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Software Patents Circumvent European Parliament 378

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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  • by BobTheLawyer ( 692026 ) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:01AM (#11071761)
    The European Parliament has no ability to propose legislation - it's always the Council of Ministers that does this.
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:04AM (#11071785)
    It's not democratic enough, and "the people" feel too far away from their MEPs. I don't even know who my MEPs are, I did politics for 2 years (I also got a D in that subject though...).

    I fear it's going to make it through, undemocratically.

    Yet more proof the EU is in a total state of chaos, in so many ways, it's scary.
  • Lobbys (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL ( 312636 ) <> 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?
  • 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:Lobbys (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bhima ( 46039 ) <(Bhima.Pandava) (at) (> 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."

  • 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.

  • by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <> 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...

  • 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.
  • Re:glad to see (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jenesuispasgoth ( 518053 ) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:28AM (#11071941)
    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.)
  • by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:36AM (#11071992)
    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 customers before 2006/1/1 or a letter from Comcast or Verizon saying they aren't planning to provide service. That's right, all these corporations have to do is write a letter saying they're planning on providing service (with no timeframe) and a community can't get broadband themselves. Then they watch their kids move away, their businesses dry up, and their hometown become a ghost town.

    So writing a letter or even organizing a protest won't work against lobbyists. Politicians are businessmen, and businessmen speak one language: Money. And when the top 2% of people have 80% of the wealth and own or run most of the corporations, there won't be change without a violent revolution.

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

    by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Monday December 13, 2004 @10:53AM (#11072133)
    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 corn.

  • 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 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 []), 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.

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

    by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Monday December 13, 2004 @11:59AM (#11072683)
    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:glad to see (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 13, 2004 @12:17PM (#11072804)
    Actually, there's little difference between the republican party and democratic party on this. Both are at the beck and call of big business. Has always been that way. The "Golden Rule"

    Their difference is simpler. The democratic rulers would give the wage slaves *just* enough so that they don't rebel, overthrow their masters, and shoot the entire lot of them (a'la French Revolution, Russian Revolution, etc.). In other words, they are the smart (and possibly more dangerous) masters.

    The republicans feel you can accomplish the same thing using just the media to BS the slaves into submission.

    It's possible, given the current state of media control and reach, that the republicans are correct: the bar of real benefits for the wage slaves can be much less. The media is more of a distractor today than it ever was. And threat of "off-shoring" has people taking whatever shit they're handed.

    But the difference between the two parties is only that.

    Both screw the people, both are owned by the wealthy few. Welcome to every human society that's ever existed...
  • by o'reor ( 581921 ) on Monday December 13, 2004 @12:45PM (#11073024) Journal
    I wrote a letter a few months ago (that was in late june IIRC), just after the vote of the parliament, expressing my concerns as an IT professional about software patents and how they were going to happen if the european council did not follow the amendments voted by the parliament.

    I did get a letter back, quite a few months later (mid-October), explaining to me with flawed arguments that I need not worry and "pure software patents" were not about to happen, only patents on inventions "with a technical effect". We all know what it's really all about, and how any telco can put a patent on a vocal codec claiming a "technical effect", while it is just a patent on an algorithm (I was working in a large telco at the time).

    So basically my big fat obnoxious Minister of Industry and Small and Medium Businesses fails to see where the problem is, despite a huge number of SMEs having signed the petition online. However, I still invite *you* to write to your own ministers or secretaries of state in charge of the matter. The louder we will shout, the more likely they will lend an ear.

  • by Anders Andersson ( 863 ) on Monday December 13, 2004 @12:55PM (#11073140) Homepage
    the war is far from over

    "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

    I began arguing against software patents around the time when the League for Programming Freedom was founded, before I had even seen a software patent or imagined they would once become a problem in Europe, and before I could find anybody concerned to argue with. Now there are plenty of people involved and the issue is high on the agenda, but I have grown tired of arguing. Having one's opponents essentially ignore every argument thrown at them makes it look like a waste of good ammunition.

    Since I found no other issue of interest to me in this year's election to the European Parliament, I made the software patent issue the deciding one for me. Not that it mattered a lot in the end; my preferred candidate would probably have been the same even without this particular issue. However, with the Parliament on the right track, we still have to deal with the Commission and the Council, in effect the desires of national governments and (unelected) pro-patent lobbying groups.

    Even as I hope to see this issue laid to rest soon and the proposals for software patents scrapped, I'm planning for the worst, simply to make clear that this spoonful of political porridge is getting nowhere near my stomach; it will either remain in the bowl or be spewed out all over the table.

    - See this proposal on your desk? Vote it down, or else.

    - So, you made that proposal into European law, in spite of what I told you to do? Now watch me spank my national government if you attempt to implement it where I live.

    - So you still don't get my point, but you have actually made it national law? So what. Here is a piece of patented software. I wrote it, you try to stop me from distributing it.

    - Now, you say my distribution may be legal in spite of the patent claims because it isn't commercial? That's very nice of you and everything, but how does that help my programmer friends who are actually trying to make a living off their creative efforts? I'm not asking for any special treatment; from now on I'll simply charge for my software if that makes you happy. Have you called the police yet?

    - Well, I'm so sorry for not having consulted a patent attorney who could have told me that my implementation actually doesn't infringe due to a technicality. Thank you for pointing it out, it will be fixed right away, and I want that lawsuit filed against me tomorrow at the latest.

    - Your Honor, you may wonder why I went through all that trouble to formally violate a patent when I didn't have any intent of selling my software in the first place. The reason is that I consider the application of the Patent Act on computer software a violation of my freedom of speech, since the software I have written is technically indistinguishable from speech as it is defined by law. I respectfully ask the Court to apply the rules laid out in the Constitution for resolving any conflict between the Patent Act and the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms established by the same Constitution. We used to have freedom of speech before software patents came around, and I don't think lawyers should try to change established practice in the area of civil rights. So long, and thanks for all the fish!

    It may take a long time before we get there, and it may cost a lot of money to our opponents, but it's always easier to show by example than to explain by handwaving.

  • Re:glad to see (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Monday December 13, 2004 @04:00PM (#11075043) Homepage
    that's not a crazy idea

    Oh yes it is.

    For starters the idea of a natural copyright is in direct and total opposition to the somewhat better idea of a natural right to free speech. And it gets worse from there, particularly in that all the moral rights countries are hypocritical and allow the rights they're talking about to lapse, etc.

    I would love to see the idea of natural copyrights totally die out. I would immediately do the jig of happiness.

    without turning a copy over to the National Archives

    Library of Congress. And also for a time, the Smithsonian.

    The National Archives fall under NARA, and that's a seperate entity.

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