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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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  • 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 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.

  • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <> on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:10AM (#6822737) Homepage
    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 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 ?
  • 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?
  • by Dot.Com.CEO ( 624226 ) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:14AM (#6822770)
    Fair point. Mind you, European politicians are still very mindful of Europe-wide protests since they are a relatively new trend and, since they get a lot of coverage over here they appear in the news a lot. However, unless a "big" site decides to close for the day, this will pass off as a joke.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:16AM (#6822780)
    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.
  • 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.
  • by naph ( 590672 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:22AM (#6822821) Homepage Journal
    ... 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.

  • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:22AM (#6822825) Homepage
    I think its not to late to execute this kind of protest against DCMA. It would be smart to do so.

    * Explain what is at stake for the common citizen.
    * Explain who will use DCMA against them: RIAA, the porn industry and opportunists.
    * Explain that there is no due process.
    * Explain that your children are the target.

  • 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!!
  • Re:An MEP Replies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by buford_tannen ( 555867 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:30AM (#6822874)
    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 your continent from the patent hell we have over here. You're going to need all the luck you can get, if this letter is any indication.


  • 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.
  • by iapetus ( 24050 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:32AM (#6822893) Homepage
    Slashdot has a large contingent of non-American readers. It's News for Nerds, not News for Nerds Who Live in the United States of America. Stories about Brazil's attitude to open source and the UK's plans for built-in monitoring of cars make the front page, so why not this sort of demonstration?

    Anyway, plenty of people outside the US have protested against the many moronic decisions taken there in recent years (DMCA, Skylarov etc.) - I'm sure there are plenty of people in the US who'd like to reciprocate. Stupid software laws are bad wherever they're passed.
  • by Mostly a lurker ( 634878 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:32AM (#6822898)
    I think a protest of some description is highly appropriate. However, I think an equivalent effect on public opinion could be achieved by a 30 second delay screen before allowing access to the site. Particularly for news organisations (and I put slashdot in this category) it may be too extreme to completely close the site.
  • 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 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 __past__ ( 542467 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:39AM (#6822957)
    If you write software that violates a european patent and distribute it in europe (for example by putting it on a globally reachable web server), you can be sued. Not to mention that I'm quite sure that you are using software written by european developers that would certainly be affected. So stop being such a narrow-minded dork, if you will.
  • 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!!
  • Re:Rpm find (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:48AM (#6823018)
    Slashdot is not, however, even though some have requested it be taken down for the day...

    Yes, and here's the reason why [] : since the protest is about European software patents, Slashdot doesn't give a toss.
  • by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:49AM (#6823020) Homepage

    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.

  • by criquet ( 120814 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:49AM (#6823028) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone have a plan for getting rid of software patents in the US? I mean, you can't just one day say "Ok, no new software patents and all old software patents a null and void". It'll never happen. There's simply too much money involved and that money is being used to ensure software patents continue.

    I think the only way to change things is to convince big business that they are hurting themselves more by patenting software than by allowing it to be free. But to do that when companies are making millions from patents right now?
  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:51AM (#6823045) Homepage
    Some algorithms are very non-trivial as some math may be very non-trivial.

    (Read all of this before moderating)

    So frankly I see no problem in patenting an algorithm. I see no problem is patenting software. I see no problem in pathenting a business method.

    The problem is not in the fact that something is patented. The problem people see with the patent system is because of the current state of the USPTO where that trivial things with loads of prior art are being patented. And there is a reason for the US PTO having this problem and it is very plain and simple:

    Patent clerks in the US are paid a sum per patent reviewed and after that for patent accepted . If they reject an application they lose the second bit.

    So all that is needed to fix the system is for any patent applicant to pay at least 100000 deposit when applying (I think that it should be more). If the application succeds he gets back 80% filled up further by government small business innovation grants (they are around 0.5-1M$ in the US for example). If the app fails he gets shit. Clerks are payed per application submitted and application failed and they are payed at least 10000 for application whacked. They are not payed for applications that have been accepted.

    And that is all it will take to fix the system. There is no need for patent reform. There is need to reform the b*** patent office which is something completely different.

    And finding a loand for the 100000 deposit as well as insurance towards suing the PTO to accept it if they unfairly fail you should not be a problem whatsoever for anyone with a worthy invention.

  • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:52AM (#6823052) Journal
    I don't know about Europe but if you are serious about doing something, don't email. Call or write a paper letter CC'ed to newspapers and media outlets.

    Emails and electronic forms don't have the impact of something in the "old fashioned real-world".
  • by hamster foo ( 697718 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:53AM (#6823059)
    Lawyers/patent agents are at the very least part of the problem.

    Yes, the people in the system that create the laws, interpret the laws, and perpetuate the patent system in its current state all share a large portion of the blame for the problem, but lawyers also play a part in the perpetuation of the system.

    If lawyers/agents started saying no to filing ridiculous patent lawsuits and representing clients in the pursuit of said lawsuits, it would send a message not only to the corporations, but to the law makers and decisions makers that this needs to be changed. As long as lawyers are gaining from these lawsuits and helping to facilitate them, they can not be considered innocent middle men.
  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cioxx ( 456323 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:55AM (#6823084) Homepage
    Because the editors are out of touch. They don't understand the scope of the issue. This is the kiss of death to the OSS model, if in fact it goes through.

    I've submitted 3 separate articles regarding EU patent initiative since 25th and all of them have been rejected. This is just another case of ignorance on part of American OSS supporters ignoring what goes on outside of US, and later bitch and moan for years why the laws are unjust.

    For fuck's sake, I live in California and I'm horrified of the fallout that might result from this.
  • Re:An MEP Replies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lochin Rabbar ( 577821 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:58AM (#6823109)

    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 European businesses the chance to develop ideas with certainty as to their legal position." WTF patent laws create uncertainty you need to know if your work is already covered by a patent, is that patent valid, and anything which involves courts and the legal system always introduces an element of uncertainty. On the other hand no patent law means absolute certainty, if you can do it you're allowed to do it

    Finally look at the phrase, "I and my UK Conservative colleagues support the general line..." which can be translated as ' I do what the party tells me and you as a mere constituent are stuffed because all the major parties are following the same line.' Isn't democracy wonderful.

  • by Raphael ( 18701 ) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:58AM (#6823110) Homepage Journal

    Here is an example: although the GIMP web site is hosted in the US, several of the most active developers are living and working in Europe. So after some discussion with the other developers, I decided to close the home page of []. Even if you live and work in the U.S., you could be affected because some software developed by many contributors from all around the world could cease to exist because of software patents affecting these developers.

    Allowing patents on software and business methods in the U.S. was a bad idea. Several studies [] have shown that software patents in the U.S. have had a negative impact on the industry. But so far, the damage has been limited because these patents are not accepted worldwide. So in many cases, a company that was more interested in litigation than real innovation was not able to sue the developers who (unknowingly) infringed on its patents because some or all of them were not in the U.S. But this could be different if these patents were valid worldwide (WIPO). The patent holders would have a bigger chance to hit the small companies and small developers, especially those working on Open Source or Free Software (because they cannot buy a license or pay royalties for all potential users).

    This protest against the changes in the European law would also be a good way to promote a necessary reform of the U.S. patent system. A growing number of economists in the U.S. are raising their voice against the patentability of software. A clear sign coming from Europe could also help the U.S. industry in the long run.

    Some people hide in their shell when their neighbors are threatened. Some people try to help them because they know that they could be affected directly or indirectly. The choice is yours.

  • FAX (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:10AM (#6823208)
    FAX Is more appropiate. Document what you did in the community tool Dont' spam. Be polite. Ask for amendments to McCarthys proposal. So read the texts on first. Demand a definition of technical in the directive. Tell them you don't want Amazon vs. Barnes and Noble in the EU. Or MS vs. Eolas (500 mio $) or other patent privateers. Tell them what the W3C says.
  • 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 NormalVisual ( 565491 ) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:13AM (#6823250)
    So all that is needed to fix the system is for any patent applicant to pay at least 100000 deposit when applying (I think that it should be more). If the application succeds he gets back 80% filled up further by government small business innovation grants (they are around 0.5-1M$ in the US for example). If the app fails he gets shit.

