End Software Patents

I strongly prefer voluntary action. However, software patents are not amenable to workaround and so must be attacked directly through less savory legal, legislative, and electoral routes (though if software patents are toxic to free software, the opposite is also true, so simply creating and using free software is a voluntary if indirect attack on software patents).

Software patents are the major reason multimedia on the web (and on computers generally) is so messed up — few multimedia formats may be implemented without obtaining many patent licenses, and amazingly, this is sometimes impossible:

[The framework] is so patent-encumbered that today no one really knows who has “rights” to it. Indeed, right now, no new MPEG-4 licenses are even being issued.

As the End Software Patents site emphasizes, software patents negatively impact every sector now that everything uses software.

My only problem with the ESP site (and many others, this is just a general peeve of mine) is that it does not even link to similar resources with a non-U.S. jurisdiction focus. For example, the What Can I Do? page might state that if one is reading the page but not in the U.S. (because that never happens), please check out FFII (EU) and similar.

In any case, please join the effort of ESP and others to eradicate software patentsweapons of mass destruction. Ars Technica has a good introductory article on ESP.

2 Responses

  1. gurdonark says:

    “the opposite is also true, so simply creating and using free software is a voluntary if indirect attack on software patents)”–


    All recognize that the current patent system will require a re-vamp. Different people advocate different solutions, and only a minority favor eliminating all software patents (and I am in the majority, not in that minority).

    Yet the surest way for a creator to prevent software patents from dominating is to create open source/GNU material. The surest way for
    users to prevent software patents on end user software from being econoimically as advantageous is to use open source.

    I am not offended by the concept of patent protection (disclosure: I am registered with the PTO as a patent lawyer, though I practice commercial litigation and IP licensing rather than prosecuting patents), but I believe that the surest way to prevent unpatentable material from getting patents is to put as much material in the public domain (or attrribution licenses or GNU or what you have) as soon as one creates it.

    I am not doctrinaire about it, but I find that when I can use freeware or shareware, then I do. I like the idea that a simple donation to a developer who makes things available for free can do more good than paying an over-priced license for something freeware does about as well.

    I think that the science commons idea could include a kind of software commons, to supplement the many collaborative efforts at freeware creation into a voluntary framework.

  2. […] ACLU has filed a brief (pdf) in the U.S. patent case called Bilski (a case I understand the End Software Patents project is watching closely) making a free speech argument against the patent in […]

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