Bonum Certa Men Certa

'Good' Software Patents From EA Show Cases Where DRM is a Patent Infringement

Cuffs



Summary: Where two evils collide the public benefits, or how some software patents discourage the use of DRM

SOFTWARE patents are a horrible thing because in a world where almost everything is now controlled by computers with general-purpose or specialised software nearly every action/process can potentially become a monopoly, or a milking cow of someone (usually a large corporation) who had little to do with invention, just opportunism. It puts tremendous pressure on 'small' software developers and offers protectionism to software conglomerates such as IBM. Software patents are in injustice for many reasons including their undeniable impediment to innovation, which makes them the antithesis of patents (where publication in exchange for temporary monopoly was supposed to encourage dissemination of knowledge and thus innovation). Abstract ideas rather than utility were never supposed to be patentable. Likewise, copyright law has been extended to cover all sort of ridiculous things (like a story/plot, based on vague similarities, APIs, etc.) even to the point of encouraging no innovation or creativity (e.g. lasting well beyond the death of the original creator). The latter is often enforced upon the public using some ugly software hacks like DRM (turning computers against their users), so the relationship is deep and inherent.



"So here we have two evils fighting against one another. "It is rather ironic when software patents do something good by discouraging the use of DRM as DRM itself becomes a patent monopoly. Such was the case in this legal case. "Between the company's general disposition and the incredible failure of the SimCity launch," says an article, "Electronic Arts is becoming a name associated directly with digital rights management. The most infamous DRM platform the company has used is probably SecuROM, which was noteworthy for being equal parts mega-annoying to paying customers, as well as being so massively ineffective that games employing SecuROM later became amongst the most pirated video games of all time. But, results aside, EA would tell you that it needed to use DRM to protect the company from piracy. Even if SecuROM failed, the company had to at least try, or else the freeloaders that live the highlife getting around intellectual property laws would win. Violating IP laws is wrong, damn it, and EA was going to do everything in its power to right that wrong."

So here we have two evils fighting against one another. It is not easy to pick a side. On the one hand we have monopolies on software and on the other we have monopolies on access to data. Both are detrimental to the common good.

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