    You've just put all the small inventors out of the picture and restricted patents to those that already have a fair bit of disposable money to toss around. $100K for a patent application fee? Most legitimate small-time inventors have a hard enough time scraping together the $5-10K needed for a proper prior art search and other legalities. Good luck going to a bank and saying, "I need a loan for $100K, of which you'll get back $80K and maybe more if I can get a grant, and if the PTO finds prior art that we missed or otherwise turns us down you'll lose it all". Not gonna happen, and whoever modded this as 'insightful' needs a quick reality check.
  • Re:Rpm find (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:14AM (#6823260)
    So what you're saying is you can't be involved in politics if you want to be a "professional"? Then I'd rather be an amateur who doesn't lose his freedom to make political statements, thank you very much.

    People like you just don't seem to realize shutdowns like this will become normal once the law is in effect. Downloading free software will become a thing of the past. The community has to take action and wake up the masses now, because once the law is in effect it's too late for whining...

    In the end, what you're saying is fighting for survival is unprofessional.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:17AM (#6823302) Homepage Journal
    ...and in the meantime, link main page of Slashdot to the EU parliament, asking people to write petitions, visit all its pages etc... Effectively slashdotting it to a crawl - showing what REAL POWER stands behind the protesters.
  • 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 Simon X. ( 700576 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:41AM (#6823504)
    Methods such as spamming are not the way to get your point across.

    I don't think anyone will be impressed much by your opinion if you express it by making a nuisance of yourself.

  • 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 :-)
  • Re:Rpm find (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PainKilleR-CE ( 597083 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:11AM (#6823787)
    but it should be remembered that some of the support for such changes in Europe comes from US companies, and that US intitiatives such as DMCA help provide a precedent for similar moves elsewhere. It's a global world out there :-) . If the EU gets bogged down in this, it may come back to bite at people in the US.

    It's not that it may come back to bite at people in the US, it's that it bites people in the US every day, because the laws being considered in the EU are not that different from the laws those of us in the US already have to live with.

    If Slashdot's going to protest, it should place more prominance on repealing or fixing the existing laws in the US than on preventing the laws from being enacted in the EU.
  • by dspeyer ( 531333 ) <> on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:24AM (#6823885) Homepage Journal
    Well put, and we need general pattent reform badly, but even legitamate software pattents tend to be a bad thing.

    Consider GIFs. The algorythm there was (I believe) non-trivial. It was developed twice (IBM and Unisys?) arround the same time and pattented twice (oops!). It was also discovered independantly in academia a few times around then (once shortly before, but not widely enough published to be prior art, once shortly after, doing no good).

    So what did society gain for issuing a pattent on a (for practical purposes) new and genuinly nontrivial idea? Nothing whatsoever. We would have had the same algorythm shortly thereafter.

    What did we lose? We suffered over a decade of uncertainty, danger, and incompatibility in web images, ameliorated only by the fact that Unysis valued public relations over squeezing every last penny. Had Unisys' profits gone SCO-like, it could easily have been much worse.

    Software pattents are a bad idea because they don't work. Experimental evidence is clear: patents decrease technological development. Furthermore, programmers don't read patents; any benefit to be gained by learning about someone else's work that way is overwhelmed by the risk of discovering that your own work is patented by someone else. We don't need patents because barriers to entry are low. We don't need millions of dollars to test an algorythm, the way we do a medicine. Software patents just get in the way.

    P.S. I realize I'm a little light on evidence. I'm too rushed right now to hunt down links. They are out there.

  • Re:Rpm find (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ichimunki ( 194887 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:44AM (#6824097)
    This is one of the problems with the free software community, politics plays too heavy of a role in their actions.

    Um, Earth to TedCheshireAcad, come in TedCheshireAcad. The "free software" movement is a social movement-- everything that happens in the movement is a political act. Just writing software and giving it away is a political act. Your concerns about your "clients" sounds a lot more like the rhetoric of the Open Source movement to me.

    Besides, if you go to set up a "[GNU/]Linux-doodad for a client", maybe as a professional (and someone with half a clue) you should be prepared for network outages and things like that. Relying on a web site on the other side of the Atlantic is the worst risk management ever. You need to have all your software and tools readily available on CD-ROM, I think. I mean, were you going to install Windows over the net by just going to some web site?

