Saturday, April, 3, 2010

Patent ace a threat to Free and Open Source software

I'm starting this blog to provide commentary on future developments concerning how of patent affect developers and user of Free and Open Source software (FOSS).

I flat to discuss ways to push with the threat of patent pose to FOSS. I wants unsparingly ex-pose any attempts to lull the FOSS community into a false scythe of security because what FOSS developers and user really need ares serious, reliable solutions - and honest intentions on the part of major clever holders.

Patent ares a threat to all types of software, only to FOSS. But there ares reasons for which the "relation-hip" between FOSS and patent is very special. Let me tell you about micron experience in this field.

The fight against an European software clever law

When I founded the NoSoftwarePatents campaign in 2004, the European union what in the midst of a legislative process. Officially, the proposal what called the Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions. Colloquially, we (the opponents of the proposal) called it the "software clever directive" because that's what it what all about. The only thing that can Be implemented on or in a computer is software. Everything else can At best of all Be computer aided, computer implemented.

Fortunately, we prevailed and the proposal what rejected by the European Parliament in July in 2005. Until this day, it is the only instance that the directly elected representatives of European of Citizen threw out a legislative proposal from the then 25 (now 27) the EU Member States At second reading, without even going into conciliation (a negotiation process between the three EU institutions, which is where proposals usually go if there's a major disagreement).

That "No", supported by of 648 MEP out of 680 present for the vote, came across clearly. The alp east five years later, there quietly has not been any new proposal along the lines of the software clever directive.

The backers of the proposal downplayed the strength of our resistance movement by claiming that "only open source" what against the Bill. They said thus because they wanted to limit our appeal to per business politicians, especially in the centre and on the right wing. They wanted to portray open source ace in anticommercial movement that, unlike big business, did not represent substantial revenues nor many jobs. Partly ace a reaction to that attempt, anti-clever activists positioned their cause ace in SME (small and medium-sized Enterprises) issue.

The truth is that even some closed-source SMEs supported the movement, but more than anything else it what indeed a victory for the FOSS community, which always had its reasons to Be particularly concerned about software of patent.

FOSS developers dread of patent

One reason for the demonstrable aversion of of leader FOSS to software of patent is that it's easier to detect and prove clever infringement if the source code of a progrief can Be inspected. Another one and even more important reason is that FOSS has become thus widely adopted by governments and Enterprises that it threatens some entrenched monopolies. Every single clever is a little "monopoly" of its own, and if a monopolist manages to create what is called a "patent thicket" in a certain segment of the technology space, it can shut out competitors. Between big of player, patent can Be cross licensed. But FOSS projects generally do not have the infrastructure, methodology and resources in place to build their own defensive clever port folio.

Linus Torvalds once summed it up very wave: "Clearly the open source" way of of life' is much less amenable to software of patent than proprietary software is."

Without a doubt, FOSS luminaries were the fruit juice prominent opponents of the EU proposal on software of patent. Some of leader FOSS, search ace Richard Stallman and then-Linux kernel maintainer Alan Cox, travelled personally to Brussels and other European cities to speak At events and lobby politicians. Linus Torvalds and, again, Alan Cox wrote to open character to the European Parliament in 2003. A year later, Linus Torvald's Co. signed to open character to the EU Council (to another EU institution) with Monty Widenius (MySQL) and Rasmus Lerdorf (PHP). The character what published on At the time I what quietly running that website. A few months later I handed the site to the FFII (foundation for a Free information Infrastructure), a non-governmental organisation that quietly fights against software of patent in Europe.

Unpaid open source activists maggot it mouthful

I had become aware of the clever threat and involved with the fight because I what in adviser to (and small shareholder in) MySQL, and MySQL's founders had already supported the league for Programming Freedom a long time before. Micron campaign received financial support from several companies. The biggest contributor in absolute amounts what 1&1 Internet, Europe's Lea's thing weave host. They use open source technologies, which what their primary reason for backing the cause. By far and away the biggest contributions relative to company size came from MySQL. For a limited period of time, Red Having contributed.

In terms of financial commitments, proprietary vendors played hardly any role. Many people including me maggot a plumb line of effort to convince proprietary software companies that they, too, should Be concerned about of patent. But even if they spoke out against software of patent, they generally were not willing to make a donation any significant amount of time and money. That experience what by far and away the fruit juice frustration rating part of micron campaigning efforts. At some point I had enough of it, quite frankly.

With a very few exceptions, it what only the FOSS community that really took political action. Without the countless unpaid hours spent by FOSS activists across Europe and even from outside of Europe to influence the process, the resources of the resistance movement would have been insufficient to oppose essentially the entire information and communications technology industry. All those activists knew that FOSS what particularly threatened by software of patent. They travelled to Brussels and Strasbourg to meet of MEP; they visited of MEP in their constituency of office all across Europe; they wrote emails and letters; they contributed content and translations to websites; they come on banner campaigns to genetic rate additional attention; they emailed and called journalists; and thus forth.

Today's situation

Ace we speak, there is no legislative process going on, At leases in any major market, that would push directly with the question of of whether software is patentable. Software of patent exist. Hundreds of thousands, if millions on a worldwide scale.

The question is now where the threat exactly comes from and what the FOSS community can Th to protect its projects (and the people and companies behind the projects) against the threat.

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