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Software Patents

Sites Shut Down to Protest Software Patents 563

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

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  • Rpm find (Score:2, Informative)

    by CompWerks ( 684874 )
    Is also shut down.
    • by MuParadigm ( 687680 ) <> on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:22AM (#6822824) Homepage Journal

      "Slashdot is not, however, even though some have requested it be taken down for the day..."

      Well, someone has to be up to let people know what is going on.

    • Re:Rpm find (Score:5, Informative)

      by blibbleblobble ( 526872 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:50AM (#6823039)
      The list of websites that've shut down is here [] (two and a half thousand sites so far)

      My site is shut-down [].
      Others include KDE, Gimp, gnu-darwin, GNU-savannah, and most of the French and German linux sites.

  • Sign the petition (Score:5, Informative)

    by gagravarr ( 148765 ) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:05AM (#6822706) Homepage []

    Details of the campaign against software patents can be found at []

    • by Kyro ( 302315 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:08AM (#6822726)
      looks like the petition is down to protest against slashdottings!
    • totally off the subject, but regarding your sig, you own the copyright to your post per the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen here:

      All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster.

      So, if you want it to go into the public domain right now (instead of 70 yrs [95 yrs for an anonymous coward, if i remember correctly] after your death) you can do that. In fact, the best way to do that is to change your sig to "this post, in its entiret
    • no, email your MEP (Score:5, Informative)

      by misterpies ( 632880 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:36AM (#6822922)

      If you live in the EU, don't just sign the petition - email your MEPs explaining why they should oppose the motion (and reminding them - gently - that they want your vote!). Yesterday I emailed all 10 MEPs representing London explaining my concerns, and I've already received 2 thoughtful responses -- one of which was seemed convinced by my arguments.

      Probably the best arguments to use are those against patenting algorithmic business methods (also covered by the directive) rather than software per se, as they're more likely to be appreciated by politicians. My example was patenting an 'algorithm' that uses a number keyed in by a bank customer to verify their identity against the account details held on their bank card. Hey presto, your "software patent" gives you a monopoly on ATMs.

      You can find a list of UK MEPs at the European Parliament's UK Office []. For other countries, check out the main EU parliament website []. Note that each constituency is represented by several MEPs, allocated between different parites by proportional representation. The vote on the directive is next week, so email your MEP today!
  • This is ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by baldass_newbie ( 136609 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:06AM (#6822710) Homepage Journal
    Nobody patented or restricted the use of hammers and nails in construction.
    So why in the hell are algorithms considered 'patentable'?
    I can understand if they emulate a proprietary business methodology. Or an entire application (which really should fall under copyright law).
    But patents?
    Shakespeare was right. We should kill all the lawyers.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Nobody patented or restricted the use of hammers and nails in construction.
      No, back then crafts were run by guilds. Try to do carpentry without being a member of the guild and you'd be run out of town, fined or imprisoned.
    • Nobody patented or restricted the use of hammers and nails in construction.

      This would be a dangerous point to raise in certain quarters. Wrap up the patent application in enough jargon, and the current patent office might well grant a patent now. Yes, I guess someone would be able to show prior art eventually, but this would probably be after a two year plus legal fight.

    • by psxndc ( 105904 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:36AM (#6822924) Journal
      "Kill all the lawyers"

      I hate that phrase. First, lawyers don't create laws; Legislators/Congress(wo)men do (and judges interpret them). Secondly, lawyers' clients are the ones that hold the patents, not the lawyers. Thirdly, the USPTO (or the european equivalent in this case) is the one granting the patents. Lawyers are the middle-(wo)men in all this. Removing the lawyers won't solve the problem.

      Sorry but I see people saying this all over slashdot. I think it's an unjustified statement that people like to throw out there when legislators make bad laws, judges interpret the law incorrectly, or the PTO grants patent they shouldn't have.

      Anyone can be a patent agent. There is a separate patent-bar that just about anyone can take. You don't even need to go to law school or have passed the state bar exam.


      • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:23AM (#6823359) Homepage

        >I hate that phrase. First, lawyers don't create laws; Legislators/Congress(wo)men do (and judges interpret them)

        Funnily enough, 39% [] of Congress are lawyers. I believe that this is lower than usual. Perhaps some of them have been disbarred because of all the fraud, assault, drug use, shoplifting and drunk driving [] that they like to indulge in.

        Lawyers and Congress are two sides of the same tarnished coin.

  • by jh_newroom ( 677905 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:06AM (#6822712)
    Microsoft was planning on replacing there page to protest as well. Unfortunately now they are hosted on Unix, they don't have anyone in the company smart enough, who knows how to change the home page.
  • by fruey ( 563914 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:07AM (#6822716) Homepage Journal
    Wine is working for me.

    As has been said in previous article comments, SlashDot could close too, that would have a far larger ranging effect than Knoppix or Wine anyway.

    • SlashDot could close too

      Could somebody with mod points please mark the parent as insightful? Thanks.

    • Close Slashdot (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrSkunk ( 544767 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:26AM (#6822849)
      I totally agree with the parent poster. CLOSE SLASHDOT. A majority of people on these forums are always complaining about software patents and how they are going to stop any and all innovation in software development. Well, here is a chance for slashdot to spread this message far and wide.

      If slashdot closed down in protest, there is a good chance that some news agencies would pick up that story. This would be good because it get this message out to people who don't normally visit slashdot, gimp, or wine hq.

      Grow some balls slashdot. Shut your doors in protest!!
      • How would that help? SlashDot is repeatedly demonstrating that it is a USA-based site.
        • Re:Close Slashdot (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MrSkunk ( 544767 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:41AM (#6822965)
          Just because slashdot has a US-centric bias, does not mean that slashdot does not have a large foreign readership. I see posts on here all the time from Australia, Germany, England, and Soviet Russia.

          If large sites start closing in protest, this story has a large chance of making it into the mainstream media. That will mean that people who don't usually visit sites like slashdot, gimp, wine, freshRPM will start to hear about software patents and why they are bad for everyone. They will see that the software community is not going to sit idly by while politicians take away our ability to develop software.

          Slasdot's closing in protest would be a very good thing. It might even cause some people to venture out into the light since they will not have their favorite site to read.

          Come on, say it with me. CLOSE SLASHDOT!!
      • by The Revolutionary ( 694752 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:11AM (#6823225) Homepage Journal
        Yes, closing Slashdot may be preaching to the choir, but at this late stage in the game, this is exactly what can be most effective.

        We need the EU folks reading Slashdot to get a jolt, to say, "Hey, this really is something Big." We need this, because this is the only way that many of them -- just like Americans -- will take the time to fire off their position to their representatives who have both the duty to represent their constituents and the power to stop this in its tracks.

        And Slashdot, what is going to earn you more good will among your readership than taking a bold stand like this? Perhaps there would be more willing to subscribe -- at least for a month -- if they were to see you as politically active and not just a disinterested for-profit news portal.

        C'mon Slashdot, even just a prominent alert that could stay at the top of front page. Isn't it for the good of everyone?
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:34AM (#6822907) Homepage
      SlashDot could close too, that would have a far larger ranging effect than Knoppix or Wine anyway.

      no it wouldnt...

      all these sites closing are preaching to the Choir...

      What needs to close down with a protest banner on the front page is CNN, MSNBC,GOOGLE,YAHOO.... sites that the general public looks at daily.

      Shutting down sites that only those that already know the problem is really not effective..

      so if you run a site that non-geeks use... Like a site about S10 pickup trucks, or how to repair your delorean, or underwater basket weaving... shut it down..

      It's much more effective to force non-geeks to read about it than to simply inconvience those that already know about it.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      My site, was also shut down. Needles to say the politicians in Brussels were in a state of panic and despair yesterday and we now expect this law to be thrown out. We just had to show them what they'd lose if they passed it.

      Goatse Man
    • by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:45AM (#6822993)
      SlashDot could close too

      And soon after, heard like some weird air raid siren, from the all the unemployed geeks, "Noooooooooooo!"

    • Even though the parent is modded +5, pity we couldn't have the option to remove the cap.

