe allowing free thoughts will become unconstitutional as well, since you may be using thought processes that someone else used before and he has a constitutional right to "protection" of those.
  • glad to see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:02AM (#11071765)
    that not only the USA is corrupt and is controlled by big businesses.

    hey Europe... Hope you like corperations telling you what you can and can't do, because unless you guys get VERY vocal right now, they will own your arses in a matter of weeks.
    • Re:glad to see (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gilesjuk (604902)
      It's ok, the French won't like it and will strike. They're pretty good at bringing the country to a halt to make a point.
      • Re:glad to see (Score:3, Interesting)

        I'm sorry, I can't let you say this, as a French person. We don't go on strike just to "make a point". We go on strike without telling anyone, just so everyone else knows that we CAN (thank you French Railroads for making me get up at 5h30 am because you went on strike this weekend without telling anyone ... not even your own people in the company.)
      • They like to bring England to a halt, rather than France if possible. The port blockades always seem to affect traffic more on the M20 (my commute) rather than the roads around Paris, for some reason...

        Rob. (a frustrated Francophile)
    • Amen brother. What's this called? An Oligarchy? Rule by the powerful few that thing they are better than others? In this case it's people who run big corporations who think they have the right to make money by hook or by crook.

      It will be interesting to see how this goes in the U.S. too. Rest assured that if there's any big monied interests that give heavily to the Republican Party or at least have to the Bush family that we will see a diminishment of rights for the common folk, i.e. legislation or di

      • Re:glad to see (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Fig, formerly A.C. (543042) on Monday December 13, 2004 @11:17AM (#11072307)
        Eh, the Republicans want to give my money to the big corporations, the Democrats want to give it to people who don't/won't work. Either way, I get hosed.

        I just hope the EU doesn't pass the patents law, it's the only hope for fixing it in the USA. If the EU enacts legislation that gives them a clear competitive advantage and costs the US Government revenue (spelled TAX DOLLARS) then the US might abolish it's patent crap as well. If the EU folds, then darkness will simply cover the Earth or all IT innovation will go to the 3rd world or China.

    • Corperations AND the entertainment industry telling you what you can and can't do.
  • Lobbys (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3l@hRABBI ... minus herbivore> on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:05AM (#11071790) Homepage
    God I love lobbys... they always succeed at promoting the interest of 5 companies to politicians and make them forget that they're supposed to legislate for the good of millions (their electors).

    You gotta admit that its a tour-de-force that they're pulling on us year after year.

    Why are they legal in the first place? Politicians (human beings) + Money = possibility for Corruption, isn't it?
    • Re:Lobbys (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bhima (46039) <Bhima...Pandava@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:10AM (#11071821) Journal
      amazing isn't it! I love this quote from TFA: Laura Creighton, software entrepreneur, venture capitalist and vice-president of FFII, comments:

      "Before today it was possible for generous people to look charitably at this text as an example of a tragic mistake, not malice. But not with this last-minute maneuvering. Only the most committed opponent to the democratic process would believe that the proper response to the widespread consensus that there is something profoundly wrong with the Council's text, is to race it through with an A-item approval the week before Christmas in a Fisheries Council Meeting. The bad smell coming from Brussels has nothing to do with the fish."

    • by Sanity (1431) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:12AM (#11071835) Homepage Journal
      You gotta admit that its a tour-de-force that they're pulling on us year after year.
      What have you done about these issues? As Edmund Burke said:
      "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing".
      So if you haven't actually tried to do something about this (perhaps by writing to your elected representatives, or donating to organisations that oppose software patents) then you have nobody to blame for this but yourself.
      • Believe me, some of us have been writing and writing. The trouble is that we are dealing with wholly unelected 'representatives' whose only agenda is their govt puppet masters and industry lobbyists.

        But even my elected representative (one of Blair's babes) ignores everything I send [OONA KING!! Yes, you! I hope you are reading this]. Or they are so intellectually challenged that the phrase 'software patent' means something to do with underwear for sick people (so what's all the fuss about?)...
        • Believe me, some of us have been writing and writing.

          As have I. It is rather saddening to see how utterly useless many MPs are, Labour MPs in particular. My MP is Labour, at least he forwarded my letter on to Lord Sainsbury, to which I received a form reply, but he avoided actually taking a position against that of the government, irrespective of the persuasiveness of my arguments.