    Moderators: please mod parent down in spite of his request that you "do your worst". Notes like that to moderators ought to garnish at least a -1 just for putting that little challenge to the moderators.
  • Re:Rpm find (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 9mind ( 702505 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:53AM (#6824205)
    People are forgetting the obvious, in shutting down the sites. It wasn't a protest against the lawmakers per se, but to make all the users of the software aware of what is going on.

    I for one knew nothing about it, or how it would affect me. Now I do, and if they ever needed a signature against it, I would sign. Because I was made aware though this protest.

  • Re:Rpm find (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pmz ( 462998 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:16AM (#6824444) Homepage
    None of these sites shut down. They simply replaced their index page with the statement, which also provided links to the old index. Hardly shutting down.

    Who, here, would be wearing a big smile when they say to their boss, "Sorry, I can't get that information/patch/download for our production webservers, because the Apache site voluntarily decided that some political issue was more important than our business."

    In fact, it was/is/will be responsible and expected for widely-used and critical websites to say what they want while still allowing users to get to what they need when they need it. Anything less would be a much bigger kick in open source's nuts than any software patent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:34AM (#6824647)
    Google could add a banner.
  • 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 ninewands ( 105734 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:52AM (#6824812)
    I'm opposed to software patents as much as any European /. reader is, but I think there would probably be more of an impact in the EU if The Register [] were to close its website or at least put up a notice like this one [].

    Why should /. close down when The Reg doesn't?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @01:06PM (#6825519)
    Because /. is for whiners, not doers. /. itself would never inconvinience itself or it's readers to even protest open source being made illegal by all nations.

    If you haven't realized this by now, you haven't been here long...
  • Re:Rpm find (Score:3, Insightful)

    by revmoo ( 652952 ) <slashdot&meep,ws> on Friday August 29, 2003 @01:28PM (#6825795) Homepage Journal
    ...and when you are PAYING to use apache, you have every right to complain about such things. However, last I checked, apache is free software, so get over it.

  • by 2short ( 466733 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @03:34PM (#6827383)
    I don't buy it. I don't think there are any lawyers out there who think they would be making more money if only there were more laws. A fair number of laws probaly reduce the work pool for lawyers by removing ambiguities.

    In your take on my analogy, you suggest asking a city planner or traffic engineer about a bridge. Both of these are people with training and experience in the question at hand, so if the question were about laws instead of bridges, they would be lawyers too. "Lawyer" encompasses a wide range of specialties just like "Engineer" does. For some reason, most people judge all lawers by one fairly small subset: "Unscrupulous Plaintifs Attorney". I would guess that former plaintifs attorneys are not particularly likely to be in Congress (as opposed to say, prosecutors).

    Anyway, laws effect all segments of society. What profession would you like Congress people to come from? Would people from that background really have enough less conflict of interest to balance out not having any training in the job you're electing them to do?

    In any case, I don't vote based on someones previous proffession, nor do I expect many others do. I would guess people who are interested in law are more likely to become lawyers, and theose same people are more likely to run for office, so naturally the candidate pool is biased toward lawers. I can see that you might disagree with my opinion that that is a good thing, but I don't see that it's a particularly bad thing, and it certainly doesn't look like a conspiracy.
  • 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
  • Hack the system (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mic256 ( 702811 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:45PM (#6829309)
    I've heard an opinion recently, that the GPL is just a hack around the normal legal system. Basically, the free software movement did not start with changing the law. It wasn't like there were demonstrations or petitions against copyrights. Instead the legal system was simply hacked. I just wondered if that could be done again, this time with patents. Wouldn't making simple adjustements to the GPL work? Here are my (very rough) proposals
    I) if you agree to use this software you must not claim infrigments of any of your patents by any software covered with the GPL 3 or greater
    Also, the FSF, OSDN or whatever free software organization could register patents and then license them under the GPL with the following another adjustement
    II) you are free to use the patents no. aaa, bbb, ..., in any program covered by this license free of charge, however you are forbidden from using this patents in any product not covered by this license
    I am writing this from mozilla, so I have some
    simple patents proposals (I don't know if they are valid)
    a) type ahead search
    b) spam filter
    c) mouse gestures
    I know they are stupid (just like every patent out there). Imagine next time a nuisance like SCO happens (hey, but you infringe 100 of our patents :)). Basically, what I am saying - if you cannot change the system, use it to your advantages. Any thougths on why did would or not work?

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban