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Dutch Say No to Software Patent Directive 363

Rik writes "Thursday night the Dutch parliament has decided that the Dutch government should not vote for the EU Software Patent Directive at the European Council of Ministers next week. The decision of the Dutch parliament strengthens attempts of MEPs of the European Parliament to send the Software Directive back to the drawing board."
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Dutch Say No to Software Patent Directive

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  • I hate EU (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:00AM (#11639742)
    As an American patriot I hate EU because it makes me hate my own corrupted government who only wants to do what's best for corporations, don't giving a damn about small business or open source. Damn you Europeans! You make me sick! Sick of jealousy!
    • Re:I hate EU (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:19AM (#11639808)
      On the flip side, the EU is a horrible, huge, barely functional, partly non-democratic beurocratic nightmare which makes the US government look like a small anarchist collective. If the Repulicans amongst you think the US government is too big; 'hoo boy, you ain't seen the EU.

      Personally I think it's about time we killed off the European Commision & European Parlimant entirely and moved to a US style two house system with directly elected officials. The rotating presidency should stay, though. That's actually one thing that works pretty well.
      • Re:I hate EU (Score:3, Informative)

        If the Repulicans amongst you think the US government is too big; 'hoo boy, you ain't seen the EU.

        The EU directly employs about 30,000 people. The U.S. Federal Government directly employs about 1,900,000 people. Work it out.

      • Re:I hate EU (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @06:53AM (#11640135)

        and moved to a US style two house system

        How does a *two-system* allow diversity and a whole array of views and oppinions?

        I always have found it odd how the US has just the dominating "Rebuplicans", and "Democrats". We have +7 Parties, with all some simular and more diverse agenda's. It'd be a nightmare to just be in the mercy of *two* parties....

        • Re:I hate EU (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Gadzinka ( 256729 ) <> on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:27AM (#11640228) Journal
          He wrote "two house" not "two party". As in "Congress and Senate", not as in "Republicans and Democrats".

          In Poland we have multiparty, two house system, same in UK and I'm sure other countries.

      • Actually, the EU employs fewer bureaucrats than an average UK Local Authority.
      • Re:I hate EU (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gadzinka ( 256729 )
        I was just thinking along these lines after moving from /. to cooking for tomorrow party ;)

        Basically problems with swpat arise from lack of accountability of some high-ranking EU bodies. They are not accountable because they answer to no constituency.

        I remember some eurosceptics and xenophobes before Access Referendum scaring people with United States of Europe, European Superstate (as opposed to superstate structure of independant states), but I think I'd prefer federal structure with directly elected an
      • Re:I hate EU (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KontinMonet ( 737319 )
        The EU is not a state or a federation. What we need to do is strengthen the parliament considerably so that the democratic voice is heard more clearly.
  • by smooc ( 59753 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:01AM (#11639748) Homepage
    here []

    Besides that, I wonder this means they (=Brinkhorst) is actually going to vote or will abstain which would basically mean yes.
    • by SYRanger ( 590202 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:12AM (#11639781)
      From the article:

      This means that the Dutch government is instructed to *vote against* the Software Patent Directive if it is put on the agenda at a meeting of the European Council of Ministers next week

      It seems like they will actively vote against. SYRanger
      • But in previous discussions Brinkhorst has stated he will not vote against even if instructed so, because he considers loss of face more important than this case.
        (he has voted in favour before, then claiming it did not matter because it was not the final decision but only a decision to go ahead)
    • But again - like the last vote - the parliament stops short of ordering the cabinet; it merely request nicely that should things be brough up for the agenda it should abstain from supporting the item. Althouhg this time the parliament is equesting such - last time round, a few months ago, it merely asked. So some improvement :-)

      But this is still a far cry from a parliament which tells it minister to vote no (and promises to kick the cabinet out if they does otherwise). And given the past (and the voting l
  • Woohoo :-))

    Eventually even the EU will have to pay lip service to what the people want, It may be the most undemocratic system of government I've ever come across, but it at least has to maintain the ideal of being the voice of the people...

    • Actually the system of the gouvernment is only of secondary importance. What's by far more important is the people who run it. And although it is never easy to find people to run a gouvernment who are able to do it and are willing to do it for the people, finding those people in the US is virtually impossible with their political culture.
  • by Halo1 ( 136547 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:07AM (#11639766)
  • I am glad that the patents are being moved away.

    But my doubt is: what would happen IF Polish minister Marcinski had not vetoed the patent bill in December? Was it really so close? I mean - was the majority in the EU parlament for the software patents or against them in December 2004? Why only one veto?

    best regards - michal
    • No, the majority in the EU Parliament were, and are, *against* software patents - largely because their constituants made such a fuss about them - however, the EU Council of Ministers (Currently lead by the Dutch) decided that they were being paid too much money by business interests to allow such a democratic decision to stand, so they've been trying for the last 6 months to force the legislation through regardless.

      It's been widely seen as one of the least democratic actions ever taken by the council of m
  • by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <> on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:10AM (#11639774) Homepage

    71 voted in favour, 69 against. Note that the Dutch parliament has 150 seats, so an extremely close call - could have gone the other way if some more people bothered to vote, it seems.

    Voting was along party lines, but the Dutch parliament is like a zoo: in favour were PvdA (labour, largest leftish-center party), SP (socialist, populist, at heart even maoist...), GroenLinks (merger of communist, pacifist, green parties), D'66 (center party, slightly leftish, pro-education, pro-democratic reform), ChristenUnie (leftish christian party). Against were CDA (traditional biggest party, center, christian), VVD (what we call "liberal", i.e. pro-free market, pro-business, traditional values, typical rightish), SGP (right wing hardline christians).

    Currently government is formed by CDA, VVD and D'66, who together have a slim majority. So this win is because D'66 defected, and SGP is slightly smaller. D'66 is much the smallest party in government, and this is certainly not what government wanted (remember they pushed hard to pass the directive in the last few meetings of the Dutch EU presidency end of last year). The minister pushing then was Brinkhorst (D'66!).

    Anyway, this is the first time I see D'66 do something that makes me actually happy with the vote I gave them :-)

    • Please don't insult zoos this way. A zoo - unlike the Dutch parliament - contains animals with a free will.
    • Hey, suddenly I notice - it seems the entire LPF abstained then? The LPF ("List Pim Fortuyn") is the incompetent remains of the party murdered politician Pim Fortuyn was building. He was killed before the elections, and the people who are in government in his name since then are amateur chaotic right-wing morons who are only busy with internal fights, frauds, leadership changes etc. They do have 8 seats, and apparently they didn't vote.

  • Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Flyboy Connor ( 741764 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:10AM (#11639777)
    Finally, the Dutch play a more positive role in this debacle. However, there is still the problem that decisions of the Dutch Parliament may be ignored by its governmental representatives in the EU (it happened before with the software patenting mess). Unfortunately, software patent news is small potatoes, so they won't lose a significant amount of votes by going against the wishes of the Parliament. And on the other side of the fence there are their buddies of Philips, who really would like to have software patents in Europe. And, they reason, what is good for Philips, is good for the Dutch economy. Personally, I think software patents are also bad for Philips, but IANAL.
    • Software patent news is not that small, at least to the ministers of Trade, Science etc. Last year after just one piece of news, Lord Sainsbury (the relevant minister in the UK) received over 40,000 letters. Keep writing!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "In contrast, in this case, the "political agreement" does not really exist. It is pure fiction. Once you call a vote, multiple Member States needed for a majority would vote against.

    Therefore, in this case the whole point of avoiding the vote is not the legitimate reason of saving time, but the deeply disturbing wish to fabricate a majority where there is none."

    Nail on head.
  • by Hamster Lover ( 558288 ) * on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:11AM (#11639779) Journal
    the convoluted European political system? Dutch Parliament, European Parliament, Council of Ministers, my head is spinning. It all sounds like some retro Soviet political wet dream.

    Anyway, the Dutch Parliament, which I assume speaks for the Dutch people, decided against software patents. OK, so why should they end up with software patents after all is said and done if the Dutch Parliament voted against them? Do the individual governments of the member states not retain their sovereignty in the EU? I realize that for the EU to function as, well, the European Union, it has to have some political will. How far does this politcal will extend?

    Just asking.
    • by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <> on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:31AM (#11639850) Homepage

      Each country in the EU is sovereigen and has their own government, which is controlled by their own parliament.

      The governments work together in the the Council of Ministers of the EU. Here political deals are made - governments that are against patents may agree if they can get some extra agriculture subsidies in return, whatever. They can claim at home that they were against but the pressure of other countries was too high.

      In theory the EU parliament controls that process, but their powers are far too weak. Perhaps the proposed "EU Constitution" will meredy this, I don't know. Governments say that giving the EU parliament more power is giving up national sovereignity (i.e., the power countries have to make shady deals).

      Voting in the Council must be unanymous. A directive that is finally accepted must be implemented by all the member countries.

  • Donate today! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zeroth_darkos ( 311840 ) * on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:13AM (#11639790)
    I'll say it again.
    Don't want to see software patents in EU? Want to do something about it?
    Donate money to FFII today: []
  • It's a nice thing that they decided that the voting should be made against the EU software patent directive -- but in the end, this might mean nothing at all. How about deciding that they must vote against it?

    In Germany there's also broad consensus about voting should be made against that directive, however, certain people in power vote for what they've been paid for instead of what they should vote for.

    Or look at Poland: first voted for it, then decided to be against it, and now in a status of "oh, in

    • by Halo1 ( 136547 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:23AM (#11639822)

      How about deciding that they must vote against it?

      They can't, the Dutch government isn't bound by motions from the Dutch parliament.
      • What is the point of parliamentary democracy then?
        • Well, the parliament can send the whole government home if they really think it's completely ignoring it's will. Additionally, the vote of the parliament is binding when they have to vote about a law, it's just not binding when they file a motion.
        • They must vote to accept all new laws, they have the power to change laws before accepting them, they can enter original laws and accept them, they vote on accepting the budget, they can send ministers home, etc.

          But the thing that is called a "motie" is not binding to government. In this case they have said they will carry it out though.

          • I don't really know how hot this issue is in Holand but let's asume it is. Very hot. We have a situation where parliament suggests a motion, govt declares support but due to possible 'games' on the EU level, they are forced to ignore the motion.

            Can this be heavy enough reason for parliament to oust the cabinet and is there a mechanism in Holand constitution to vote governmet out just on motion grounds?

            • No, not at all. Parliament consists of 150 members, of which maybe 15 participated in the debate on the motion of yesterday. On the broader political scale software patents are only a small point. Nothing worth sending the government home for.

              The specific reason for this motion was to prevent a clash between the European Counsil (pro patents) and the European Parliament (against patents). When patents are A-listed and accepted, this clash will surely happen. They will be rejected by the EP, so we won't en

            • Unfortunately it isn't hot, and secondly since the main minister pushing it is D'66 and the other two coalition parties didn't support this motion, there's basically no way that that's going to happen - it'd never get a majority.

              It would be extremely unusual though. The thing is that it's currently an "A item" on the agenda - meaning "everybody agrees, no vote needed". Government has explicitly said that they will have it removed from the agenda. To turn around and say five days later that there was no vot

  • State secretary Karien van Gennip (Economic Affairs) urged not to accept the motion against software patents by using the following argument: Luxemburgh, EU chair, responsible for putting software patents on the agenda, should not be discredited or restrained. That's one hell of an argument! Oooo! Let's not upset the Luxemburgians!
    • Oooo! Let's not upset the Luxemburgians!

      If that's their argument, don't bother - we the luxembourgish people (ok, the IT knowledgeable ones anyway) will gladly accept that "upsetting" of our government, if it rids us of software patents.

      The different lux. parties are all +- against software patents anyway, at least representatives in the parliament are. The government unfortunately always has had a rather ambiguous position.

  • by neanderlander ( 637187 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:28AM (#11639839)
    The result of the decision by the dutch goverment is that the Central European Commission cannot continue with it's intention to put the proposal on the agenda for approval. Instead the European parlement has the initiative again: they can rethink the whole plan. The major problem with the current proposal is that it allows for strong ownership/copyright of software-solutions, making it difficult for other parties to expand and further improve on current software, since lot of features may be protected. While i generally support protection of idea's and developments, i consider the software world still a developing one. Strong protection of idea's might easily lead to a halt in new software developments, a concentration of innovative power in that hands of those who already have the power to begin with. Software isn't just good enough right now and the 'powers that are' haven't proven they can innovate the way that is beneficial to us users. And stricter laws won't change that as well. Patenting is intended to reward those that invest in developing new idea's. I think there are still many many commonly shared idea's on how to improve software. For the moment, to develop those idea's, all that is needed is time, time to develop. So companies have a way of protecting their investment: they invest the time, and get a lead on their rivals that didnt invest the time in that particular advancement. When the time comes when significant advancements in software are the result of intense high cost investments and true developement of new idea's and insights, then more strict protecting laws should be applied.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:31AM (#11639851)

    1. Do you have to worry about breaking the law by writing your own software? No.
    2. Do you have to worry about breaking the law by smoking a joint? No.
    3. Do you have to worry about breaking the law by sleeping with a girl below 18? No.


    1. Move to Netherlands.
    2. Have a peace of mind.
    3. Profit.
  • by OwlWhacker ( 758974 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:32AM (#11639852) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps it was incidents like this [] that persuaded the Dutch parliament to make this decision.

  • We might actually win without even have to go to the EU parliament again.

