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EU Software Patent Directive Getting Hot 232

zoobab writes "Next wednesday, on the 6th July, the European Parliament will have the last chance to prevent US-style software patents in the EU. If the Parliament fails to reach 367 votes for the key amendments, then the Council directive will legalize business methods and software patents. Yesterday, many political groups have tabled amendments to patch the Council text. A demonstration online is running with currently 2400 websites shutting down until the vote. A physical demonstration is also planned in Strasbourg on next tuesday the 5th of July."
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EU Software Patent Directive Getting Hot

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  • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <ed@membled.com> on Saturday July 02, 2005 @10:54AM (#12969035) Homepage
    A list of all MEPs [ffii.org] with their phone numbers at Brussels and Strasbourg.
    • Or you can use www.writetothem.com [writetothem.com] which will tell you who your MP/MEP/MSPs are and let you email them.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      What good is it when despite a clamouring in opposition by *citizens* a law which only *corporations* are in favour of is passed?

      By all means, lobby your MEPs, but remember, this whole thing is democracy sliding down the toilet.

      I don't see any citizens groups calling for software patents. There are only business groups. That law is being made for business groups and not for citizens so overtly is a dark, dark day.

      This whole thing is smiley glad-hand eurocrats who believe they have been "born to rule" lor
      • The reason corporations control our politicians is partially due to exactly the cynicism and apathy you are trying to spread. Democracy isn't a birthright, you need to fight for it or you will lose it.

        So, what are you doing to defend your democracy?

      • I smell a lot of bullshit in your post. First of all, you claim that We don't need the EU to have affinity and treaties and co-defence and economic agreements. We don't need the EU to feel close to each other. These things exist outside of some pile of red tape, eurocrat wet-dream 400+ page consitution.. So, as I understand it, you claim that such things like common defence exist outside the EU. Pray tell me where they are to find, because the last time I checked, each European country had a separate army.
        • The French said they voted "no" to protect their social model. Well guess what, not everyone in the EU is so enchanted with their way of life. If we ever are to have a common Europe, we must make some compromises. The French people declared they do not want to make compromises. So much about their will of integration.

          Right. The French decided that working like dogs for a fraction of their pay (see: Poland), having elderly people siff through garbage for food after their pensions are deflated to the point o

          • From your sudden attack on Poland I gather you are a Pole ;-)

            Right. The French decided that working like dogs for a fraction of their pay (see: Poland),
            ... and for a fraction of the living costs, to add.

            having elderly people siff through garbage for food after their pensions are deflated to the point of the absurd (see: Poland)
            While noone could deny that poverty is not a problem in Poland, it's not like there are no homeless people in France. And in Poland, old people at least do not die like flies
          • Call me when you're back from the outer space. I just want to know if you get better.

            In case some of you don't know... this guy talk about "every right-wing idea already implemented" in a country that has 50% income taxes for the richest people and a government that keeps its hands on every aspect of ppls lives. Not that I'm overly liberal when it comes to economy (in fact, I'm less and less liberal as the time passes), but I think that what a parent says is a pure nonsense.
    • More advice (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sanity ( 1431 ) * on Saturday July 02, 2005 @12:14PM (#12969380) Homepage Journal
      • At this stage sending an email is a complete waste of time, MEPs now routinely ignore emails about this Directive because they have been swamped. You need to phone them(or meet them, but it is probably too late for that now)
      • Most MEPs want to do the right thing, but many have been mislead by an aggressive pro-patent campaign that have variously claimed:
        • That companies will leave the EU if the EU doesn't introduce software patents (why? Your location makes no difference as to whether or not you can file for patents in other countries)
        • That the current text of the Directive won't introduce "pure" software patents, and so this is all a fuss about nothing (wrong, the European Patent Office has already granted [ffii.org] many software patents that are currently unenforceable, but would become enforceable if the Directive isn't amended)
        • That people who don't want software patents really don't want patents on any machine that might include a computer (wrong, the Rocard-Bozek amendments won't prevent patents on machines that contain computers)
      • If you can, try to research your MEPs position on the issue before phoning them
      • Don't rant and rave. Be polite, but clear that the council text will hurt you/your business unless the Rocard-Buzek re-tabled amendments are passed.
      • Stress that a no-vote or an abstention counts as a vote in favour of software patentability.
    • MEPs got so many mails, often very damaging. If you want to do something useful, join #bxl-ffii on irc.freenode.net or participate in the webdemo
    • I recently contacted 9 local MEPs. The general spread of replies was as follows.

