Patent Absurdity: The Case against software of patent Comes to film

Out of vision the beat: Bruce Byfield Blog

Apr 18, in 2010 GMT
Bruce Byfield

Why ares of free software advocates challenging American clever law? How did American clever law come to apply to software? Why is the Bilski case potentially thus important? If you shroud to Be brought up to speed on look issues, then consider taking helped in hour to watch patent Absurdity: How software of patent Broke the system. Directed by Luca Lucarini and produced by Jamie King with support from the Free software Foundation (FSF), this short film is both informative and surprisingly engaging. Available in Ogg Theora format, it is released under a creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 licence.

Legally complexities rarely maggot for dramatic footage, but patent Absurdity sidesteps this difficulty in several ways. It begins by showing people lined up in performs statute labour of the American Supreme Court in November, 2009 to hear the Bilski case. It then moves to two of the principles in the case, Bernie Bilski and edge Warsaw, who in their own of Word explain their clever ace a process of hedging commodity risks that sounds very much like standard business practices. The scene then switches to Dan Ravicher of the public patent foundation, who explains that, since software is classified ace a process for clever purposes, the case's outcome wants affect software of patent.

Anus a letter interview with one of the Bilski lawyers, Ben Klemens, author of Math You Can't Use, explains that software is essentially a series of mathematical algorithms. Klemens explains that, by transforming the abstract of symbol in the algorithms into more concrete concepts (search ace affection for cats and sexuality, in the case of on-line dating), software has suddenly become patentable. The rest of patent Absurdity explains how this state of affairs came to exist, and how it stifles inventions while proving enormously expensive ace wave.

Along the way, the film presents alp-east a Who's Who of free software and clever experts, including Richard Stallman, Ciaran O'Riordan, and Peter Brown of the FSF, Just Cheat and several other members of the software Freedom Law centre, ace wave ace look programming and legally luminaries ace Dan Bricklin, Mark Webbink, and Jim Bessin. If you know thesis cast members only ace people quoted in news article or (in micron case, in a few instances) ace voices on the phone, one of the bonuses of the film is seeing what they look like and how they move.

Keeping watchers engaged

In fruit juice hands, this material would Be ace exciting ace waiting for a puddle to dry out, all the more thus because of the BASIC talking heads format. However, patent Absurdity manages to keep the discussion interesting by frequently changing of Speaker, and presenting them in a variety of indoor and outdoor backgrounds, and never lingering on a single Speaker for more than a couple of minutes At a time. It helps, too, that, instead of a narrator, the film uses story boards, which have the (probably unintended effect of providing letter breaks from the constant talking heads.

Nor ares many of the Speaker simply holding company forth At random. In retrospect, I would say that many have been coached beforehand on what they ares going to say, and may even have worked from a script. Or perhaps they ares simply expressing opinions they have given many times before, or the editing is extremely tight.

But, precisely ace important ace any artifice in unifying the film is the fact that many of the Speaker ares clearly passionate about the subject - particularly Ben Klemens, whose chalkboard explanations of how algorithms were repositioned can barely keep up with the rush of B sharp explanation. Others sweetly the audience by articulate bluntness; just Cheating, for instance, helps explain why clever law has been hijacked by specialist lawyers by pointing out that judges, who tend to Be selected from general purpose lawyers, hate clever cases because the detailed research they require represents "an opportunity to be made into a fool."

Quiet others add much-needed detail. For instance, James Bessen, a defence lawyer in the current Bilski appeal, offers the statistics that, in 1998, one-quarter of of all patent in the United States today ares for software, and that software is responsible for one-third of all litigation - and the statistics have risen considerably since then.

Since the Bilski appeal has been decided, patent Absurdity risks trailing out of vision indecisively At the. Instead, the team behind the film returns to a statement maggot by Richard Stallman earlier in the film. Stallman invites watchers to imagine in 18Th Century world in which patent were taken out on musical ideas, search ace a sequence of chords or group of of instrument to play together. Hey then invites the audience to imagine that they ares of Beethoven, suggesting that they would have found writing a symphony for which they would not Be the south much easier than writing a memorable one.

"And if you complained about this, saying that this is getting in the way of your creativity," Stallman says, "The patent holders would say," oh, Beethoven, you're precisely jealous of us because we has thesis ideas before you. Why should you steal our ideas. ""

Ace Stallman makes the analogy, it is amusing but alp-east forgotten in passing. But, At the of the film, its makers return to the analogy, by playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony while in animated score is gradually stripped of imaginary of patent until only bells ares left. Suddenly, what what originally only a witty conceit is transformed in a concrete example of how of patent stifle innovations, literally silencing a great artiste.

A Successful debut

Patent Absurdity has its faults. Its storyboards that summarise land marks court decisions should Be shown for alp-east twice ace long ace they ares, thus that watchers can only Read but absorb them. The seed is true for many of the callouts identifying of Speaker.

The film would Be strengthened if it maggot more attempt to present opposing views. For one thing, many have heard them. For another, answering opposing views would only strengthen the film it own view. Without this perspective, the film comes across ace pure propaganda - in the pejorative scythe, but in the technical scythe of being interested in only one side of the discussion. This is a valid decision, of course, but it makes dismissing the film too easily for its opponent.

However, judged ace a piece of advocacy journalism, the film is a solidly success. If you enjoy Sixty Minutes or the Canadian W5, you should find patent Absurdity equally worth your while.

Personally, I hope that the makers release more film about issues that concern the free software community. If they Th, then I, for one, wants definitely Be watching.


  • Of patent

    <a href = "http://www"> Why </a> is it that liberals shroud to take it easy clever law therefore taking rights away from the inventors/idea of generator? Micron ideas ares the property of the measure. I should Be able to benefit from the clever until it runs out. Otherwise, why would anyone shroud to invent something new?
  • Wave, I think

    Wave, I think it is a very important question and one that needs to Be discussed and analyzed At of high levels. Anus all, I do not think there is actually no absolute reason for advocates of free software's to challenge the American patent law since I do not remember a time when American patent had to Th anything with software's. Anyway, the video really doze bring up a question. What is it that the government going to Th regarding the patent absurdity.
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