Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Software Government The Courts News

Talking Software Patents with a Politician? 75

agent dero asks: "I'm currently trying to land an hour or two of my local representative to the House of Representatives so I can talk about software patents, amongst other things. I'm looking for the best way to describe the pitfalls of Software Patents to somebody who hasn't the slightest clue what Open Source is, let alone how software patents will hurt it. How can a computer geek relate the evil in patenting algorithms to a non-computer geek to where it will have an effective impact?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Talking Software Patents with a Politician?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    That's all the politicians pay attention to anyhow. All the talking in the world ain't gonna do a lick of good.
    • Normally I'd like to stand up to you and say "not everyone is so coldhearted to be just money grubbing...", but then I remember who my rep is (he'll remain nameless), and say "aaaah forget it...",. Hopefully (as described in a post on this thread by myself) a good argument will mean as much as any wallet.
      • Re:Money (Score:2, Informative)

        by Tonnerre ( 891997 )
        Actually, the wallets are on your side. The majority of small and medium-sized enterprises is against software patents, and even the few that subscribed to the http://www.ffii.org/ [ffii.org] campaign already have more annual turnover than Microsoft, who is very vocal about software patents.
        Also, the big companies are arguing mainly that the small ones want software patents (which the small ones deny, of course).
        So it's also about saving a large part of the european economy.

    • Re:Money (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Money. That's all the politicians pay attention to anyhow.

      Actually, no, even the worst of them also pay attention to staying in office; you can't collect the gravy if you're not on the gravy train. And personally, I think some of them still have some principles and try to actually serve their consituents and/or the national interest, when they're not raising money for the next election.

      Which means that one approach is to convince your local Congress critter that there are votes on your side of the issue.

  • The basics... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tekiegreg ( 674773 ) * <tekieg1-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Monday June 13, 2005 @07:50PM (#12807961) Homepage Journal
    Congrats you managed (or will manage) to get some face time with a big guy in govt. Just remember the following points:

    1) The guy is a busy man with lots in his mind, keep it brief and to the point at all times, in fact if you have an hour of time, present for 30 minutes and give the rest for him to either ask questions or politely take leave as he needs, prepare to present to not just your rep, but maybe his staff and other reps that might choose to join in (it's possible).

    2) Impassioned emotional pleas are no good here, construct a good well founded argument and you will do awesome. Do your homework throughly before going in. Also if you happen to know a lawyer that's willing to help you, ask him to help draft your statements before going in (better still ask if he can join you in presenting to the rep).

    3) Prepare oral arguments (the old fashioned Powerpoints or whatever your favorite pesentation software is will do here), as well as a brief (no more than 5 page) written argument to leave with him.

    Having little knowledge in particular about open source software patents in particular other than what's on Slashdot, I'll leave the rest to you to reasearch and form up.

    Try this and you might just be amazed at your reponse. I look forward to seeing your arguments drafted into a floor bill at the House :-)
    • 3) Prepare oral arguments (the old fashioned Powerpoints or whatever your favorite pesentation software is will do here), as well as a brief (no more than 5 page) written argument to leave with him.

      I've got a better idea. Why don't you just sit down and talk with him/her face-to-face? Standing up in front of a few PowerPoint slides is going to make you look like some kind of salesman. Make sure you rehearse your 'casual conversation' before going in but don't make it look like a rehearsed speech. Ple

      • Slick over-marketed bullshit is what convinces congressmen to pass bad bills, so I assume that it should work here.

        If you think an earnest conversation with a politician is the way to enact change, then I have some ocean-front property in Kansas to sell to you.
      • meh, it depends on what your rep has in mind. If he brings lots of people in (say his entire staff and then some), you're going to have to get your ideas across to everyone and the Powerpoint will be the easiest way to do this. If it's just you and him (or maybe a few more), then yeah I'd probably take your approach.
    • Planning is incredibly important. Make sure you understood and try not to use passion as much as logic. Remember that he/she may listen, understand and disagree. Remember also that what you tell him/her may possibly the first in depth information on the subject he/she may have heard and if you provide him with information that is lacking he/she could base his decision against open source on a predisposition from your 'speech'.

