Paul Hammant's Blog: The sorry state of the anti-software-patents movement
I’m flipped my blog from one theme to another, while keeping it within GitHub Pages. On the way, I’ve been deleting and updating cruft. What to do about my historical links to http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com though?
Clicking through to www.nosoftwarepatents.com leads me to believe that it’s ‘parked’ at some moment in 2007. The style’s archaic, and the logos are unusable, assuming you wanted to demonstrate affinity, and there’s no merchandise. Just in case they update or delete it, I’ll screencap it for you:
Well it turns out one of the former front-men for NoSoftwarePatents has had a change of heart. I’ll come back to this later.
Where’s the anti-software-patents movement organizing itself ?
Their site has a movie clip from 2009, and no affinity logos (etc). It also links to Reddit/Digg postings from 2010 :
The official “Cease Issuing Software Patents” Whitehouse.gov petition
Refer to the Whitehouse.gov petition entry.
ArsTechnica concluded that the response from the WhiteHouse was non-commital. That was all a year ago, of course.
The EFF’s campaign
There’s a position statement on ‘patents’. There’s a Patent Busting project that is pro-active. The trouble is that it is against a very short list of foundational patents. Thai list is presumably growing, especially as progress is made against individual ones.
More interestingly there’s a Defend Innovation website (yay - looks good on smartphones too!!!). Sceencap:
Here’s their manifesto:
- A patent covering software should be shorter: no more than five years from the application date.
- If the patent is invalid or there’s no infringement, the trolls should have to pay the legal fees.
- Patent applicants should be required to provide an example of running software code for each claim in the patent.
- Infringers should avoid liability if they independently arrive at the patented invention.
Comment: This one’s enough to sink the entire proposition IMO. How can you prove “independently”?
- Patents and licenses should be public right away. Patent owners should be required to keep their public records up-to-date.
Hell yes, patents should be public from day of filing, with no access fee.
- The law should limit damages so that a patent owner can’t collect millions if the patent represented only a tiny fraction of a defendant’s product.
Comment: This is ridiculous too. How’s that determined? Percentage of effort? Percentage of ‘innovation’. Versus unit price, or costs (or savings) in manufacture w/o it?
- Congress should commission a study and hold hearings to examine whether software patents actually benefit our economy at all.
In summary, I can’t help but think that a stronger position could be held with fewer manifesto items. These feel like alternates, and opponents could could use the indecision to elicit ‘no decision’ on the set of them. Where has the science of winning arguments been applied? Where’s the logos / merchandise?
There is also a problem around the “when” associated with the effort. Specifically, when should will the petition be closed, and the accumulated signatories be sent off? Also, will the EFF add all the correspondents to their mail-shot database, to solicit donations?
Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure’s “EU Patent” site
FFII is their acronym. Their site: Patentability and Democracy in Europe. Don’t click it; It’s medium sized wall of text, with no logos, etc etc. swpat.ffii.org redirects to that same page (eupat.ffii.org) too.
This guy is an IP lawyer. He recently penned a well written, if biased, piece on his site that’s quite critical of the anti-software-patents community. I’m listing this guy, because he’s up there in Google’s sear-rank for this topic.
Cory Doctorow / BoingBoing.net
Cory has returned to this topic on and off for a decade. His latest is: End software patent wars by making it always legal to run code on a general-purpose computer - Richard Stallman refers to a Wired series (that’s not formatted for quick perusal), and a single entry within that by Richard Stallman. As a single person, with a wide readership, Cory is one of the key high-profile torch bearers for this. He’s no anti-s/w-patents landing page, nor logo/merchandise though. Nor did he volunteer to be a community figurehead.
What IS happening though?
SlashDot talked about it, and I quote:
The patent office is reviewing its policy on software patents and is asking for feedback (PDF). Groklaw reports that the USPTO will be hosting a pair of roundtable sessions in February, during which the public will have the ability to attend and put forth their viewpoints. From the article: ‘It’s obvious the USPTO realizes there is serious unhappiness among software developers, and they’d like to improve things. Software developers are the folks most immediately and directly affected by the software patents the USPTO issues, and it’s getting to the point that no one can code anything without potentially getting sued. I don’t wish to be cynical, though, as that’s a useless thing. So maybe we should look at it as an opportunity to at least be heard. It’s progress that they even thought about having a dialogue with developers, if you look at it that way.’ If you can make it to Silicon Valley on February 12 or New York City on February 27, go and make your voice heard.
The same is being talked about in a number of other public and private forums, and is very topical presently. It’s a co-incidence that I’m posting this today though.
What’s really needed?
A goto, place that pulls in contributions from others globally, and provides services back. Services that relevant, considered and up to date. Also, keep the content in GitHub please so strangers can embarrass you with contributions.
QuestionCopyright.org is a good example. Their banner thing:
Granted QuestionCopyright don’t have a huge amount of mind share, but they have much of what is needed to be a campaign. Merchandise, logos/banners and ‘what you should do’ too
Aside from the portal coordinating efforts, community leaders need to organize and trust no government groups at any stage to agree, or to do our bidding. Moreover, there’s plenty of reasons that Google and others would want to do some Money-Is-Speech to participate (and rationalize the writedown of part of the recent acquisitions). You can be sure that opponents will work in the other direction, with money too, even in the EU where officials are not allowed to receive payments so openly. The battle has to be won in the US, before it can stick in other jurisdictions.