      As with other responses to this parents thread, even if /. closed for a bit or plastered a huge protest notice at the top of the site... this needs as much coverage as possible.

      Plus, if /. shut down for a couple of days, we could get a break from the SCO stories and dupes... mind anything that removes SCO from the headlines for over a day must be a good thing.

  • Gimp (Score:5, Informative)

    by MP3Chuck ( 652277 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:07AM (#6822720) Homepage Journal
    Gimp [] is another...
  • Qemu too... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:07AM (#6822723) Journal
    We had an interesting thread [] about Qemu []...
    It's closed too...
  • MRTG (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    MRTG [] has also joined the fight.
  • I noticed the protest yesterday on this site [] although it appears the protest has been removed today. I was thinking about asking him what it was all about.
    PicoSQL seems to be the home of an up and coming open source SQL server.
  • Just adding this one to the list
  • I hold a patent (Score:3, Interesting)

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

    Seriously though, does anybody have a link to the actual patents filed that contain references to "scrolling within a window", or "progress bars"? I'd be interested in looking over the legal ramifications in the US...
  • RPMfind (Score:3, Informative)

    by PEdelman ( 200362 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:09AM (#6822733)

    RPMFind [] and its mirror sites are closed as well. Not the front page, but after a search query you get the warning. They say it's temporarily though.

    • It's not closed. On the warning page there's a link "click here to enter this site". Try putting your mouse over the link and clicking on it.

      Windows and Linux users should click with button-1. Mac users should be able to figure out for themselves which button to use.
  • Honestly, I don't get it.

    What message is this supposed to send? Why would the EU change its mind because a few sites decided to protest? How does the absence of a few sites hurt the EU? More likely, they'll only hurt themselves.

  • by $rtbl_this ( 584653 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:10AM (#6822741)

    SCO obviously felt so strongly about this that they got started a few days early! They're good folks, always doing their best for the community.

  • by file-exists-p ( 681756 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:10AM (#6822742)
    This letter [] is worth reading ...
  • gtk (Score:5, Informative)

    by den_erpel ( 140080 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:10AM (#6822743) Homepage Journal
    gtk [] is another site that is protesting. Good though, if you look at the rubbish pattens which are already registered [] (illegally) in Europe, ...
  • Vote delayed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrew ( 625426 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:10AM (#6822744)
    Apparently this protest (and the physical one) may have had some effect, in that the EU vote has been delayed according to LWN []. Let's hope this additional time is beneficial to the anti-patent cause...
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:11AM (#6822753) Homepage

    Come on guys, this is what the US community should have done to protest the DMCA, and the range of RIAA abuses that are being seen.

    Lets not be silly and take it down for ever, but why not have an official protest day? Slashdot, Freshmeat, maybe even some of the Corporates.

    And the time for this ? How about we start it on the same date as the end of the First World War ?

    November 11th, starting at 11am GMT, for 24 hours, we declare the internet closed for business.

    Are we in ? Slashdot.... are you listening ?
  • Many sites closed (Score:2, Informative)

    by golan ( 570588 )
    You can find a list of sites closed at this link [] but I suppose many more closed on Ago 27th.
  • by buddha42 ( 539539 )
    All the apache projects sites have a message about this in their front page. []

  • by cnelzie ( 451984 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:13AM (#6822758) Homepage
    ...players to be of any use. To the regular, tax-paying/voting citizen, if a Free Software web-site is off the web for a few hours, days, weeks or even months, it doesn't affect them anymore then if a sports team in a sport they don't watch disolves.

    Now, if Microsoft's European branch went off the web or Netscape or any number of other software companies that are BIG on the commercial radar were to join in on this protest, then more people would notice... But, that's not likely to happen...

    I see this too often. We geeks, as a political body, are simlpy blind to reality. Most of the sites that are currently 'down' are only going to affect fellow computer geeks. We hurt ourselves more then we hurt the opposition. There has got to be a better way to actually take some ground in a battle like this one over software patents.

    Who seriously came up with this idea with the honest belief that cutting off the Free Software community from Free Software sites would somehow affect the GREATER MAJORITY (That use Proprietart y software) that simply could care less about Free Software?
  • KDE website was down too to protest software patents, Turkish computer related site was down too yesterday.
  • It just put up a new index page noting the protest. We did the same thing too on 8/27.