          Sometimes I really wonder why these people bother getting in to politics just to be the puppets of their party whips...

      • Recently my governor signed a bill that lets Verizon and Comcast decide what communities are worthy of broadband by eliminating the ability for those communities to roll their own solution.

        I wrote my governor, signed a petition, and alerted as many other people as I could of this horrible bill. And you know what happened? Our illustrious governor SIGNED THE FUCKING BILL INTO LAW.

        Now, if any community wants to roll its own FTTH or wireless mesh network to provide cheap broadband, they have to have paying c

      • Whining on Slashdot amounts to broadcasting your insight and complaints to a forum of people who care about the issue and NEED TO DISCUSS IT SO WE CAN ALL STAY INFORMED ON WHAT THE OPPOSITION IS DOING.

        Whining teaches Slashdotters what tactical moves the opposition has taking, what the stakes are, and what is expected from us to overcome the hurdles that are put in front of us.

        Lastly, whining is an effective way of getting caring people's sympathy. Some people need to hear the whines of injustice
      • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday December 13, 2004 @11:34AM (#11072473) Homepage
        My MEP is none other than Arlene McCarthy herself. You can rest assured I have had correspondence with this democratically elected representative and she totally ignored me, handing back an obnoxious stock email that simply re-iterated some bogus rhetoric and whinged about the nasty people ringing her up to tell her software patents were bad. I don't think she even read my letter, none of the points I made were addressed. She just hit "Send -> Template -> SWPAT Stock Letter 2" or whatever.

        Nothing has made me as cynical about politics as that did. Of all the people in the world, I'm supposed to have influence over her living as I do in her constituency, and it turned out that I had just as much influence as somebody living in Mexico.

        • by Tom (822)
          she totally ignored me, handing back an obnoxious stock email

          Do Not Send E-Mail To Politicians(tm).

          You will be ignored. Use the phone, send a snail-mail letter or show up in person. E-Mail by citizen is regarded as spam by most politicians.
    • Why are they legal in the first place? Politicians (human beings) + Money = possibility for Corruption, isn't it?

      Because Politicians + Money = Corruption, therefore Corruption + Suggestion of stopping bribery = No Can Do. Also if you get into power the chances of becoming corrupt increase exponentially: Probability = Money^(Power). Its a bad system and the only way to stop it is to get into power and start making some of that lovely money - you'll soon forget about all this corruption bull-crap.
    • Re:Lobbys (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I certainly understand the sentiment that lobbys suck and can do bad things, but it's important that they are legal. Consider a lobby formed by 100,000 private citizens trying to convince their lawmakers to fund wind energy research.

      Sure, each of them could spend 30 minutes writing a letter to their lawmaker, but shouldn't they be able to all donate $15 and send a single, well-spoken member to make their point in-person? And what then is the difference between this single member of the group and a profess

      • Re:Lobbys (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NardofDoom (821951)
        The top 2% of the population controls 80% of the wealth. If wealth was more fairly distributed, I'd agree with you.

        Bill Gates' net worth is ~$29.5 billion. Let's assume he'll use half of that to ensure that Microsoft keeps its software dominance, because that means a jump in stock price and more money for him in the long run. That's about $15 billion or $11.3 billion euro. To match that kind of lobbying money, every man, woman and child in the EU (That's all 306.9 million of them) would have to contribute

      • Re:Lobbys (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Ocrad (773915)

        And what happens when one rich, man spends $200,000 and 2 weeks "lobbying" for his issue of the day, using only his private funds and time? Certainly we can't stop private citizens from spending their own time and money to bring their issues to the attention of their lawmakers.

        Someone said it before; "Democracy sucks. 51% of people can legally dispossess to the other 49% of their properties, and even of their lives". With lobbies it only sucks more. One man alone (with the help of lawmakers) can disposse

  • Sigh. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nativespeaker (797751) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:05AM (#11071791)
    I really don't know what to think anymore. What has happened to democracy? Corporations seem to hold sway over the political arena with utter exclusivity these days. How could free speech have been replaced so easily with corporate lobbying? I say that if Microsoft wants their damn patents so badly, they drag a soap carton out to the public park.

    It pains me to see Europe slipping down the same slope. Learn from our folly, yeah?
    • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mikers (137971) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:59AM (#11072168)
      Sigh, Sigh, sigh... "Any idiot can face a crisis - it's the day-to-day living that wears you out." - Checkov.

      In case you didn't notice, most "modern" democracies are just feudalism in disguise. Does the fact that politicians wear... Business Suites maybe clue you in? Or how about that in the US all leaders are the ridiculously rich? Or that money == power in these countries? The new feudalism is business owners == the land owing aristocrats, peasants == employees!! Ever noticed you can't get rich being an employee? Unless you run a big ass company, or wait... Own a business.

      And government is just there to cater to business, not the "people". Once in 4 years the peasants have a chance to elect someone from a tiny little rich group. We have no recourse if we elect a lier or looser. The government is open every day for lobbyists and the rich and powerful, but only once every four years for everyone else.

      This is modern democracy for you, this is what the US wants everywhere in the world, including the EU. Because they are the richest, they will rule it. Via the wealthy, via the big corporations.

      See Noam Chomsky for some more enlightenment.

  • by Sanity (1431) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:05AM (#11071792) Homepage Journal
    ..is eternal vigilance.

    The anti-patent lobby in the EU has achieved great things, but the pro-patent lobby is extremely determined even in the face of a clear democratic mandate against software patents in the European and many national Parliaments. They know the system, they seem to have the support of many unelected Eurocrats, and they can and will exploit every possible loophole to legalise the over 30,000 illegally granted patents in the EU. This is yet another example of this.

    The important thing is to keep up the pressure. When this topic has come up on /. in the past, there are always a few nohopers, who think any opposition to software patents is futile and we may as-well give up. These defeatists are the greatest allies of the pro-patent lobby, and they are wrong, as what progress we have made has demonstrated.

    In short, keep fighting, don't give up, we have won a number of battles, but the war is far from over.

    • by Albanach (527650) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:21AM (#11071893) Homepage
      This is a good point, but seriously do keep up the fight.

      If you live in the EU, drop another quick email to your MEP and national parliamentarians. It doesn't have to be a long rant against patents - just point out the massive opposition, the threat to jobs and the duplicity of voting on software patents at an environment or fisheries meeting without even a vote.

      In the UK there will likely be a general election next year. Contact your MP now [faxyourmp.org.uk] it costs nothing bar a few minutes of your time. You can get contact details for your MEP here [eu.int].

      • Done the FaxYourMp thing already, but it seems that the EU parliament website is really not set up to make it easy to find your MEP at all. Any suggestions on how to go about this?

        Suggest that anybody with 10 minutes go now to faxyourmp, and write a letter about this. Every little step to support the cause. Include a link to this ZDNet UK article if you need backup.

        http://news.zdnet.co.uk/business/0,39020645,3918 07 05,00.htm
        • by Halo1 (136547)

          Done the FaxYourMp thing already, but it seems that the EU parliament website is really not set up to make it easy to find your MEP at all. Any suggestions on how to go about this?

          See here [europarl.org.uk] (for the UK at least, others simply can go here [eu.int] and click on their country's flag to get their list of MEPs).

  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:12AM (#11071832) Journal
    Truly, Christmas has come early this year!
  • http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=130588&cid=108 97528
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=130588& cid=108 98022
  • EU Failure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TooMuchEspressoGuy (763203) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:16AM (#11071859)
    I'll probably get modded down for this, but oh well.

    I find that this is just another example of how the EU is circumventing democracy. Instead of an enlightened body which supposedly has the needs of the body of European nations it encompasses in mind, the EU is quickly turning out to be nothing more than another bureaucracy set out to protect only its own best interests.

    Even beyond that, however, there is another issue at stake. If a law is passed which standardizes software patents, all of the individual countries which make up the EU will be forced to accept it. So, say that, for example, the government of Germany would rather not accept software patents. Too bad, they'll have to anyway, despite the fact that the majority of the people there may not want it. So much for the will of the people.

    So, for all of you globalists out there who saw the consolidation of Europe into a single entity as a good thing, it looks like you're reaping what you've sown. The EU is quickly becoming just another big, centralized, corporatist, United-States-esque government.

