Eric Flynn’s first column on copyright got me thinking. It’s a really good piece on copyright, but especially one thing jumped out and stuck in my mind:
Copyright is a privilege, not a right.
I believe basically a similar line of reasoning can be applied to patents.
Monopolies are evil.
Patents are government-sanctioned monopolies.
Hence, patents are evil.
However, the patent system is the best way we have to address an even bigger evil:
It’s so expensive to capitalise on an invention that only big companies can do it.
So to prevent this bigger evil we adopt a slightly lesser evil—the patent system. This doesn’t change the nature of it though, it’s still evil! Especially it means that expanding the area of what can be patented should be done with utmost care, because frivolous expansion brings a significant risk of harming society. In particular the burden of proof should be on the side that is seeking the expansion, not on the side arguing for the status quo.
The United Nations has recommended its members use open source software, particularly in areas related to health, education and international commerce, UN inspector Dominique Ouredrago said during a speech at the II international open source conference in Spain.
Now this is good, right?
Well, I’m not sure it’s good enough. I’m not convinced the difference between open source and free software is understood within the UN. What they should recommend is use of free software.
Second, until there is unambiguous patenting laws prohibiting patents on software in the major markets in the world there is a threat looming over open source and free software. Will the UN address this issue as well?
I am sure everyone has heard by now that the European politicians digged deep
and managed to find some intelligence and common sense–the directive on
“harmonisation of the patent rules”, which would allow software patents, was
voted down. Legally we seem to be back where we began. FFII has managed to
reach farther than what was thought possible and a lot of knowldege has been
gained. FFII is now very well equipped to meet the next attempt by the
patent cartel to introduce software patents.
A few days ago I didn’t hold much hope about the outcome of today’s vote and I
wrote the following:
I’d like to express my thanks to the European politicians who have decided
to finally introduce software patents in the EU. This means that European
software developers have finally become men. No longer are we nerds and
geeks sitting inside, slowly turning more and more gray in front of our
screens. Thanks to the MEPs we have now become men. We are no longer second
rate compared to our American cousins, but we have taken our rightful place
next to them as real, manly software programmers. Manly? Yes of course!
Thanks to our enlightened politicians software development has now become an
extreme sport. It can be found right up there with sky diving and rock
climbing in the list of dangerous passtimes. As a matter of fact software
programming offers dangers on several levels, raising the bar for all
extreme activities! For the first time there is a hobby that offers all of
the following dangers:
- losing your livelyhood simply by realising one’s ideas and distributing
- several years of being dragged to court
- navigating a minefield of obvious ideas and solutions forcing the use of
complex and error-prone algorithms
I’m sure all rock climbers are envious and are considering taking up
programming by now.
Thank you European politicians!
Luckily the world turned out to be a better place than I tought it was.
I’ve just uploaded my picture to softwarepatentdemo.org to protest against the insanity of software patents.