      Of course he/she may not be as clueless re open source as you think. Be prepa
    • Or, if your senetor is from massachusetts, wrap your letter around about a pint of cold rum.
    • Re:The basics... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by anticypher ( 48312 ) <anticypher AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @06:20AM (#12811035) Homepage
      I get to talk to elected and non-elected officials on a regular basis. They have a tremendous number of people talking at them all the time, with so many opposing points of view they can never keep up. The only bits that stick are the well presented ones, carefully crafted and without repetitions or ambiguities.

      I've seen some of the FFII [ffii.org] supporters talking to Parliamentarians, and frankly it was embarrassing watching a few of them. They had the nugget of an idea, but couldn't present it clearly and concisely. They would start a beautifully thought out thread, then before getting to a conclusion lose the train of thought and end up talking about something completely different, often repeating ideas already presented. Very annoying for all those very familiar with the issue, and certainly annoying and confusing for the intended audience.

      The guy is a busy man ... present for 30 minutes and give the rest for him to either ask questions

      Not that you will have time to hone your presenting skills, but the best lobbyists present each idea in one to three minutes, then engage the politico with questions where they have to actually think about the issue. The guys who make the biggest money are schooled in the tradition of rhetoric, where every thought is presented as a series of conflicting questions (with spin) and as if...then statements. This requires the politician to make a concious decision on the spot on which way to think about a subject, and this forced thinking will most likely be the way they will vote later.

      There is a whole debate on the best way to word the if...then statements, first, second or third person, singular or plural. Compare and contrast "if you support long term growth in rapidly changing fields, then are you prepared to oppose entrenched laws?" with "if our objectives are to protect ideas of individuals from the oppressive threat of corporate lawsuits, can we obtain a balance...". (N.B. there is no right way) Forcing immediate responses from an audience is orders of magnitude more effective in creating lasting impressions. Even more effective is to word the if...then statements so the politician comes to conclusions on his own, thus becoming his ideas.

      Impassioned emotional pleas are no good here, construct a good well founded argument

      Precisely. The issue of patents, copyright, and ideas having value goes back thousands of years, and is a very complicated area. Narrow down your arguments to a very limited discussion of a single domain, and be prepared to place it within the larger and global (historical) scope of the battle. The emotion should be evident by the fact you have taken the time to become politically active to protect what you believe in.

      Do your homework throughly before going in

      This is the most important idea in the post, buried right in the middle. Not only do your homework, but practice the presentation as well. Out loud, on real humans, several times. If you have a lawyer friend, ask them to hear your presentation and offer criticism (then listen to them and correct yourself). Lawyers who practice in front of courts have to be skilled at presenting clear and linear ideas. Even if you don't know any lawyers, just try out your presentation on a few people and ask for feedback. By the third or fourth time you will notice a huge improvement in which ideas get presented, and which ones you drop because they are not needed. Try videotaping your presentation and then review it later with friends, watch where you say "ummm..." or where you repeat yourself.

      For material to study, browse the websites of the EFF [eff.org] and the FFII, and read this speech [federalreserve.gov] by Alan Greenspan. If you have an entire hour, you can effectively present four to six points with a limited background and context. Limit yourself to only these, avoid digression and monologing.

      the AC
    • Re:The basics... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brontus3927 ( 865730 )
      The following is adapted from the National Space Society (NSS) Chapters Network Hub Chapter Handbook, Chapter 8: Political Action. Copyright 1998 NSS.

      You can visit your Congressman's office in Washington or in your home district when he visits. You can go alone or with a group. Call or write ahead for an appointment if you want to talk to him or her directly. Don't expect more than a few minutes. Dress conservatively, be polite and get right to the point. Listen carefully to his replies and comments, so

  • Gee, thanks for the links to the House of Representatives and to a definition of Open Source and software patents. I would have been completely lost without these.


    • Hey, stop complaining. Usually there are too few links... much better to have too many than to have too few, IMO.
    • If I had mod points, I'd mod you up in a second. This pisses me off to no end -- especially when they do it with things like nytimes.com or microsoft.com. Or when they link both the news source and the article, and so without hovering over the link, you can't be sure what is what.
  • The basic difference between a copyright and a patent is the same as the basic difference between software and hardware- one is for ideas, the other is for physical items. Since software processes are NOT physical items, the idea of patenting them is ludicrous at best- and really stupid at worst.
    • So which one is which? By the order you just used copyright is for ideas and patents is for physical items where I was under the impression it was the opposite. Ya know, copyright is for controlling work which is a particular embodyment of an idea, which is why you can come up with an idea for some software and code it and I can say hey, that's a good idea, I think I'll code my own version of that. Whereas patents are awarded for a particular concept and even if I independantly discover that concept afte
      • you can come up with an idea for some software and code it and I can say hey, that's a good idea, I think I'll code my own version of that. Whereas patents are awarded for a particular concept and even if I independantly discover that concept after you have patented it I still have to license it from you.

        That isn't accurate. If I decide, "Hey, it would be great if you could cook hot dogs using electricity," I can't get a patent on that. I can build an electric hot dog cooker consisting of an arrangement
      • But if I write a novel- you have to purchase the rights to make a movie of that novel- so your example is somewhat flawed. Historically, though, patents have been for hardware, and copyrights for software. Westinghouse patented air brakes- Douglas Adams had the copyright on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Seems pretty clear to me.
    • Patents are for ideas. One doesn't patent each pill in a new drug line or each jet turbine his company produces, he patents the formula of (and process for manufacturing) the drug and design of the turbine.

      I'm not the biggest fan of patents, but the argument you're making here doesn't make sense.
      • You're right of course. Patents are for ideas. The parent is an ignoramus (sp?!).

        But, companies do try to patent (and often succeed) each pill and jet turbine. If they can get a patent covering ostensibly the same thing but in a different enough way to encourage the patent examiner that "in balance there's probably something new in the patent application" then you get extra years out of your invention.

        Extra years = extra $$$ (Profit!!).

        And terms are way too long.

        In the UK we have SPC's (extra long terms
      • I believe the parent was trying to say that patents should be for working implementations of ideas. So, for example. you could not patent the idea of a pill that cures depression, but you could patent a specific type of molecule that achieves that effect.

        Now, what would that mean for code? Well, for one thing Amazon's one-click patent would revert to only protecting their implementation of one-click. If this is the case, then what does patent law provide that copyright doesn't? Nothing, and we go back
      • he patents the formula of (and process for manufacturing) the drug and design of the turbine.

        Right, but one can't get a patent on 'treatment of erectile disfunction with a pharmaceutical' though he can get a patent on Viagra. So you can have Levitra without violating the patent on Viagra.

        And both patents will stand up in court.
      • I did miststate it- but the end result is the same. Here's why: the pills and the jet turbines are PHYSICAL ITEMS. A diskette is a physical item. What's on the diskette is information only- and that's the realm of copyrights, not patents.
    • OK. Couple problems here. First, your analogy is... dubious. See the other reply to your post. Second, you are using your conclusion (software patents are bad) to prove itself (patenting ideas is ludicrous/stupid). Third, you are insulting the guy you hope listens to you by implicitly calling him stupid. How to win friends and influence people... Fourth, you are appealing to some broad philosophical principle. Unless you are actually debating that principle, you should leave it out entirely. You ha
  • by c0d3h4x0r ( 604141 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:02PM (#12808080) Homepage Journal
    How can a computer geek relate the evil in patenting algorithms to a non-computer geek to where it will have an effective impact?

    A solid kick to the groin ought to do the trick.
  • I would suggest researching some examples of software patents in the wild that have already impacted the marketplace in some important way. Any patents responsible for stopping upcoming technologies is one great situation where the evils can be pointed out, and I am sure that searching the last few months of /. stories will provide plenty of ammunition there.

    Also look for places where software patents have impacted the non-software world. I cannot think of anything, but I am bad at association. Somethin
    • Oh, don't recommend that! I mean, you can't go up in front of politicians and tell them that the sky will fall if software patents are enacted in Europe if you have to admit that the sky hasn't fallen in the US - cause ya know, it hasn't, and for some reason I don't think Europe is holding up the sky, do you? Everyone wants to cry about software patents and, yes, as the system currently stands it all looks bad, but the US has had them for years and a whole lot of software is still made in the US isn't it?
    • I would suggest the example of Brazil and their major foray into free software.
    • Also, explain what an algorithm is. People assume it's a new idea. It isn't. I recently had a discussion about software patents, and I explained an algorithm by using an ancient method to approximate pi and the circumference of a circle.

      Draw a circle. Make a square around it. You know how to calculate the length of the edges of a square. Now, change it to a pentagon. Then, a hexagon. Keep adding sides. The more sides you add, the better the approximation of a circle, and the closer your value of p
  • The main issue (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drspliff ( 652992 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:27PM (#12808321)

    is not just with 'Open Source' or other trendy keywords, but it just happens to be one of the worst hit by it (as most open source projects have no commercial backing to help with legal issues or licensing etc.)

    Ok, so i'll try and explain it in ways that your average local politition will be able to understand (mr g.w.bush comes to mind as an exception though..).

    The main goals behind patents are to protect an inventors hard work, research and ideas from exploitation by restricting other peoples rights to duplicate/copy/rip/etc the idea.

    For most industries the research process which is needed to create the idea is usually costly (both in time and money), in this context you can think of patents as allowing the inventor(s) to recouperate that initial investment and to control revenue from the invention while it's still considered 'new'.

    In todays scociety the software industry is a completely different beast compared to what I would consider as the 'old stle' industry (think of the industrial revolution etc.). Thinking of ideas new software inventions isn't very hard, thousands of new products are designed every day due to the low cost of researching and designing software inventions.

    Basicly the two industries are reversed, so the actual hard work and investment is in developing the product and getting it to market.

    The first point that I was trying to demonstrate is that somebody could think up 10 product ideas every week and patent them (al la Microsoft & IBM), but they may not even have the technical expertise or money to create it.. generally all software ideas are useless until they have been developed.

    So by patenting ideas in an invention-per-second industry, you are restricting the rest of the industry from making a product of it.. bad karma.

    My personal gripe (and I'm sure most of you share the same opinion) is the US patent offices reluctance or inability to check if the patent breaks one of the simple rules set out: 'No bussiness methods or mathematical algorithms', 'Must be non-obvious to a professional from within that industry' and 'There must be no prior art' (i'm sure theres another one.. cant be assed to think of it right now).

    So this means that I could for example patent a really simple theory, such as 'transfering memory from one computer to another via analogue signals across a distributed network'... and the patent office would probably approve it if it had not been patented before and the wording was sufficiently obfuscated so that only non-technical lawyers and civil servants can understand it..

    So given those two pieces i've brought up, you can think of thousands of different 'inventions' in an industry where inventions alone are fairly worthless, and apply for patents with them.. and a lot of them would probably get approved due the lax standards at the patent office.

    So given that our industry moves at such a fast pace (compared to something like the petroleum extraction business) and the length of the patent is relatively very long it restricts the actual development of new software (e.g. developers and companies are probably going to be scared of getting sued, or having unreasonable licensing terms pushed upon them).

    Anyway.. try and extract as much drunk ranting gibberish out of it as possible, and hopefully you can use some of the arguments i've brought up.

    Jus my £0.02

    • > ...somebody could think up 10 product ideas every week
      > and patent them ...

      > ... inability to check if the patent breaks one of the
      > simple rules set out:
      > 'No bussiness methods or mathematical algorithms',
      > 'Must be non-obvious to a professional from within that industry'
      > and 'There must be no prior art'

      Creating software basically involves solving a series of "mathematical problems". Many of them non-trivial. The non-obviousness test fails for software because mathematical prob
    • Please note that the statement that patents are not granted twice is wrong. Every big company who's involved with software patents owns e.g. at least three patents on webservers.

