June 21, 2005 Software Patents Posted in Geek Richard Stallman has an article in yesterday’s Guardian about software patents in Europe. If you use a computer, I encourage you to be aware of the goings-on in the European Parliament right now. Read it.
See in general I think patents can be a good thing, and I extend this to software. However I do think the point we have arrived at where people think they should patent everything and anything has brought us to a point that is rendering the patent system useless. The patenting on ‘business ideas’ is another area where this is a problem.
Both patent and copyright law need an overhaul. They were created many years ago when there were far few things being patented and far fewer lawyers. The systems are no longer workable and have they have gone from their original purpose of protecting the creator of an original work or idea to harming him.
I also look forward to a day where the political system, can accurately register and record public opinion via the internet. Calling my MP is just not workable for me. I have no idea who to call and I hate the phone anyway. My local town council has a good start where I can log on and register my opinion on things like planning permission, but this still has a long way to go.
In your opinion, can you give me an example of a scenario (ideally related to computer programs) where patent law would be appropriate, if we go by the assumption that copyright law exists and is in the same state that it is today. I’m basically looking for a situation where copyright law is inadequate and further protection is required.
I’m not too upset about the state of copyright law at the moment – it strikes me as a reasonably sensible thing to have. However, I do believe that the punishments for infringement are too severe, and I am also concerned about the recent trend for extending the duration of copyrights, both in the Disney sense and in the increasing-of-defaults sense.
I can’t think of a specific scenario, although I don’t think that means that one doesn’t exist. I just can’t see how someone who spends a lot of time and effort developing a new or better way of implementing or doing something (be it software of hardware of whateverware) should not be awarded protection.
Maybe the problem is that techniques aren’t patentable, but ideas are. If say a doctor invented a new technique for use in surgery, that took a lot of work and development, it would be impossible to stop other people using this technique. Much in computer programming is technique, not really completely new ideas.
Maybe an instance where someone invents a completely new way of programming would be an example. Perhaps on quantum computing?
I agree with what you say on copyright law. It is mostly ok. However the recent changes to the law to extend the duration must be considered harmful. I also think their is a problem in the music industry where the rights can be held by someone other than the person who created that work.