    Just click the hyperlink that says Knoppix on the page and you are in.
  • The Total Commander site has been reopened again and was closed yesterday. Wrote about it in my journal [].
  • mplayer and ffmpeg (Score:3, Informative)

    by Comsn ( 686413 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:19AM (#6822802) [] and [] are both 'shut down'. but they still link to thier old homepage.
  • An MEP Replies (Score:3, Interesting)

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

    Dear Mr Roberts,

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

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

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

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

    Yours sincerely,

    Roger Helmer MEP
    • Yeah, it is quite double edged. A summary:

      He thinks your concerns about the software patent directive are unfounded. He is certain (in his own mind) that the Directive will have no impact on software development, because it has "protections" to "prevent" "generic software patenting".

      Basically, he is saying that he knows what is best for you and that you are full of crap. But, since he's a politician, he has to hide that under a mountain of words.

      As a 'merican, I wish you the best of luck at saving you
    • Re:An MEP Replies (Score:3, Interesting)

      by neillewis ( 137544 )
      Well it's rather vague and definitely boilerplate, I got exactly the same thing from John Bowis MEP (another Conservative.)

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

      After receiving these two, I got seriously annoyed that this vague and partial directive would pass due to a mix
    • That letter reminds me of a poor student essay, lots of buzzwords, no evidence of understanding, and no sign of any original thought. Take the phrase "makes it clear that only software which forms part of a technological process will be patentable." Can anyone tell me of any software that doesn't form part of a technological process. Clue, any piece of software run on a piece computer (i.e. a piece of technological equipment) is transformed into a process.

      Now look at this bit, "This will allow Europea

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:20AM (#6822812) sites [] for a full list of website participating in the action. You can also add your web site if you participate in the online action against software patents.
  • Meaningless sites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by uradu ( 10768 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:20AM (#6822814)
    While I applaud each site's initiative, obscure nerd sites are hardly going to influence the decisions of techno-illiterate politicians likely to vote on this. Now if, or closed down, they might take notice.
  • Bit late ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by ldm ( 676254 )
    It should be noted that the "official" day for doing this was the 27th August [], and that all the sites I've seen have not shut down, but simply replaced their front page with information on the protest, and then included a link to the original project anyway.
  • []

    Although, it looks like this was only supposed to be on August 27th, but they have kept theirs up.
  • ... really... who's gonna notice? if it ain't ebay shutting down, or or some other site like that then i don't think it's gonna make much of a splash.

    sure us nerds know about it, but joe public or mr european parliament bozo? don't fink it's gonna change their day.

    but still, kudos to the sties that did.

  • mplayer [] isn't actually closed, but has a "what if" 404 page.
  • by saforrest ( 184929 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:28AM (#6822862) Journal
    I'm surprised nobody's mentioned that Apache [] is down too.

    Sigh... they had to choose the last bloody day I can download anything before I move (after which I'll be without Internet access for a week).

    (Then again I can probably hold off on installing a webserver until my net access is back.)
    • I'm surprised nobody's mentioned that Apache is down too.

      That's because it's not. Their front page talks about the issue, but then they have a continue on to [] link which takes you to index2.html. This is also the case on their sub-sites, like If you click on that link, you'll see that the Apache site is there. Sometimes we do need to read beyond the first setence of websites, even if this is Slashdot.

  • List of participating site can be found here [].

    Join in, and contact your MEPs if you are a citizen of an EU member country.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:31AM (#6822885) Homepage
    Seems to me that a lot of the sites that are shutting down for the day are ones that are frequented by people who are already aware of the issue. Also, they aren't sites that most people would visit on a daily basis. It would be nice to see some more general, more widespread sites shut down for the day. I'm not talking about geek sites, I'm talking sites like google, BBC, Yahoo, E-bay, and other big name sites. Could you imagine the effect of these sites closing down? I think it would get the attention of a lot more people, and people who weren't already aware of the issue.
  • Or, I'd have to get work done. Or something.
  • Change the Law (Score:5, Interesting)

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

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

    The steps I suggest are:

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

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

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

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

  • by Ridgelift ( 228977 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:47AM (#6823570)
    BTW, Debian [] is still up, but the top of the fold indicates their support of the protest.