    • I find that this is just another example of how the EU is circumventing democracy.

      That is its purpose: to make sure that business can proceed unrestrained by democracy. The EU is run by the unelected councillors who know that one day they will be looking for cushey jobs in industry as non-execs and "advisors". Thus, they have no interest in doing anything that in any way hampers their future employers' greed.

      The parliament might actually take things into its own hands and disband the council, and that is

      • The parliament is busy voting in new tax-exempt "expense refunds" for expenses they never had. Don't expect them to actually do useful work.
    • Re:EU Failure (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Halo1 (136547) <.jonas.maebe. .at. .elis.ugent.be.> on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:31AM (#11071966) Homepage
      This has little to do with EU-specific stuff. The Council of Ministers consists of ministers from the various national governments, and it's them who are pushing this through. It's Sweden covered by Ericsson and Scania, Finland by Nokia, the Netherlands by Philips, Ireland by all US companies it provides a low tax haven for etc.
    • "So, say that, for example, the government of Germany would rather not accept software patents."

      Can they just leave the EU? This is not meant as a troll, just an honest question from someone (okay you guessed it, I'm American) who doesn't particularly understand how the EU works. I'm also fully aware there are a vast number of consequences to leaving the EU and Germany isn't going leave just over software patents. I just find it interesting that so many of these posts bashing the EU seem beyond this sm

      • The EU is defined by international treaties between the parties. International treaties being what they are, I'd say it is entirely possible that one party (a country) decides to break the treaty and proceed on its own outside the EU. It's not like the country can be prosecuted and imprisioned.

        However, leaving the EU means leaving the common market. Within the common market there are no import taxes. When leaving, the EU can impose import/export taxes against the secessing country. Since this is a pretty

      • Re:EU Failure (Score:3, Interesting)

        by amorsen (7485)
        There are no provisions for leaving the EU in the current treaties. So it will depend entirely on the circumstances. Many unions have had civil wars when one or more members tried to secede. That's a very theoretical possibility right now -- but it's a very theoretical possibility that any country would secede at this time. The political elites of all member states are very much in favour of the EU.
    • Re:EU Failure (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NardofDoom (821951)
      Just like the WTO. Imagine if we could, as a global economy, say "You don't honor human rights, you don't honor worker's rights to unionize, and you don't meet environmental standards. Therefore we won't trade with you."

      You bet your bippy China, Saudi Arabia, et al would clean up their act if we could do that.

      Instead, the WTO is letting people like Monsanto prevent poor farmers from saving a portion of their crop or trading it with others (like they've done for thousands of years) because they've patented

    • Re:EU Failure (Score:3, Informative)

      by Seahawk (70898)
      Hang on!

      Patens has not been approved! The parliament voted no, and now the patent lobby is TRYING to convince the EU to do it anyway!

      IF they manage to do it THEN there is something wrong - but up until now, the democracy seems to actually work.

      So if you want to badmouth EU - at least have some better arguments, instead of saying things that are not true.

      Disclaimer - I am definately pro-EU, but I DO see valid aruments against it - just none that are worse than the benifits.
      • Parliament said no, so the lobbyists figured it would be better to go where the actual power is. The European Council. Whose members are unelected and almost entirely unaccountable for their actions (i.e. they basically have to commit crimes to get sacked, and even when they do commit crimes, they only get sacked, not punished.)
    • I wish people would learn what's what before making comments like this.

      The Council of Europe is a totally separate *intergovernmental* organisation and has no relationship with the European Union apart from having Europe in its name.

      Take a look at their web site (http://www.coe.int). This is what they say:

      -------------
      The Council of Europe is the continent's oldest political organisation, founded in 1949. It:
      groups together 46 countries, including 21 countries from Central and Eastern Europe,
      has appl
  • by Halo1 (136547) <.jonas.maebe. .at. .elis.ugent.be.> on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:16AM (#11071860) Homepage
    For the record: if the Council approves its pro-software patents text, all is not yet lost since there is still a second reading in the European Parliament. A downside of this second reading is that the EP can only amend the Council's text using absolute majorities there (i.e., half the number of MEPs must vote in favour of an amendment, regardless of how many abstain or are even present at the vote).

