Summary: Scientists are repressed further by lawyers, so there are new calls to fight back and restore freedom of thought
THIS post is a very quick roundup of stories that are too important to miss, even if most “Linux”/”open source” Web sites totally ignore these peripheral issues.
An Attack on Human Knowledge
Free software is based on a scientific premise. It’s not one of cost; it’s to do with maximising value (measured in terms of productivity), reducing duplication, sharing of ideas, and exchange of output. Over in South Africa, this entire paradigm is under attack at the moment. The culprit? The fiend which is intellectual monopoly rights.
IPR Bill Regulations promulgated – the death knell for open science in South Africa?
The Department of Science and Technology has published the Regulations for the implementation of the IPR Act of 2008. These have serious implications for researchers and the universities and research institutions they work in and even more dire implications for open access and open innovation in South Africa.
I set out below my preliminary reading of what these Regulations might mean.
Another garbled mess of intellectual monopolies is the ACTA [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14], whose impact on patents is going to be worse than what we already expect. How do we know? It’s coming straight from the European Commission right now:
The EU Commission is “committed to improve the international legal framework for IP protection” and sees “ACTA as one way to reach that goal,” Devigne said. There was no intention to duplicate TRIPS. Rather, “we want to go beyond it,” he said, adding, “TRIPS is the floor, not the ceiling.”
TRIPS is the element of ACTA which is associated with patents.
Sneaking Software Patents Into Europe, India
“Value your freedom or you will lose it, teaches history.” These were the words of Richard Stallman who added:
‘”Don’t bother us with politics,” respond those who don’t want to learn.’
For those who are interested in the reality, it’s worth paying attention to what happens in Europe at the moment. Mega corporations try to legalise software patents without a democracy and Microsoft happens to be among the those who are guilty of it. The Stop Software Patents Web site has just published details about an upcoming conference in Europe: “Conference on ‘Make software patents work for SMEs’”
The European Commission is organising a conference dedicated to “Make IPR work for SMEs” next Monday in Brussels. You can submit your questions by email to me for next Monday on how to “Make software patents work for SMEs”. I might be interested to submit them.
Patents are never for SMEs. They are for patent lawyers, patent trolls (sometimes the same as lawyers), and monopolists who guard their territories using barriers to thought and ideas, not just implmentations.
Over in India, we are seeing what we already see in Europe. Remember Brimelow and her "as such" trap? In India, rather than “as such”, they have “per se”. A Red Hat employee has just explained what he calls “The ‘computer programme per se’ conundrum.”
Under the foregoing definitions, a claim that merely recites software elements without any reference to hardware is per se unpatentable. If a claim recites both software elements and hardware elements, but the hardware elements amount to nothing more than reference to the components of a general purpose computer on which the software is executed, or an information storage medium in which the software is stored, such that the only possibly inventive aspect of the claim resides in the software elements, then the claim is not patentable.
Enough is Enough
More and more groups are rising against this abuse from the patent offices. In the recent protests which took place in Germany, Richard Stallman called the EPO "corrupt" and "malicious". If the EPO stands in people’s way, Stallman argues that we should “get rid of it too.” Joining Stallman in the protests were not only activists against software patents but also protesters from Greenpeace, who are sickened by patents around life and animals. Here is another new article about it.
Monsanto Company, already a world powerhouse in biotech crops, is shaking up the swine industry with plans to patent pig-breeding techniques and lay claim to the animals born as a result.
Basically, his argument is that most engineers recognize how harmful the patent system is, but are pushed into patenting by lawyers and management, and the only way to get the message out is to stop assisting with anything having to do with patents.
It’s time to fight for the right to think and to share ideas freely. There is money to be made by a small minority by creating barriers to sharing (i.e. scarcity) and then selling access. This small minority is rarely engineers and it’s very parasitical, naturally. █
“On behalf of the Comptroller it is also said that it would be difficult for a third party to search for prior art programs. This is for two reasons. Firstly there is simply not a body of suitable literature about computer programs which can be searched. Secondly much of the prior art will consist of actual computer programs and the outsider will generally find it impossible to understand how these work without the source code – which is normally kept confidential.” —UKIPO, Bailii: Symbian Limited and Comptroller General of Patents