[Fsfe-ie] Re: 2004 dates for the EU Competitiveness Council

James Heald j.heald at ucl.ac.uk
Wed Dec 3 13:56:15 CET 2003

Ian Clarke wrote:

> Hartmut Pilch wrote:
>> Disadvantages of this approach
>>  - treats the issue as one of free vs proprietary.
> I have not seen anyone credibly suggest that this is an issue of free vs 
> proprietary.  The "party line" is that it is small European innovators 
> (both free and proprietary) versus large US monopolies, or 
> alternatively, innovators versus intellectual property lawyers.
> If anyone starts suggesting things like exemptions for free software it 
> will be massively destructive to our cause as it would constitute a 
> betrayal of our natural allies, the SMEs.  I hope nobody is so foolish 
> as to advocate anything like this.

It may be interesting background to know that this issue came to a head 
on the day before the Europarl vote.

Despite a certain amount of adverse discussion on the lists, the Nordic 
Green Left group had tabled a (somewhat uncertainly worded) amendment to 
exempt software which was open-sourced from the strictures of patent law.

Perhaps surprisingly, this was taken up by Arlene McCarthy, presumably 
with the backing of her advisors at the Commission's Industrial Property 
section (CEC Indprop).  She tried hard to push through a deal whereby 
the main lines of the JURI would be accepted, in return for an exemption 
for open source.

The main Green group found themselves in a very sticky position: they 
would almost feel bound to go along with such a deal, if it came to the 
vote, becuse doing anything else would have been very hard to publicly 
explain in headline terms.

If this deal had gone through, it would have left us in a very bad 
position for second reading.  The support from the SMEs, which had 
tremendous weight with MEPs would have been peeled away.  The main 
planks of the JURI report would have been voted through, and under the 
rules of the parliament MEPs would have been forced to uphold that 
decision at second reading.  And sixpence wins you a pound, that the 
Commission would have "suddenly discovered" that the open-source 
exemption was "far more wide reaching than it originally thought", and 
would have been gunned down at second reading, leaving just the McCarthy 
report unamended.

So NGL quietly agreed to withdraw their amendment, taking the 
possibility of the deal out of the arena.

Instead, we got an incredibly powerful statement from the parliament on 
the central issue of whether software patents are good for innovation -- 
for open source, for SMEs, for the whole economy; and this appears to 
have significantly re-opened the fundamental question in the Council of 

All best,


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