    The big news is however that the Council Presidency is basically trying to circumvent the Council itself. In May, they reached a political agreement on the most pro-software patents text seen in EU legislative circles until now. At the Council meeting in May, Poland first abstained, then Germany and the Commission introduced some fake compromise amendment, and after a break Poland was not consulted again about its position, because there was a qualified majority in place even without its support. They confirmed [ukie.gov.pl] afterwards their position did not change because of the bogus compromise amendment.

    Recently, Poland confirmed its position [slashdot.org], after everyone in a meeting with HP, Novell, Microsoft and others confirmed that the text of the Council of Ministers allows pure software patents (contrary what is often claimed). And apart from Microsoft and the Polish Patent Lawyers association, everyone agreed that software patents would be bad for the Polish economy. Because the voting weights changed on 1 November (due to the joining of all the new member states to the EU), Poland's support suddenly became necessary and thus the qualified majority was officially broken.

    Other notable events since the political agreement of May are the fact that in July the Dutch Parliament asked its government to change position [slashdot.org] from being in favour to abstention, and at the start of this month all parties of the German Parliament did the same [nosoftwarepatents.com].

    So the Council currently has an ugly text on the table which is no longer supported by a qualified majority in any way, but by means of diplomatic pressure on Poland and others the Dutch presidency (lead in this case by Minister Brinkhorst) is trying everything it can to push it through nevertheless.

    • I've previously contacted some Belgian MEPs about this issue, and was pleased by their response. Is there anything we 'Belgians Against Software Patents' can do now regarding this matter, given that Belgium already seems to be on the right side ?
      • Yes, getting more Belgian companies/businesses to speak out against software patents, because the Belgian ministry's position is ambiguous at best. There was already a nice statement in May [softwarepatenten.be], but we need bigger companies. Companies like e.g. Telindus and Belgacom. Telindus has exactly 1 patent (on some modem modulation technique), Belgacom has 5 (none of them software patents).

        Telindus is now an integrator/services company. It provides services for e.g. the Flemish government. Another company that does so

        • You mention a company where I have a foot (actually only some toes) in door, and I already had a lot of informal discussions with my contacts about this issue. But typically they're too distanced and too busy minding their own corner to care. With a wait-and-see approach businesses in Belgium tend to be very reactive regarding politics.

          I've also talked to a quite highly positioned person at Alcatel, but they take a very, very pro-patent stance since they feel it's a thing that can protect them from Chinese
          • You mention a company where I have a foot (actually only some toes) in door, and I already had a lot of informal discussions with my contacts about this issue. But typically they're too distanced and too busy minding their own corner to care. With a wait-and-see approach businesses in Belgium tend to be very reactive regarding politics.

            It's true it's very difficult to mobilise companies. Maybe showing them them the presentation linked here [ffii.org] can help. And otherwise, maybe showing them this [espacenet.com] will wake them

    • IIRC (no time to verify now), the dutch representative even voted for, after he had said he would vote against. A grassroots activist group then went to parliament and informed them of the irregularity. In response, a change of the official stance to abstention was requested. AFAIK, though, the representative is still in position, and it seriously escapes me why.

      Please do verify what I wrote, I have the feeling I may be mixing up things.
      • Please do verify what I wrote, I have the feeling I may be mixing up things.

        Indeed, you are. The Dutch minister had said there was an agreement over the text between the European Parliament and the Council, so that there was no problem to support it. Afterwards, this was shown not to be true, so the Dutch Parliament voted a motion [ffii.org] asking the Dutch government to change into an abstention. The government claims it's fulfilling this motion, why in fact it is not.

  • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:19AM (#11071881) Homepage

    I've never been so angry at these crooks in government before now. Dutch parliament rejects software patents, European parliament rejects software patents, they'll hurt the Dutch software industry very badly (I believe the total number of software patents held by Dutch IT companies is 3) and now the fuckers want to avoid all of that by adding it on to some fisheries decision.

    Help me, fellow Dutchmen, how can we make this as public as possible as quickly as possible? I've never done anything active in politics before, but this must go into the spotlight! Give me some hints...

  • What the EU Council is trying to do is, way above and beyond the issue of software patents, an assault at democracy itself. In a democratic system based on lawfulness, a decision needs to meet the majority requirements (in this case: the requirements for a qualified majority in the EU Council) on the day of the formal decision, not more than 6 months earlier. Since the EU Council's political agreement on May 18th, - the Dutch parliament called on its government to abstain (July 1st; abstention in the Counc
  • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:23AM (#11071902)
    This is the argument that we should be pushing. Back then you probably could have patented Bits and Bytes. How about it it happened in 1980: Makers of Wordstar and Visi-calc whould have locked the wordprocessing and Spreadsheet markets, respectively. Makers of CP/M would lockup PC OS' so MS would have never existed! What this will do is make all new and exciting stuff happen where SW patents do NOT exist.
    • How about it it happened in 1980: Makers of Wordstar and Visi-calc whould have locked the wordprocessing and Spreadsheet markets, respectively. Makers of CP/M would lockup PC OS' so MS would never have existed!

      So we'd have 2 of the best applications ever written and no microsoft? Well this isn't looking so bad after all. ;)
  • by caveman (7893) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:23AM (#11071904)
    For the benefit of non-german-speaking Slashdotters, the first addendum to document 11979 can be found here (PDF) [eu.int] and the parent document here (PDF) [eu.int]
  • All the major players, with all the money, want software patents. Even if they don't get it this year, they will get it next year, or the next. They are not going to stop until they get it.

  • Did what I could... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:39AM (#11072034)
    ....at least, I hope I did, still open for suggestions.

    I wrote to the people who are supposed to 'represent' me, and asked them how the hell our country (the Netherlands) could be behind this push for Software Patents, when a majority of parliament is against it.
    A couple of months ago saw a petition voted in to have the minister of foreign affairs retract his support for software patents. And now aparently not only are we voting yes, we're also behind pushing the Polish to give up their resistance to these patents?
    Even worse, this minister is from a party which supposedly is the most vocal supporter of the european -democratic- proces, demanding more power to the european parliament, and less to the council. (Great way to show it guys, now I know why I voted for you :( )

    So a call to all dutch Slashdotters, write an email to your representatives. Not much time left to act.

    CDA:
    cda.publieksvoorlichting@tweedekamer.nl
    P vdA:
    voorlichting@pvda.nl
    VVD:
    Vragen stellen aan tweede kamerleden [www.vvd.nl]
    D66:
    http://www.d66.nl/contact [d66.nl]

    (not a complete list, I know)
  • by danalien (545655) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:42AM (#11072048) Homepage
    to link to German PDF's .. but I'd think on a worldwide site like slashdot, it'd be prudent to try to use English (if available).

    Link 1 - in English [eu.int]

    To 'Link 2 [eu.int]', there doesn't seem to be a corresponding English-version - from my vauge german skills, but mostly deductive skills - I'd say the document is some sort of addmendment to this org. Link 2 - in English [eu.int]

    But maybe someone could translate 'Link 2 [eu.int]'? ... it's only 5 (five) lines.


    PS. Linux ppl, use Acrobat's reader ... the native PDF readers seem to have trouble with these PDF's...

    • "PS. Linux ppl, use Acrobat's reader ..." Only ghostscript based readers - xpdf and gpdf will work fine.
    • But maybe someone could translate 'Link 2'? ... it's only 5 (five) lines.

      Without warranty on correctness:

      Corrigendum to the draft of the rationale of the council

      Subject: Common position of the council concerning the enactment of a guideline of the Eurropean parliament and the council about the patentability of computer-implemented inventions

      Number 17 (page 5) gets the following version:

      "Paragraph 2 was added to reveal that the range of protection of a patented invention may under certain circumstanc

    • Excuse my french, but what idiot links to PDF files from /. anyway?

      Are /. proud to be bandwith eaters? Here's a clue: bandwidth costs money.

  • Software patents benefit mega-corps. Software patents hurt free software and -citizens-. Guess who is gonna loose.

    Sigh... where is my anti-globalization protesters helmet. Perhaps the swiss police know...