    • What about an example of what would have happened if software patents had been introduced earlier? For example, spreadsheet software has improved enormously because of intense competition between MS, Lotus, Wordperfect etc. over the years. If the originator (Visicalc ?) had a patent, there would not have been such a strong incetive to improve the original product. It is also worth pointing out that there was no discernable increase in the software industry's R & D following the court ruling that sof
  • by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @08:29PM (#12808329) Homepage Journal
    Here's how I would put it.

    Patents exist only in order to encourage innovation. This much is essentially in the Constitution, because the right for congress to create patent and copyright laws is preceded by "To promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts..."

    The way that patents encourage innovation is to provide an incentive to expend resources to create an invention. The incentive is the exclusive right to use that invention. Many inventions take millions of dollars to create, so the patent plays an important role for those inventions, at least with the way our society currently operates.

    Here's the rub: most software inventions do not take millions of dollars to create, since the resources involved are almost always simply a guy and a computer (or pencil and paper). We've seen this many times, as fairly obvious ideas are re-invented, or old, overly generic patents are applied to unrelated inventions years later. Here, patents stifle innovation instead of promoting it. There already exists an incentive to invent, and since it is so easy to do so, patents just provide an unnecessary friction.

    There are also many specific problems with software patents. The term is too long considering the pace at which the field moves. The patent office is woefully underequipped to evaluate software patent applications. Patents are often incompatible with free software, which has shown to provide a huge amount of value (for the Progress of Science and the useful Arts!), probably more than software patents ever have.
    • May I retort? The majority of new algorithms created in computer science today are either created by graduate students who get paid nothing for their work or by researchers in commercial labs who hide their results. The former group of people have the incentive of getting their degree and forwarding their academic career, etc. The second group of people have the incentive of producing superior products to their competitors and capturing greater market share, etc. Only the former group actually publishes
      • As a graduate student working in computer science, I don't agree that the progress of CS is slow at all, so I can't follow the argument that there is need for new incentives.

        Isn't the free software movement another source of progress? This is composed of loads of people who can "afford" to invent software, with little more incentive than "cool" points among their peers.
        • As a grad student you wouldn't see a problem.. unless that is you believe that more people would actually produce new algorithms if they could work on them full time. Instead we have people like you who use up public resources to produce something that the private sector could produce more readily. Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of research that is performed by grad students has no economic value. As for the free software movement, we don't make many new algorithms, we just use existing o
          • Instead we have people like you who use up public resources to produce something that the private sector could produce more readily.

            Why do you think the private sector could produce this "something" more readily? Although many CS research projects are funded by the government (mainly the NSF these days), many are funded by industry, and it doesn't make a major impact on the efficiency of the students in carrying out research.

            As for the free software movement, we don't make many new algorithms, we just u
    • Few other points (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lilmouse ( 310335 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @09:02AM (#12811733)
      Software patents are getting really absurd because they try to patent ideas. It's like patenting brushing your teeth instead of patenting a single toothbrush. In the software world, there is no reason to patent a toothbrush - the software toothbrush is already covered by copyright, which gives more control than patents anyway.

      If you allow someone to patent brushing teeth, then you actually end up stifling innovation (no power toothbrushes, no water piks, no...you get the idea), and the People (e.g., voters) get hurt. On the other hand, if a company can only patent a toothbrush (or is it a process of producing toothbrushes - patents were supposed to protect factories and such?), then other companies are free to innovate, more jobs are created, and the People both have more work and better teeth.

      If the software world, 10 different companies can have the same idea and implement it 10 different ways (one will write 20 lines of C, one 2 unreadable lines of perl, one 200 lines of basic, whatever). The old idea of patents would only apply to the 20 lines of C, not to the idea - 20 lines that are already covered (as I said) by copyright.

      As an extreme example of bad patents, how's "Using a computer to do work." Heh.

      Anyway, good luck!
  • The biggest that I know of is that so many software patents are granted for stuff that existed before the patent was granted. I think I wouldn't mind software patents if they were actually restricted to original stuff. So, in my mind, the solution is to encourage the challenging of all software patent claims by anyone/everyone BEFORE they get granted.
    • This is far too late, there are around 30'000 trivial patents that have already been granted by the EPO and that are about things like remote shell, webservers, progress bars, the if statement, the turing machine, ... Also, challenging a patents involves a cost of something like EUR 260.-, so it's not a thing to do for the free software foundation.
  • One problem with software patents is that software is pretty well solid inventions, where other products are not.

    If you sit down to write some software, a relatively high proportion of your effort is actually spent on design; maybe like 25%, with the other 75% on testing, documentation etc. Manufacturing is close to zero.

    Compare that with a hardware product such as a vacuum cleaner. The scope for ideas is limited, because the vacuum cleaner is a well-understood product. Nearly all of a business's capacity
  • Use your skills to create a corporation and then lobby your representatives.

    That's the _only_ way to get enough time to convince them of any viewpoint.

    If you're an average joe, however; welcome to "1984".

  • Simple question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @12:46AM (#12810001)
    How come the 2005 patent reform bill introduced last week (H.R. 2795) is still not available on thomas [loc.gov] and why is there no mainstream press coverage of this bill ( per google news search on '2795 patent' - 3 results, all irrelevant) [google.com]


    • Interesting.

      If you check the list of submitted bills [loc.gov], it isn't there either. It is mentioned in the Record [loc.gov], but only if you search for a closely numbered bill.

      The GPO site is also missing the bill. Let us get our tin-foil hats ready now.
      • I'm a proud Libertarian Socialist [wikipedia.org]

        Where do you live if you can't own property? Does the state provide your housing? And if you don't like it 'too bad'?
        • 1) In a house/apartment/etc.
          2) Depends on your definition of "state".
          3) Maybe.

          To clarify, you can live where ever you like. The domicile in which you live is built by members of your community (possibly read as state) for the enjoyment of its members. That is, if there aren't enough places to live, the community will build places to live of its own accord. Logically, if there aren't enough of 'X', then more of 'X' will be built, procured, etc (assuming supply is ample).

          This is an example of a gift econ [wikipedia.org]
          • To clarify, you can live where ever you like. The domicile in which you live is built by members of your community (possibly read as state) for the enjoyment of its members.

            OK, so what if you want to live in a different kind of house than the community thinks is 'best'?

            If I like growing potatoes, then I grow potatoes. I give them to people who want them. I ask for nothing in return, but reciprocation will hopefully occur.

            How do you handle the situation where 'hopefully' doesn't occur, or if half of th
            • OK, so what if you want to live in a different kind of house than the community thinks is 'best'?

              I suppose your house specifications would be up to whomever built it. Since it isn't your house, but the community's house (they just let you live there) you probably wouldn't have any say in the matter. It would be a take it or leave it situation with the "leave it" portion being homeless or having to find a different community with better houses.

              I should mention the "community" should be thought of as sma
  • I'd summarise the problems with patents as being that compensation is good to stimulate innovation. There should be reward too. However, this has grown out of all proportion and it is no longer the innovators themselves that are profiting - instead it is share holders and executives. Also there should be some hindrance to filing for non-innovative stuff.

    One can argue that those that fund R&D are stimulating innovation and so should be rewarded. To a point that's perhaps true. But there's no evidence to
    • This still doesn't hit the point. The point is that 1) 30'000 software patents have already been granted illegaly covering basic code that everyone who writes a program will most likely use. 2) The only actual winners of software patents are big companies that have thousands of them. The innovation cycles are too short for software, and also, software evolution happens incrementally. The only thing patents can do is harm. 3) As already outlined by the british parliament in the 1870s when patents were intro
  • My 2 cents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RogerWilco ( 99615 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @07:17AM (#12811224) Homepage Journal
    * Keep it short
    * Give a printed outline of your strongest arguments for future reference
    * Use examples, preferably from local or well known companies/projects.
    * My opinion would be that I'm not against Software Pattents, but that the current pattent system is too inpractical for actually promoting innovation.
    - Compared to the speed of developements the duration is to long.
    - Court battles can't be won before a pattent becomes obsolete, and are too expensive.
    - Because of lack of standardization it's impossible to find if you're infringing, esp. because possible infringement extends to all tools you are using (OS, editor, desktop, etc.)
    - Because of the currenty used funding system the (US)PO approves to many (trivial) pattents.
    - The current system favors large corporations over the little man
    - You'll find more arguments on the net, but these alone should get your point across.

