If you want to see what type of company Forgent really are, all you have to do is go to their home page – 6 of their 7 last press releases relate to this JPEG patent. Obviously not much software development or innovation going on there then.
Ars Technica are carrying a good write up on what is happening.
Just back from the Saving Europe from Software Patents: Why and How seminar, held in the European Parliament Office in Dublin this morning. I thought I’d give you all a quick report.
- Ciaran O’Riordan’s summary of what happened in Brussels when the CCID was being debated was interesting. He talked mostly of how little MEPs understand about both software and patenting in general. it would appear they spent a significant amount of their time explaining what the directive meant.
- The next critical EU directive in this area is IPRED2 – The second Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (PDF) (FSF Europe’s analysis here). The main goal of this directive is to criminalise intellectual property infringement. The impact on the software development is nicely summarized by this ZDNet article:
There are two main implications of this directive to free and open source software. Firstly, if a free software developer is found to have infringed intellectual property in the code he has written, he could be subject to criminal charges and may not be granted legal aid to defend himself. Developers of proprietary software in commercial settings would be less affected, as the company they work for would generally be held accountable rather than the individual developer.
I don’t think I need to explain any more.
- The second speaker, Gareth Bowker, illustrated how software patents would inhibit network security. If the network security guys cannot use network analysis tools (nmap etc) because of software patent restrictions then their ability to counter threats from crackers who do illegally use them will be severely limited. Insteresting, I hadn’t thought of that.
- An ISA representative made an attempt to explain why the ISA had supported the CIID and then reiterated their belief that patents were a good thing. To a less than convinced audience I might add, but sure God loves a trier. The panel were asked (by me) if they were surprised that an “Irish Software Association” was supporting the CIID, given the grassroots and SME opposition to the directive in Ireland. They indicated that at the time they didn’t have the time to look into the ISA’ s position but that they might in the future look at ISA’s membership more closely.
- A Microsoft attendee questioned the future of the European software industry without software patents, citing the apparent imminent arrival of hoards of Chinese software companies who will destroy us all if we (and our multinational overlords) have no patents to protect ourselves. The panel politely pointed out to him that Chinese software companies are just as entitled to obtain European software patents as the rest of us and they could use them to against the European software industry (if they were enforceable).
- An attendee from Google Ireland commented that copyright protection provided more protection to software development than is available in many other creative industries. He strongly asserted that software patents are not required. You know, it is very to like Google more when they articluate positions like this, especially when put side-by-side with the common Microsoft/IBM position.
- Two representatives of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment made some comments in an attempt to try clarify the role of the European Patent Office in all of this. (The European Patent Office, despite it’s name, is not a European Union institution – it was established by the European Patent Convention) I’m not sure how much they clarified things but they did raise the interesting issue of how the EU and EPO related to each other.
- Poor Proinsias didn’t make it – he was stuck in Brussels somewhere.
Many thanks to the Irish Free Software Organisation and the European Parliament for arranging a very interesting seminar.
Tim Bray’s ongoing blog links to an audio recording of a recent open format meeting of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council where comments and questions from the public (including Microsoft, IBM, Novell and Sun) were entertained. This is seriously geeky, (nearly 2 hours long!) but interesting if you follow the ongoing open formats war and want to hear first hand the double talk and misdirection employed by the large software vendors when attempting to instill fear, uncertaintly and doubt in the minds of the board members. For example:
MSFT: This appears to be an assault on the intellectual property
of the private sector.
Kriss: Sovereignty trumps intellectual property. Companies
certainly have the right to own their own intellectual property.
We’re all for IP in implementations, just not in interchange
Respect to Eric Kriss and Peter Quinn for seeing through it all. Somehow, I cannot believe anyone involved in the decision making process in the Irish national government would be even remotely as clued in. Certainly to date, there is no evidence that the Irish government would attempt such a brave move (and alienate some of of their largest Corporation Tax ‘customers’).
I’m harping on here a but but the mis-information is still flowing so it should be countered. ICT Irelandhave posted a press release that can only be described as using the Chewbacca Defence. The press release opens with the following contradictory paragraph:
ICT Ireland was disappointed by today’s decision of the European Parliament to reject the Common Position on the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive. We feel that the European Parliament has lost an opportunity to further Europe’s development as a knowledge economy. However, while the adoption of the Common Position would have been the ideal, no legislation is better than legislation that would have damaged Ireland’s competitiveness.
So let me get it straight then, they were disappointed that the EU didn’t introduce legislation that would have damaged Ireland’s competitiveness. Right then.
The release then states
However, there were several unhelpful amendments proposed to the Common Position, which sought to alter patent law as it currently stands, and we do welcome the decision of the MEPs to reject these amendments.
Unhelpful to whom? The 21 cross-party amendments were gaining support because they clarified several vague definitions in the original CIID. However, as Hartmut Pilch, president of the FFII states:
In recent days, the big holders of EPO-granted software patents and their MEPs, who had previously been campaigning for the Council’s “Common Position”, joined the call for rejection of the directive because it became clear that the 21 cross-party amendments championed by Roithova, Buzek, Rocard, Duff and others were very likely to be adopted by the Parliament. It was well noticeable that support for all most of these amendments was becoming the mainstream opinion in all political groups. Yet there would not have been much of a point in such a vote. We rather agree to the assessment of the situation as given by Othmar Karas MEP in the Plenary yesterday: a No was the only logical answer to the unconstructive attitude and legally questionable maneuvers of the Commission and Council, by which this so-called Common Position had come about in the first place.
Ah, so it wasn’t going their way so they preferred maintain the status quo than shoot themselves in the foot by recommending a Yes vote.
Lastly the ICT statement says
Patents provide incentives for companies to undertake R&D – no company, large or small, will invest heavily in research and innovation unless they know that they can protect the results.
Ah, denial, denial, denial. The grovelling to the Irish MEPs is only slightly less dignified.
It seems the Business Software Alliance and Irish Software Association, and therefore the ICT (who are completely impartial as previously reported in this
blog) all think not having patents is a bad idea. (Incidently, I just noticed that ICT take news feeds from ElecticNews.net – unbiased reporting so eh).
Of course they know better than us, and the democratically elected European Parliament who voted 95% against said Directive are completely wrong. After all, it was a close call. Such a display of transparent disrespect for the democratic process is something the people who work for these companies should take to heart. Does a companies membership of such societies mean they have carte blanche to represent the opinions of the staff of these companies? I think not, yet they do it. It’s at times like this that I miss the power of unions. Talk to your bosses, question why your company is a member of an organisation that was activly campaigning for the extinction of your career and professional life.
I guess they were just angry that they couldn’t exert as much control over the European Parliament (elected representatives with constitutents) as they did over the European Comission (not publically elected).
All I can say is, how’d ya like them apples?
About time, UAEMPE, the European association representing 11 million small and medium businesses (SMEs) have clarified that they do not support the proposed directive on software patents. The lobby groups funded by the large multinationals pushing this agenda have been claiming that the SMEs were in favor of this proposal.
It looks like the ISO or ITU-T have never been dragged into the whole debacle, but they are making historical archives of the process that was undertaken during JPEG standardization available to members of JPEG.org. I guess since they don’t operate within just one jurasdiction that’s about all they can do.