Stop Software Patents European Petition

Thoughts Are Free!

In addition to all other reasons, software is simply of a nature that doesn't allow for patentability. The logic of computer programs is a combination of mathematical and verbal expression, and it deserves the freedom of speech.
There are reasons why we don't just have patents in every area of intellectual achievement. Patents are granted on engines and pharmaceuticals, but not on literature, music or paintings. In theory, patent offices shouldn't grant patents on mathematical formulae, and you're not going to get one if you discover a new chemical element or a Transpluto planet. It's OK to grant a time-limited monopoly on some things, and it's out of the question for others.

Patents on software restrict the freedom of expression, and that freedom is too important to be sacrificed to the "patent mafia" and big industry lobbyism. There are some who say that software is "engineered". In practice, software is written. A computer program consists of words, numbers, and mathematical symbols. In writing a computer program, no one should be restricted by patents that make it illegal to develop one's thoughts in any way.

"The nature of software is that it is a writing, an expression of mathematical ideas. The copyright law protects this expression, and it does so without requiring costly and time-consuming proceedings."
Douglas Brotz, Principal Scientist, Adobe Systems (1994)
Patents on software are just as wrong as expanding the patent system to literature. With patents on story elements, no movie could be published without having to firstly check whether there is any general idea in the storyline that someone patented during the last 20 years. Here's an example: At first sight, Dirty Dancing and Titanic are two very distinct movies. However, if there were patents on story elements, then the makers of Dirty Dancing could have sued the studio of Titanic. Both movies have a scene in which a poor boy takes a rich girl from a party of her social peers to a dancing party of his group, and she enjoys it. Dirty Dancing came out only nine years before Titanic, so any patent would still have been in force. No one knows whether James Cameron had that Dirty Dancing scene in mind as he wrote the Titanic script. Maybe Cameron never saw Dirty Dancing but the patent (if it existed) could be used against him anyway.

"The government and the money-counters must not lock away from us, our intellectual processes -- not even when we execute them with the aid of symbols on paper, or performances on calculators, or programs in computers.">
Jim Warren, Board of Directors, Autodesk (1994)
All those jurists that aggressively demand ever more patentability should only once think about what patents would mean to their profession. A lawyer who writes a contract to solve a certain problem has a job that is very similar to that of a programmer. The programmer writes lines of program code that reference each other and contain definitions, and that's what a contract is like. Lawyers are free to write whatever solves the problem as long as they don't steal anything. Programmers are entitled to the same freedom.

Journalists should ask themselves the same question. While most journalists do understand that software patents are problematic, there are still some who believe that software patents were necessary to protect the rights of authors. The work of journalists is protected by copyright, and so is the work of programmers. The work of journalists is not limited by patents on how to structure an article or by patents on certain phrases, and programmers should have the same freedom as journalists.

All that we software patent critics ask for is what writers and lawyers take for granted: We don't want to steal anything, but if we create something absolutely independently, then we don't want anyone else to come up and rob us with a patent in his hand.

Click to read what the term "patent mafia" means and what it does not mean



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Mar. 2006: Software patent critics respond to EU Commission's consultation paper on patent policy
  >> FFII press release
  >> Florian Mueller blog
Jan. 2006: EU software patents rear their ugly head again
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Parliament says No to software patents >>
NoSoftwarePatents.com becomes an FFII platform
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