    Maybe this is totally naive, but what if we setup a "thought bank". Most patents holders need to show their idea was theirs first don't they? If someone else can show prior art (ie. newspaper article, widely available source code, etc, anything to prove that someone else thought of the idea first) then the patent is invalid.

    People who think of an idea who don't want someone else to patent it can describe their idea in the thought bank. It would then digitally sign the idea and post it for search engines and to catalogue it, and thereby providing a central place to create "prior art".

    Any comments on why this is a [good|bad] idea?

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

    Don't get me wrong; I'm against software patents too. But this seems no different than if, say, abortion clinics closed their doors to protest potential anti-abortion legislation -- it's going to make the other side happier, and I doubt anyone in the EU would even notice. Frankly, I think all this is doing is inconveniencing those in the OpenSource community who are trying to download the programs, forcing those who really need it to find a closed-source (and patented!) equivalent. They're hurting their cause, not helping it. The petition someone here linked to would be a far more effective way of protesting.
  • by Lodragandraoidh ( 639696 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:44AM (#6824095) Journal
    Worse case senario: Free software is defeated.

    Free software goes underground. Geeks start sharing software through encrypted peer to peer networks. Non-geeks end up buying high priced crud from M$.

    M$ and the RIAA companies get richer, and root out the last vestiges of free software on the net. Geeks build elaborate screen savers that look like a M$ windoze box - for when guests are around, but run Linux and free software underneath the hood.

    The Senate convenes a new 'Un-American Activities' commitee, and brings prominent geeks in for public 'questioning' (ridicule). These geeks are blacklisted, and can not find work. This serves to make other geeks 'tow the line', or at least pretend to.

    After a decade of low wages, persecution, and social programs intent on 'Microsoftizing' the populance, the well of available geeks runs dry. Geeks, themselves, no longer pass on the arcane subjects of computers to their children, instead opting to teach them candle making, and send them to seminary.

    Over the next 20 years all remaining geeks retire from the workforce. There are no new systems built. All existing systems are kept running by non-geeks who use cargo-cult methods, not really understanding how it works. If a system breaks down - it does not get fixed. Slowly the network deteriorates; world wide communications become extinct. The Digital Dark Age lasts for ten thousand years, until some proto-geek reinvents the computer and the silicon chip.

    Is this the future we want for our children? Make a difference - now!
  • Not just a handful (Score:3, Interesting)

    by too_bad ( 595984 ) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:49AM (#6824162)
    Just google for "closed because of software patents" and there are so many
    companies doing the same.
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:33AM (#6824627) Journal
    I wonder if SCO is joining the protest, their website seems to be down lately a lot too!

    It's up right now. Perhaps if enough slashdotters could visit them [] and help them protest a bit more?
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:44AM (#6824739) Homepage Journal
    One thing that disappoints me is that at least one of the pages that I saw (Apache), talks about this as a threat to Open Source.

    It is, but the problem is bigger than that. Software patents are a threat to Open Source in much the same way that nuclear war is a threat to beekeepers. Almost everyone who writes software has this sword hanging over their necks, the only real exceptions being people who are at companies who have large patent portfolios and can cross-license. Those programmers are a minority.

    I develop and maintain proprietary software for a living, and like every other programmer in the world, I have no idea how many patents I routinely violate every week. The only reason it hasn't been an issue (so far) is that our source is closed so it would be pretty hard for a hostile outsider to know what patents I violate, too. But if there ever were a conflict that somehow resulted in us having to reveal our source, the risk .. well, the risk is unknown. And that's pretty scary.

    A litigeous situation like that is unlikely because we're so small and our competition isn't very heated. No one has much to gain from harming us. But I can easily imagine situations where larger companies who are battling for big stakes, could find patent violations in one another products. (Look at how IBM responded to SCO. Never mind that SCO were the bad guys in this fight -- IBM could have done that to anybody.)

