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The European Parliament has thrown out a bill that would have allowed software to be patented.
Politicians unanimously rejected the bill and now it must go through another round of consultation if it is to have a chance of becoming law.
Petition Against the Proposal [petition.eurolinux.org]
I'm sure there will be many more reports coming soon - I personally think it is great news for independent webmaster - no threat of being sued for a "1 click buy button" - or any other the other infamous patents discussed in the US.
Not due to being a software developer, that is not my point of view in this!
Every law or action that is made to prevent something (knowledge or goods) to reach people. Or to make the strong even stronger, I absolutely disagree.
It is important to protect intelectual property and create laws to protect both creators and maintainers of a business that relies on that very aspect. But not in a way that creates a monopoly and prevents anyone of having a chance to compete with it.
There is enough market for everyone, why shouldn't we share profits? OR do we all want "10" companies to rule business and settle for working "for them"?
Did you know that British Telecom owns the patent on the hyperlink [swpat.ffii.org] for example? What a mess would it be if they manage to squeeze money out of this. Can you imagine the internet without hyperlinks, or FireFox suddenly costing $25 for each download only because it is a piece of software that implemented following of hyperlinks?
Copyright is free and lasts longer than Patents. I would argue that algos can be copyrighted. I see no difference between translating a book from one language to another and translating an algo from Pascal to C++ or whatever.
Also, if the functionality of two pieces of code are identical, I would argue that it's the same as stealing the plot from a book and just changing the character names, etc. (unless, of course, it's coincidence).
I see no reason for Software Patents to exist provided copyright law can be used to protect intellectual property rights.
And then there's trademark law and registered designs (like the shape of a shampoo bottle)....... nightmare.
In linux world we have seen how this can work out. For some years there are software solutions which make linux a real-time system. The principle is simple, a micro kernel is used that has two tasks. The first task is the linux kernel, the second task is the set of real-time instructions to be performed. The real-time instructions have priority over the linux kernel so with very little programming effort you can transform a linux system in a real time computer for industrial or laboratory use.
Now one of the developers has patented this process and is asking huge amounts of money for this micro kernel. The other groups which made comparable systems either had to stop their development, or reach an agreement with the first. Fortunately there is a license agreement which allows specific use of the micro kernel without costs, but the patent holder has the right to ask whatever money he wants to. Many universities run their laboratory equipment on linux with this type of real-time solution. If the patent holder was a crook, they could have faced huge cost increases just because someone was squeezing money out of a patent.
Copying is different. Phil Katz (the developer of PKzip) already learned 20 years ago that you cannot just copy source code from programs (arc) and sell it as your own. Actually the copyright dispute made him develop the pkzip program, now the best known compression method in the world.
If two programmers are developing a solution for a specific problem without knowing each other, they both own the copyright of their own work and they both get paid for their own sweat and tears. However, if the first of them was smart enough to get a patent for his work, the second programmer cannot sell his piece of software without first settling an agreement with the other.
Thus, copyright is the fairest system to protect software rather than patents. HOWEVER, reverse engineering, etc. should be treated as a breach of copyright.
It's very easy to demonstrate whether two similar ideas have been developed independently, you just look at all the old code - assuming people keep old backups, etc.