[Fsfe-ie] Re: Fsfe-ie Digest, Vol 12, Issue 13

Chekov Feeney chekov at indymedia.ie
Sat May 8 15:58:04 CEST 2004

Hi all,

First of all, thanks again for taking part in the indymedia festival.   
Sorry that it became so chaotic in the last few days, this was largely 
out of our control.  The accomodation centre of the protest organisers 
was shut down by the police and the burden of dealing with the 
international protestors largely fell back on indymedia.  This sprung 
from the fact that indymedia ireland appears to be significantly more 
mainstream than many of the european indymedia centres and many of the 
foreign protestors expected us to be a resource for them.   Anyway, the 
whole thing went off well in the end and I'm just happy to be still 
here.  Anyway, my 2 cents on the patent laws and how best to oppose them. 

Firstly, I think that it is important to recognise that logical 
persuasion and argument have very limited possibilities when it comes to 
influencing governmental decisions on things like this.  If they want to 
know the arguments, they can - they have vast resources for information 
gathering.  In cases like this their actions are based on the fact that 
software patents are supported by big business, who employ thousands of 
full time lobbyists in Brussels and have powerful institutions to 
forward their agenda at EU level such as the European Round Table of 
Industrialists and the article 133 committee.  To make them change their 
position, pressure rather than logic must be applied.  The recent 
succesful campaign against e-voting provides a good model, although I 
think that we are up against much more powerful forces on the issue of 
software patents.

>A good idea might be a letter from a diverse group of computer
This is definitely a good idea.  With an issue like software patents, it 
is going to be impossible to mobilise large numbers of people.  Instead 
better to concentrate on attempting to mobilise specific groups of 
'opinion formers' whom the government are loathe to alienate.  In 
addition to computer scientists, I'd suggest targeting SME's in the 
field of IT and even opposition politicians.  There is a lobby group 
called Democracy and Public Services in Europe (DAPSE) that is fairly 
mainstream and has succeeded in getting upwards of 30 TD's and MEP's to 
sign similar petitions to the government about EU decisions and I'd say 
they'd be sympathetic.  I could contact them and see if they could 
circulate such a petition.  In the run-up to the Euro elections there 
are a fair few candidates that will be happy to sign up if they think it 
might give them a smidgeon of publicity. 

>I should have time to write an open letter tomorrow. I'll
>send it to the list when it's finished. I can target TCD's and
>DCU's computer science departments. Are there anyother people
>on the list who could rally support from other universities?
>Also, do you think it would be useful to arrange a protest
>against software patents outside the Dail? I don't know
>how such things are arranged or whether they are effective.
Such a demonstration would really be a photo-op for the media (we're not 
going to get an angry mob!).  The key thing in making it effective is to 
make sure it gets some media coverage.  This is best achieved by 
targetting specific journalists who would tend to be sympathetic and 
contacting them directly to invite them along.  It is also important to 
make sure that the demonstration is photo-genic.  The papers are always 
looking for colourful photos to fill space and a few people standing 
around with placards doesn't cut the mustard so some sort of zany theme 
would be a good idea.  The other thing that the papers love is 
celebrity, so if any celebs or politicians could be persuaded to take 
part, that would dramatically increase the chances of getting coverage.  
Another good idea is to make the demo coincide with a relevant debate in 
the dail - dail debates are not very photo-genic, so relevant demos can 
often 'hijack' the photo that goes along with the particular report.  
Finally, if there are any similar protests happening elsewhere in 
Europe, making the demos coincide allows one to bill it as a 'day of 
action' which is again grist to the media mill. 

So, as an overall strategy, I'd suggest a campaign to get 'opinion 
formers' to sign up to a petition, with the odd demonstration aiming at 
getting media coverage.  First step is to write the petition/open 
letter.  Second step is to collect a critical mass of high profile 
signatories.  Third step is to set a good time for a demo and to come up 
with a media 'hook' like those mentioned above.  Fourth step is to 
contact as many media people as possible to attract some coverage in 
advance.  Then go back to step one and renew efforts with the higher 
profile brought by the media coverage and go through all the steps 
again.  If the campaign is becoming succesful other, more militant 
actions could be considered as media stunts such as temporary 
occupations and so on - but I'd say that computer scientists are 
generally a bit timid for those anyway!  If it is all unsuccesful and 
the patent laws get passed, another possible approach would be to 
organise a public, large-scale breaking of the laws such as a large 
number of people openly using a piece of patented software for the 
benefits of the media.  Prosecutions are very unlikely in such a case 
and would be a PR disaster for the government. 

Anyway, I'm happy to help out in circulating the petition in trinity and 

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