    The kind of patent violations I'm talking about aren't "IP theft" or lazy followers copying true leaders' work. It's just people doing their jobs and solving problems the way any programmer should solve problems. Problem solving is what we do every day. And it's not like we're all these brilliant Edisons and Franklins who are inventing these insightful things all the time; it's just that with software, there's a simple process (that does not require genious) for arbitrarily piling layer upon layer to create immense complexity. And whatever you come up with, there's a reasonable chance that someone might have a patent on it. This is not what patents were intended to cover!

    Anyway, what I'm getting at is that most proprietary and internal services programmers should be just as concerned about software patents as Free Software and Open Source developers. This is a much bigger problem and I think the publicity needs to get that message across.

  • by Sphere1952 ( 231666 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @12:18PM (#6825051) Journal

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

    I bet the shock to the Internet would be nothing compared to the political earthquake of headlines reading "Slashdot readers bring down Internet in protest over software patents."
  • by willtsmith ( 466546 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @04:08PM (#6827768) Journal
    The fact of the matter is that Copyright and Patent law is completely outdated and can no longer effectively cover the sphere of creativity in the marketplace. 100 years ago, the scope of what was a written work and what was an invention was pretty easy to comprehend. It was also very clear who was the patent holder, the originator of the work.

    Today, the issue is a real mess.

    Software is a written work that becomes a machine when compiled and executed. It is a work that spans the two and should clearly have it's own category. Software patents for REAL innovation is appropriate. However, applications of derivates of well known concepts are simply not deserving of 17years of exclusive use.

    I once had a colleague who had effectively patented the bit. Basically he had determined a scheme by which a record would either be a "summary" or a "detail" if a bit was switched. They actually successfully sued AT&T and succeeded in getting royalties.

    While the use of such a technique does show a level of adaptivity and creativity, it doesn't rise to the level of "NEW IDEA". Certainly not one warranting 17 years of exclusive rights. The fact is that fundamental computer science is MEANT to apply to a limitless number of scenarios.

    As far as copyrights go, it's pretty foolish to copyright something that you don't publish. Software code is virtually NEVER published. It's really a bad fit for copyright as no-one has a clue as to whether they did or did not infringe.

    Clearly a new classification of intellectual property is needed in this category.

    A tremendous new force is emerging to literally turn biological information into machines. The pharmeceutical industry has existed for nearly a century treating drugs as "inventions".

    The thing about modern pharmeceuticals is that their is way more at stake than the invention itself. Pharmecuetical production involves

    1) Identification of a substance (or class of substance) that produces specific effect in anatomy.

    2) Processes to synthesize that agent in a manner that is cost productive.

    3) Development of an appropriate delivery agent.

    4) Clinical trials to determine the efficacy of the product so that it can be marketed.

    Each of these steps require uniquely different skills and techniques. In a way, each represents a uniquely different type of intellectual property.

    Furthermore, when we look at the real "new age" biotech, there core product is often "knowledge". For example, knowledge of the human genome and how individual genes effect human anatomy. Our law is now recognizing the patent of individual "genes". Those are FACTS.

    Patents aren't supposed to recognize scientific facts and truths, only inventions. However, patents are now issued to biotech firms for the knowledge of functions for individual genes or clusters of genes.

    Clearly this fundamental research is a form of intellectual property. But it clearly IS NOT an invention since the knowledge does not produce a workable product, device or machine. It certainly is not a copyright, only god could copyright the human genome ;-)

    Again new forms of intellectual property law is warranted to account for expensive research. Such a research is VERY valuable to humanity and an economic incentive may clearly be warranted (though perhaps not 17 years worth of protection).

    Beyond that, perhaps research that produces new uses for older "inventions" should be relevant. For example, pharmeceutical companies simply will NOT invest research into known substances going of patent. There is no economic motivation. Perhaps a "IP" that would allow royalties for NEW uses of existing substances would be appropriate.

    Another aspect of biotech firms is "process". The concept of "process" is embodied quite boldy in patents now. Though their relevance and applicability is often questioned. Indeed, I would claim that the a GUI software appli

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner