(PeterTaylor) I wrote Margaret Beckett a letter this morning, but I'm not sure she'll receive it in time. Isn't democracy a wonderful thing? </sarcasm>
[Binned]. This could be good (they're binned) or bad (each country can do as they please, would have been nicer to have something explicitly saying no, can be reintroduced.) But yay. --Vitenka
[The latest Microsoft patent application]. Laugh? There's a demo against software patents on the 14th (wednesday). Please participate by taking down your site for the day. The alternative to winning on this issue is being locked in to whatever the big software companies force on us... forever! ***Cue Dah Dah DUM***
Seriously, a ridiculous number of things are patentable - some scary examples at [this site].
Are the patents on the specific software that is being used or on the idea of the software? For instance, if I were (huh) to write my own code for an internet 'shopping basket' would it be covered under the patent listed or does that just refer to the specific code used? - Naath
The concept I think. You copyright code, you patent ideas. - CorkScrew
(PeterTaylor) More precisely, an expression of an idea is automatically copyright (subject to minor quibbles about having to be substantive), whereas patents cover methods, processes or design features. (Shame that HMSO doesn't publish Acts from before 1988, because most current British patent law is in the Patents Act 1977).
Does anyone know anything about the European patent and copyright laws? - CorkScrew
MoonShadow worked for ARM for a while after graduation, in the software department. The salary helped him and SunKitten buy their flat and, yes, start up toothycat.net. Since ARM makes much of its money from exercising its patents, MoonShadow feels it would be somewhat hypocritical for toothycat.net to participate in this demo.
I can understand why you felt that way (biting the arm/hand that fed you, perhaps), but: Isn't what matters in this sort of situation whether you approve or disapprove, not where you got the money from in the past. i.e. if you think that (say) software patents are not worth opposing in principle, then don't join in a demo against software patents. If you do, then do. If you do disagree with them, your statement above suggests that moral consistency requires you to sell your house and servers, giving the money back to your former employer. In my opinion, what you do with your money after it's been paid to you, especially after leaving the company, is, in general (i.e. modulo non-compete contracts and such like), your own business. If a company doesn't like that risk, it doesn't have to pay its staff -- though that might make it difficult to retain them :-) You might be nipping at the hand that fed you a long time ago, but (to be emotive) blacks have been doing that for ages, and we respect them for it. Besides, isn't copyright enough to protect ARM's IP? --Bobacus, in delayed-response mode.
Fair enough. I have to say, my dislike isn't so much of software patents as of the way patent laws are often applied to software - more than in any other field, ideas that are obvious, ludicrous or merely a matter of personal choice are being patented to the detriment of real innovation. It should also be noted that the protest isn't strictly speaking anti-software patent - we're acting to encourage the readdition of several important exemptions and clauses that were put in by the EU parliament but taken out - without anything resembling democratic process - by the unelected Council of Ministers (a group of civil servants). Full details [here], in more accurate phrasing than I could manage.
If you have moral objections to closing your site in protest against software patents, you might consider closing it in protest against undemocratic rule. - CorkScrew
In the UK, the requirement for a patent is an innovative step - the concept goes something like, imagine an expert in the field with complete access to all relevant information to date but with no imagination whatsoever; would they have been able to come up with the thing you are trying to patent? This much, I feel, is fair. Does the proposed law not require this minimum? (Genuine question, I won't have time to do more than skim over your references until tomorrow lunchtime). The current practice by large companies seems to be to try and claim as much ground as possible within a patent, pushing it through on the merit of the innovative step, then see how much of it they can actually defend in court in practice; which does not seem quite so fair, yet I see little that could be done about it. - MoonShadow
Um... fair question. I'll go try to research this.
Research done, and the results are as follows:
The European Parliament version specifically did not allow software patents on grounds which seem reasonable, although I disagree slightly with the conclusion. Discussion [here] including quotes from the directive, and the [directive] itself.
The Council of the Ministers of the European Union removes any limits on what can and cannot be patented - the scope of patents is limited only by words which have had their definitions 'removed' from the paper - ie. they can mean whatever someone wants them to mean at a later date. Discussion [here], select quotes. Directive [here] - official site. That last link is the same as the "directive" link in the previous paragraph, and isn't on an official site. Would you mind checking it? Damn, you're right as well. I'll fix it - CorkScrew. Correct link [here], apologies - CorkScrew
Do you mean the original, the changes, or the conclusions drawn about the changes? - CorkScrew
I mean the "they can mean whatever someone wants them to mean at a later date" part in particular. - MoonShadow
If someone later tries to argue in court that a technical field is actually a HighSpeedPeanutButterSandwich (I am aware that I am now getting silly), there is nothing in the modified dosument to stop them doing so. The boundaries only consist of what you can eventually persuade a judge or jury might be reasonable ie. more or less everything given sufficient funding.
The conclusion that the ffii want us to draw (which I believe to be justified) is that software patents have been imposed in contradiction of due democratic process in pretty much the most extreme form imaginable.
One big problem is that a patent that happens anywhere is incredibly hard to oppose somewhere else. So we are effectively all bound by the weakest laws. But an online demo is incredibly inneffective at anything, and I can't get to the real demo. And it wasn't advertised anywhere near far enough in advance. Rants aside, I hope that this is either affirmed (so that the european parliment, the semi-democratic bit, might grow some teeth) or that the backlash is big enough to force a rethink of the eu. --Vitenka
agreed. I mean, we've already got a government of our own - why do we need another organisation to be skeptical at? :) - CorkScrew
PeterTaylor has just e-mailed the five main parties (main office or Eastern regional office, according to available contact info) explaining that SoftwarePatents are probably the biggest issue affecting his vote on the 10th June, and asking about their policies. He's also pestered the Electoral Commission to fix their website so he can find out who the independent candidates are. Replies to go up here as they come in.
"The five main parties" - Labour?, Conservative?, LiberalDemocrats?, UKIP and Green
Wait.. five? I didn't htink we had more than two! --Vitenka (UKIP are a real party? Since when!)