    * I would try to make some analogy's with how books work.
    - Books are also mainly protected by copyright.
    - Compare some of the current pattents with Stephen King having a pattent on Horror stories.

    * The only OSS specific points I would make is:
    - It's easy for closed-source compettitors to find possible infirngements, but hard the other way round.
    - A lot of OSS lacks financial and juridical support to fight back.
    - A lot of OSS has no financial means to obtain pattents themselves.

    just my 2 cents.
  • Salut, It's a good thing that you want to fight for your rights by telling your local MEP how you feel about software patents. However, you should know that MEPs don't care very much about ideology, or free products. They care about economic advantages, and about getting elected (this is why they'll listen to you). They'll be on your side if you tell them how companies will suffer if their inventions are subject to patent claims, and how this is going to affect their ability to do business. Also, they wil
  • How can a computer geek relate the evil in patenting algorithms to a non-computer geek to where it will have an effective impact?

    Perhaps by relating to something he might be used to... Not that this is the right example, but you could equate algorithms to choosing a path through town -- one might take into account time (rush hour?), construction, freeways / surface streets, etc... but he wouldn't allow someone to patent a specific route between his house and his job.

    I'm sure you can come up with a be

  • by booch ( 4157 ) <slashdot2010&craigbuchek,com> on Tuesday June 14, 2005 @10:55AM (#12813019) Homepage
    Don't concentrate on Open Source. Concentrate on creativity.

    Start by talking about how everything idea is built upon the ideas of others. As Isaac Newton said, I can see further because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. Tell him how the whole ideas of patents and copyrights were designed to ENCOURAGE creativity and new ideas, but they've been coopted to do the opposite. Explain to him the logical conclusion of what will happen if we don't fix that -- the US will quickly lose its leading role in technology, art, and entertainment.

    You should only mention Open Source, in the context that people are creating computer programs and sharing them for free, in order to build up their own creative pool of work, in order to work around the laws that are mostly preventing such collaborative efforts. Mention that these folks are forsaking some amount of money in order to build these things and return to the model of building on the works of others, and wanting others to build upon their work. Restricting them from doing this doesn't make sense. Also mention that every large enterptrise is using this Open Source software, so promoting it helps all companies.

    Concentrate on the reasoning behind the Constitution's patent/copyright clause. Explain how it requires balance, and that not only is it currently off balance, but large corporations have enough money and clout to successfully lobby for even more restrictive laws. Mention the Mickey Mouse extensions. Talk about how small companies are where most of the creativity in the world happen, but the laws are increasingly preventing them from creating.

    Basically, summarize the larger issues. Read up on Lawrence Lessig's work and other such material. Try to get in as much of the larger issues so your rep can see the Big Picture.
  • Forget the issue of open source, that is a side issue and matters not one bit.

    The issue here is the USPTO is issuing patents on software that they don't understand the ramifications of. That is all that needs to be stopped.

    Clearly a better mouse trap might be patentable. But the USPTO has issued patents on functions that are obvious, in use by *everyone* and their attitude is this: "Let the courts work it out".

    That sounds fine to the USPTO which is lousy with lawyers, lawyers love that stuff, lega
  • This site seems to focus on software patents in Europe, but they seem to have some information on why they are "bad": http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/intro/index. html [nosoftwarepatents.com]

    (disclaimer: I haven't really read much of it myself, just looked over it briefly since it was linked from the knoppix site...)
  • ... in the UK it is normal for your Member of Parliament to be available to the public one day a week for a consultation - called constituency surgeries - perhaps I should go and pester Boris [boris-johnson.com]!

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"