      UKIP, Lib Dem AGAINST software patents
      Conservatives TENTATIVELY AGAINST
      Labour ALMOST CERTAINLY FOR

      So concentrate on those lying scum-sucking Labour MEPs in your local district.

      -Nano.
    • by D. J. Keenan ( 524557 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @02:49PM (#12970047) Homepage
      Some Slashdotter's might be thinking that they are not part of the political elite and that a phone call from themselves to an MEP won't do much good. Not so!

      MEPs respect programmers on this issue. If you are an experienced programmer, a polite phone call to your MEP, briefly stating your position and the reasons for it, will be respected and could make a real difference. (For possible reasons to discuss, see other comments to this story.)

      If you do call--and I hope you will--the main trick will be to explain things to someone who likely has little knowledge of computers. For example, one MEP told me that the proposed patent legislation is okay because it only pertains to "technical" software. So I then need to explain that all software can be considered technical, in some sense, and so this wouldn't be a restriction at all.

      Some corporate lobbyists will say almost anything. Many MEPs are genuinely not understanding the issues because of that.

  • Oh no! (Score:4, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @10:55AM (#12969042) Journal
    Highland Recycling's website is going on strike! If this doesn't get the EU's attention, I don't know what will.
    • Re:Oh no! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > Highland Recycling's website is going on strike!
      > If this doesn't get the EU's attention,
      > I don't know what will.

      Your welcome, I'm the webmaster. :)

      To answer your question, if taking down our website doesn't work, then our backup plan involves the fleet of manure haulage vehicles we have out back. And yes, that should get their attention.
      --
      Highland Recycling
      www.highland-recycling.co.uk
  • by Rod Beauvex ( 832040 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @11:08AM (#12969110)
    It will only be "final" if it goes through and software patents become legal.

    If software patents don't become legal, mark my words, it will just keep coming up until they do.
    • by Richie1984 ( 841487 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @11:12AM (#12969129)
      That's pretty obvious. There are so many large and powerful companies who want this pushed through that they will keep on and on and on at Europe to enforce software patents. That doesn't mean we should just sit back and let them. There are contact details already in this slashdot discussion, and there are protest sites [nosoftwarepatents.com] out there. We don't have to sit back and let it happen.

      Big business wants to force this through? They'll soon find they have a fight on their hands each and every single time they try it.
      • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @02:59PM (#12970102) Homepage
        If we manage to get it passed *with* the Parliment's amendments then to a large extent it will be over in our favor. If we get the directive passed explicitly settling the law that logic is not an invention and is not patentable it will be extremely hard for megacorp lobbyists to start a brand new directive to *reverse* settled law. Most of their momentum here is that they are claiming to "clarify and harmonize" the law, and that they supposedly only want to "keep established law" and supposedly *not* actually change anything. I'm sure they'll still want to change the law if we win, but it makes for very hard sell. It is currently easy for them to attack the anti-software-patent side as trying to remove patent protections on inventions. On the other hand asking to gain patent protection on non-inventions is a very weak position :)

        -
    • Thats the sad thing. What big business wants, big business gets, eventually. The only thing to stop it is if a massive amount of average people (voters) are upset. The average voter doesn't know what a software patent is, and probably has no clue what linux or open source is.

      In short, I rather doubt they can be stopped. Sooner or later they will likely go in, although I hope I'm wrong. On the other hand there will probably always be a few countries where such laws do not exist and those countries migh
  • by jasoncart ( 573937 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @11:13AM (#12969133) Homepage
    Slashdot is possibly the only place where a demonstration would have to be called a "physical demonstration". Its, like, outside and everything...
  • Hmm (Score:2, Informative)

    There's no way we can stop this utter madness then? You mean the best we can do is just limit the damage?

    Anyhow, there are software patents in America IIRC, and the end of the world hasn't happened there (Ignorance +5 probably :)), although it is definitely an software economy that favors big over small businesses.