  • by mikerich (120257) on Monday December 13, 2004 @11:04AM (#11072213)
    I *think* this is what is happening. The Council is formed from the ministers of the Member States of the Union. It proposes legislation on the advice of the EU Commission (yet another body made up of appointed bureaucrats whose purpose is to develop and uphold the workings of the Union). This directive has been proposed under the so-called co-decision arrangement with the European Parliament - the directly elected body of the EU.

    In co-decision, Parliament has some measure of veto over the Council - it is the strongest of the arrangements between the parties. Council has sent the draft directive to Parliament. Parliament could adopt the proposed legislation - whereupon it would have taken effect in the EU, instead it proposed amendments.

    The amendments have then gone back to Council which now has a choice. It can choose to accept Parliament's amendments and produce a compromise directive. Or it can override Parliament - but only by a unanimous vote by the members of Council. This is why the Poles are being strong-armed.

    If Council rejects the Parliamentary amendments and fails to vote unanimously, the legislation must then head towards conciliation and arbitration which is brain-bleedingly complicated since the Commission becomes involved.

    So all is not lost, the insitutions are working, although I have to wonder about the fisheries involvement. I would have thought those ministers have their own problems at the moment.

    HTH.

    Mike.

    • by Halo1 (136547) <.jonas.maebe. .at. .elis.ugent.be.> on Monday December 13, 2004 @11:36AM (#11072493) Homepage
      I *think* this is what is happening. The Council is formed from the ministers of the Member States of the Union.
      Correct. Note that although the Council is a single legal/political body, depending on the subject that's handled different ministers attend.
      It proposes legislation on the advice of the EU Commission (yet another body made up of appointed bureaucrats whose purpose is to develop and uphold the workings of the Union).
      No, the Commission proposes the legislation (possibly on advice of the Council, I'm not sure).
      This directive has been proposed under the so-called co-decision arrangement with the European Parliament - the directly elected body of the EU.

      In co-decision, Parliament has some measure of veto over the Council - it is the strongest of the arrangements between the parties. Council has sent the draft directive to Parliament.

      No, the Commission did.
      Parliament could adopt the proposed legislation - whereupon it would have taken effect in the EU, instead it proposed amendments.
      Indeed. It could have also downright rejected it, in which case the directive project would be stopped immediately.
      The amendments have then gone back to Council which now has a choice. It can choose to accept Parliament's amendments and produce a compromise directive. Or it can override Parliament - but only by a unanimous vote by the members of Council. This is why the Poles are being strong-armed.
      No, if the Commission agrees with the amendments they propose (which it does), they only need a qualified majority (basically 2/3rds of the weighted votes + a minimum number of supporting countries). Since 1 November, the voting weights have changed and now Poland is required [nosoftwarepatents.com] to have a qualified majority.
      If Council rejects the Parliamentary amendments and fails to vote unanimously, the legislation must then head towards conciliation and arbitration which is brain-bleedingly complicated since the Commission becomes involved.
      No, if the Council does not manage to get the required majority, the directive is in limbo. In theory, it can stay forever at the Council's first reading stage (unless the Commission retracts the proposal). Conciliation only happens later in the process. First, after the Council agrees, it goes back to the European Parliament for a second reading.

      There, the EP can only amend the text that returned from the Council with absolute majorities (nr_of_MEPs/2+1 must vote in favour in order for an amendment to be accepted, regardless of how many MEPs are actually present for voting).

      Next, if the EP accepts the text without amendments, the directive is approved. It can also be downright rejected. Finally, if it's accepted with amendments it goes back to the Council for a second reading.

      I don't know the exact rules in the Council for second reading, but if they accept the Parliament's amendments the directive is again approved, and if they amend it, it goes back to the EP for the third reading.

      In the third reading, the EP can only say yes or no. If they say no, then conciliation happens.

      So all is not lost, the insitutions are working, although I have to wonder about the fisheries involvement. I would have thought those ministers have their own problems at the moment.
      An item at a Council session can either be a A-point (formality for approval) or B-point (discussion point). Because the Council reached a political agreement in May, it's technically possible to bring it as an A point on the Council for formal adoption of a Common Position (which would mean official acceptance by the Council).

      Such an A-point can happen at any Council formation. So even though the competitiveness formation is responsible for the swpats, if they bring it on as A-point they can indeed have it signed at the Fisheries Council session.

  • tons of cash to be made :noes:

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