[Linux-aus] Re: Software patents: Munich has put Linux project on hold!

Anthony Towns aj at azure.humbug.org.au
Mon Aug 23 12:24:01 UTC 2004

On Sun, Aug 22, 2004 at 06:22:45PM +1000, Con Zymaris wrote:
> On Sun, Aug 22, 2004 at 02:47:22PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> > Sure. But some changes are easier than others, and the two possibilities
> > you list above are way off to the harder side; so far that I can't see
> > any hope of them being possible without some sort of coup.
> so, you obviously have a game plane. great. This wasn't obvious to me from 
> your previous posts.

Hrm, I wouldn't say I've got a game plan per se; just that I think
there are some game plans -- like blocking the A/US FTA or getting rid
of software patents entirely, eg -- that are out of our league entirely.

> > There are other possibilities that don't require abolition or perfection;
> > we could tweak the considerations for novelty/prior-art -- that wouldn't
> We don't have access to the methodology used by IP Austalia for 
> considering novelty/prior-art. How do you propose to enact this?

I don't; it's just an idea up for consideration. It might turn out to be
a bad idea that we wouldn't want even if we could do it, or it might turn
out to be way too hard too. 

That said, possible ways of getting it happening might include getting
some folks who think this is a good idea to work for the patent office
-- they're accepting applications at the moment, apparently; or for us
to ally ourselves with the patent office and make their job easier,
and in so doing build up a reputation as being worth listening to on
these issues; or for us to go through our elected representatives so
that there's an explicit policy for the patent office to consider the
effect on open source when doing their job.

The point of coming up with a range of ways of doing this, even if some
of them are stupid, is to show that it's worth cooperating with us:
we're not completely set in our ways, and we're willing to find and
accept a workable compromise if such a thing exists. If dropping software
patents is unacceptable (which it mightn't be in the medium/long term,
but it's not something non-software guys would even think about at the
moment, afaics), then there's other things that can be done to make our
life better.

> This step is likely to be incompatible with GPL-licenced code.  Do you
> propose re-licencing that code? This is a very difficult task.

Eh, lots of GPL software has the "v2 or later" clause, so is relatively
easy to relicense; and for the rest, if there's a problem after those
changes, there's a problem now. If we're willing to ignore that problem
now, there's no particular reason not to keep ignoring it later.

Seriously, there's a million reasons why it's impossible to get anywhere
on any aspect of any of this -- one of which is that no matter /what/
we do in Australia, if the US has sucky laws we're still pretty screwed
because trying to develop free software purely outside of the US is a
damn nuisance. There just aren't perfect wins in politics, and that's why
we've all chosen to be hax0rs instead of politicians: at least there's
the /theoretical/ possibility of writing bug free software.

But there's no point getting depressed at all the impossibilities and
setbacks and whatever else; that's just part of life. If you can't
accept that's the rules, you might as well not play the game. And it's
not like the other side aren't suffering problem after problem either:
CD burners, DVD writers, Kazaa, Bittorrent, fair use, the DMCRA,
the Eldred act, satellite piracy, modchippers, emulators, consumer
opposition to DRMed formats, artists that hate them, new technologies
that make them unnecessary, globalisation cutting into their margins,
having to run major advertising campaigns to make the next generation
even care mildly about their problems...


Anthony Towns <aj at humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
Don't assume I speak for anyone but myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

``Like the ski resort of girls looking for husbands and husbands looking
  for girls, the situation is not as symmetrical as it might seem.''
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