    • The US is extremely hostile towards open-source as a result of software patents. That's why a lot of people refuse to develop here (not to mention there seem to be far more foreign developers working on things that are encumbered by patents in the US). So yes, it's bad.
  • Maybe I'm just stupid but how on earth does the system in the EU work? I mean, according to the way that things in the type of democracies that exist today don't laws have to be proposed and passed by aParliament (or whatever the equivalent is called) which is democratically elected by the citizens? How on earth can a law be passed without the consent of and in fact actively opposed by Parliament? Isn't that rather undemocratic?
    • Yep, it's pretty undemocratic, but of course, then EU never has been a democracy (even though there's even a demand that the member states have to be). It's basically nothing more then a union between the member states, dictated by the governments/majorities in each country.

      Basically all of the power that EU has is held by the european council, which just is the prime ministers of each country (or in specific questions the minister whose area it is, eg agriculture/work market/whatever ministers). They have

      • This a good summuray. But as you said, its a quite complicated system, as everything designed by commity. EU is the fruit of countless negociations and comprimise between countries with different cultures and political systems. The thing is very difficult to hold together and its getting even worse with the new members; hence the constitution proposal, although it doesn't seems to be going to be adopted anytime soon. So I believe things will get worse and worse.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 02, 2005 @11:40AM (#12969236)
      Indeed it is undemocratic and has its roots in the history of the EU. In order to avoid giving the EU the appearance of a federation, the the governments (i.e. the executive branch) of the memberstates have the most say in all matters.

      Short summary: There are 3 bodies in the EU lawmaking process: The Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
      The EP members are directly elected by the population of the EU.
      The Council of Ministers is just that: the ministers of the member states.
      The Commission gets proposed by the Council of Ministers and confirmed by the Parliament (note the EP only has a veto right here). It is the de-facto executive branch of the EU and the ONLY body that can start a legislative process.
      Depending on the kind of legislation, the EP has some say in the matter.
      The Council of Ministers ALWAYS has a say and usually has the stronger position too (compared to the EP).

      So, in short, the LEGISLATION of the EU is mostly done by the EXECUTIVE of the member states (division of power anyone?).

      This has, in literature about this topic, been shamefully called the ``democratic deficit'' of the EU.
      It's sickening.
      • The sad fact is that this same problem exists in the US in the form of appointed officials. Out here in Seattle, our director of elections is appointed by an elected county executive. During the recent Washington governor's race, several problems popped up with the way that votes were counted. Many on both sides of the fence felt disenfranchised in the process, and the entire thing led to a huge court fight. The problem here is that many people, Democrat and Republican alike, would like to see the syste
      • It also allows governments to get something unpopular passed by the Commission and Council of Ministers (which the national governments control), and then blame it on the EU at home. Very clever, really.
      • Der Spiegel called it a "minor democracy" True. In the Council of Ministers it is even worse as not the Ministers but the staff workers from the National departments of Justice decide there. The Minister just formally approves what the delegation does. In this case the minister's staff often acts against the will of National Parliament.
    • Why do you think we voted against the european so-called constitution? It made matters worse than they are if you can believe it.
    • Democracy doesn't always work that way. Sometimes, the people elect representatives, which then in turn elect other representatives. Some parts of the US work that way. Sometimes, representatives negotiate and make decisions on behalf the the people without parliamentary approval (but with a parliamentary mandate). Furthermore, democracies often guarantee that certain wishes of minorities are respected even if they conflict with the wishes of the majority.

      As for the EU, everybody participating in Bruss
      • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @04:10PM (#12970413) Homepage Journal
        The integrity of the democratic process is weakened by each level that a legislator or official is removed from the electorate.

        It makes it possible for people who would never be elected to office to nevertheless hold postions of power. The name Peter Mandleson springs to mind for some reason. This can happen since the politics often works on the basis of patronage, and leaders sometimes have to find jobs for unpopular supporters. If the unlected body becomes stuffed with such placemen, then any appointments they may make become further divorced from the will of the people.

        And any measures they enact will be likewise unrepresentative.

        Furthermore, since these appointees do not owe their jobs to the electorate, they may not feel especially motivated to implement the will of the electorate. In fact, answerable to no-one, they may just decide to line thier own pockets by whatever means necessary.

        If this euro-state we keep hearing about uis ever goign to happen we need the power in the hands of the MEPs. Not the Commission, not the council. Otherwise it becomes just another confidence trick to sidestep democracy for the benefit of a few vested interests.

        • The integrity of the democratic process is weakened by each level that a legislator or official is removed from the electorate.

          That's probably true. However, a weak democratic process that lacks integrity is still a democratic process, just not one that works particularly well. The EU may be working poorly, but it is a poorly working democracy.