    That's about the 4th or 5th country where the national parliament instructed their government not to vote for the directive.

    But then again, some caution should remain: the dutch parliament has asked the minister before to change votes, but he merrily ignored that. It is surprising, often, how many time (and how much) so-called democratic governments completely disregard the democratic principle they have sworn to uphold.

    If it DOES g
  • by thodu ( 530182 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @05:59AM (#11639967)
    Here is an idea for patent reform. The person/organization that applies for a patent has to also submit evidence of the amount of resources (time and money) spent on the invention. In return, patent law, will grant them patent protection for upto 20 times the investment. Either they earn 20 times the money spent or they have protection of 20 times the number of hours spent . The number "20" is just something off the top of my head for now. Thus Jeff Bezos, after proving that it really took him all of 1 week only focussing on coming up with the 1-click process will have patent protection for 20 weeks, while a big drug company spending $1 billion on a new drug will have patent protection till it earns $20 billion on the same. If the drug company spent 4 years on developing the drug, they may also get protection for 80 years in case the $20 billion in royalties is not reached before that. In a fast changing world, 20 years of blanket patent protection for every small idea is simply too much.
    • by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @06:49AM (#11640125) Journal
      There's a small problem with that. What about the "Blinding Flash of Obvious Truth"?
      Take post-it notes.
      The guy was working on a new type of super-glue. Only his invention appeared to be a total failure. The glue was barely capable to hold a piece of paper. But he had enough brains to apply it to a piece of paper and sell that.
      Investment in the new type of glue: maybe $50.
      Time: one evening.
      Profit: "3M is an $18 billion diversified technology company with leading positions in consumer and office"

      The new system would protect the invention for 3 weeks, or until it gives $2000 (whichever comes first).

      Some patents are too dumb nowadays. But sometimes really simple inventions are worth billions.
      • by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <> on Friday February 11, 2005 @09:28AM (#11640646) Homepage

        The new system would protect the invention for 3 weeks, or until it gives $2000 (whichever comes first).

        And why exactly is that a problem? Why does such an idea deserve $18 billion?

  • Finally something good coming out of the country that brought us the Europatent initiator himself (Bolkestein).

    (Yes, I'm Dutch as well, but I hardly ever leave my country.)
  • by Gadzinka ( 256729 ) <> on Friday February 11, 2005 @06:37AM (#11640100) Journal

    The article is misleading, the Dutch won't be voting against the patent directive, because there will be no voting.

    Basically, the whole patent directive is one big swindle:

    • Council erased all ammendments made by the only democraticly elected EU body -- the European Parliament -- and passed the directive as "compromise proposition" which in reality is even harsher than original proposition: it allows patenting of data structures (say "hello" to patents for file formats, internet protocols etc)
    • Countries were counted as voting "for" where in reality they abstained (e.g. Poland)
    • Ministers lied to their Parliaments about what the shape of the directive really is and what does it do (e.g. Dutch).
    • After some countries voiced their protest to the procedure and their parliaments obligated their governments to vote against the final text of the directive, and the voting weights changed from Nicean to new system, presidency (first Dutch, against its own parliament, then Luxemburgish) decided to pass it to Agricultural Commission (obviously the relevant for Patents on Computer Implemented Inventions) without a vote, as an A-item. The A-item is for matters without any controversy, which all countries agree upon. It is the case for a directive for which several countries wrote papers in opposition longer than the directive itself, isn't it? And when Poland stroke this directive from the order of council twice it is still going to be reinstated as an "uncontroviersial" A-item again...

    The only thing that Dutch government can do is to strike this A-item again from the order of council. What's gonna happen when Council decides to ignore JURI recomendation for returning this directive to first reading? Honestly, I don't know...


    • What's gonna happen when Council decides to ignore JURI recomendation for returning this directive to first reading? Honestly, I don't know...

      I parted /. to do some cooking for tomorrow party and some serious thinking about politics of EU, and I think I've got an answer to this question. (I think) PJ on Groklaw said, that EU came out stronger from every previous clash with other (non-democratic) European institutions.

      Anyone reading transcript from JURI meeting regarding returning swpat to first reading h
  • MEPs on the warpath (Score:3, Informative)

    by Submarine ( 12319 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:42AM (#11641969) Homepage
    Some MEPs are really angry about the Commission's actions. MEP Michel Rocard (France/"Socialists") pronounced a speech [] before the JURI (juridical affairs) committee of the European Parliament, in which he accuses the commissionner who pushed the project of sneaky actions. I think that Rocard and others are decided to shoot down the proposal by whatever means.

You are always doing something marginal when the boss drops by your desk.