          If this euro-state we keep hearing about uis ever goign to happen we need the power in the hands of the MEPs.

          Maybe, maybe not. Foisting direct elections on a
          • That's probably true. However, a weak democratic process that lacks integrity is still a democratic process, just not one that works particularly well. The EU may be working poorly, but it is a poorly working democracy.

            The only virtue of democracy is that it implements the will of the electorate. Democracy is not an end in and of itself. A poor, malfunctional democracy is no democracy at all.

            On the whole, I think Europe is doing pretty well.

            May I ask where you live? I hail from the UK and I very

            • The only virtue of democracy is that it implements the will of the electorate. Democracy is not an end in and of itself. A poor, malfunctional democracy is no democracy at all.

              You assume that there are democracies that work really well; there are not. Democracy is a messy business, fraught with compromises, corruption, inequalities, and problems. But, as Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."

              What is it you think the EU does so well
  • by NetSettler ( 460623 ) <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Saturday July 02, 2005 @11:28AM (#12969198) Homepage Journal

    When Slashdot publishes something and people get too much traffic (being "Slashdotted"), it makes an impression. I wonder if Slashdot might join this boycott whether that wouldn't make more difference than many of us put together. A kind of "anti-slashdotting" effect.

    Alternatively, perhaps someone should construct a trampoline thing like Salon [salon.com] has where in order to gain entrance to the site, you can watch an "ad" (something explaining the issue) to trampoline through. For big sites that were leary of losing cash flow by shutting down, it might still allow them to contribute to the effort.

  • what good is it... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by debiansid ( 881350 )
    What good is a patent law going to do for a country and, for that matter, the software industry? It is valid in only that country anyway. What is to stop people from using those patented algorithms/ideas in other countries like, say, India?

    Could someone please tell how a patent law will benefit a country? (not sarcasm, genuine question)
    • by OohAhh ( 745216 )
      What's to stop them using the "patented algorithms/ideas in other countries like, say, India". The patent lobby is trying to get software patenting everywhere. Europe and the USA may be two of the biggest markets, but don't assume they aren't trying for the rest of the world too.

      It won't benefit any country, just the mega corporations, patent parasites, and as always the lawyers.
  • Aw man..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ardor ( 673957 )
    Several large groups formerly pushing hard FOR swpats are now AGAINST them. Which is quite late.

    The majority in the EU parliament wants modifications to the directive, which would bind sw-pats to controlled effects on natural forces. This excludes things like "patent on data-streaming" pretty well. You keep mentioning large companies pushing for software patents: many of these companies are car manufacturers who want to patent their controller software for their cars. This IS reasonable, since it costs a h
    • who want to patent their controller software for their cars

      What is Volkswagen going to do? Stroll into Mercedes' manufacturing plant and say, "You have been manufacturing cars at such a rapid pace, that you must be using the same method as us!"

      This controller software is one thing that has no need to be patented, unless the company is also selling the software, and I doubt they are doing that.
    • Re:Aw man..... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by horza ( 87255 )
      Contrary to what many people say, it IS possible to patent software in the EU right now.

      It's possible to patent it with the EU patent office, but all the patents are illegal hence cannot be enforced.

      Just ask EADS, they patented mapping software, and already filed lawsuits about it.

      The only reference I can find in Google is this one [herdsoft.com], where the guy says the patent is invalid but didn't want to pay for a lawyer.

      The software exclusion clause in the current patent law is useless, because any skilled law
  • That we'd be better off in the US if we made it a class six felony to lobby on behalf of a company or labor union. Maybe the only way to rein in these kinds of assholes is to do what none of the Europeans and many Americans couldn't stomach: make the penalty for trying to genuinely corrupt the system the death penalty.

    I can't help but notice that both America and Europe have the same problems here. For America at least, I think we should eschew the flag burning amendment bullshit and try something new: ame
  • http://omnibus.uni-freiburg.de/~stierm/ [uni-freiburg.de]

    There is a script so you can do so, too.
  • I already have friends there, a pad to crash at, and would streak if I could get a plane ride!
  • by D. J. Keenan ( 524557 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @12:52PM (#12969543) Homepage
    Following is a copy of the letter that I sent to my MEP yesterday. I'm going to be doing some follow-up on Monday-Tuesday. If anyone has any recommendations for improving the the letter (especially if you see any technical/factual errors), please let me know.

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    Dear ______,

    In the first week of July, the European Union Parliament will vote on the patentability of computer software. The outcome of this vote has great implications for European freedoms as well as large implications for European businesses--implications that, moreover, have been sometimes overlooked. I ask you to consider the following.

    A patent grants the holder a monopoly on the use of an idea. (It is thus very different from a copyright, which covers the expression of an idea; copyrights for computer software are not in dispute.) Until now, the idea for a patent has had to be expressible in some physical form. With computer software, though, such physical expression is not possible.

    A computer is like a chef who does not know how to cook anything on his or her own, but who can follow a recipe perfectly. Software is a recipe. The software that you probably have on your computer does things like send e-mail, word processing (e.g. with Microsoft Word), and Internet browsing. The computer cannot do those things on its own, but it can follow recipes (i.e. software) that tell it how to do them. Software makes computers useful.

    A recipe obviously does not have a physical form in the way that, say, a machine invention has. Hence software has, so far, not been patentable. The purpose of the proposed legislation is to make software patentable. (The EU Parliament voted against a version of this legislation on 24 September 2003, by 364 to 153. The EU Commission, questionably, then made the legislation more extreme: it is this that Parliament is now to vote on.)

    The proposed legislation, as written, will allow the patenting of almost any ideas that can be used in software. As an analogy, if this approach were adopted for recipes, it would allow the patenting of things like "cut the food into small pieces and then boil" and "wrap the food in aluminium foil and bake at 200 C". No one could develop a new recipe that did either of those things without the permission of the patent holders. This is clearly absurd; yet that is just what is now being proposed for patents on computer software.

    There are a few very large companies, though, that would benefit from this. Large software companies, e.g. Microsoft, would hold many software patents. Those large companies would have cross-licensing agreements with each other, agreeing not to sue each other for patent infringement. Ultimately, only such companies could produce computer software. Small and medium-sized enterprises would be almost entirely shut out.

    The business implications of software patents are thus reasonably clear. The largest technology companies would be favoured, while all others would be severely harmed. And Linux, Firefox, etc.--i.e. most open-source software--would likely become extinct. The resultant reduction in competition in software would likely lead to higher prices and lower quality for software consumers--including other, non-technology, businesses.

    The enclosed article from yesterday's Financial Times makes a similar point: it concludes that software patents are "anti-innovative". The article's analysis is based on experience in the USA, where software patents have existed for several years. The analysis, though, overlooks a crucial factor. Some large companies in the USA have built up portfolios containing thousands of software patents, but they have not been enforcing those patents. Microsoft is one such company. Yet Microsoft has been lobbying extremely heavily for making software patentable in the EU. This makes no sense: why would Microsoft lobby heavily for software patents if it was not going to enforce its patents? I beli

    • Here is the reply that I received from the Liberal Democratic party (in the UK).

      _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

      Thank you for your letter concerning the proposed Directive on the patenting of computer-implemented inventions (CII).

      The Council of Ministers adopted its Common Position on 7 March 2005. This clarified the boundaries of what can and what cannot be patented when software is involved and does not extend current practice; nothing will become patentable that is not current

      • That letter is a lie (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sanity ( 1431 ) *
        This letter is a lie. The Lib Dem MEP on the Legal Affairs committee, Diane Wallis, voted against Rocard's amendments, in effect voting in favour of software patentability.

        The Lib Dems claim to be against software patents, but this has not been reflected in the actions of most Lib Dem MEPs, Diane Wallis and Sharon Bowles being the two worst offenders.

  • Software by its nature is not patentable.

    Any and all who claim otherwise and support such direction, are guilty of fraud against humans in general. There is no compromise!

    Either you are a criminal against man or you are not, there is no grey area between these, anymore than there is grey area between existance and nothing.

    Are those who hold software patents guilty of this fraud?

    If you don't know the answer to this, then you are being deceived, perhaps by yourself.

    There is nothing to be confused about,
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday July 02, 2005 @07:11PM (#12971159)
    A physical demonstration is also planned in Strasbourg on next tuesday the 5th of July.

    Hhhrm...

    This is your software market...
    (holds up egg)

    This is your software market on patents...
    SMASHES egg with 20Kg print-out of American software patent filings

    Any questions?

It was pity stayed his hand. "Pity I don't have any more bullets," thought Frito. -- _Bored_of_the_Rings_, a Harvard Lampoon parody of Tolkein

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