[Fsfe-ie] Enforcement Directive mark two

Ian Clarke ian at locut.us
Wed Jul 13 17:13:18 CEST 2005

On 13 Jul 2005, at 13:35, Malcolm Tyrrell wrote:

>> If you don't ask for what you want, you mightn't like what you get.
> That's fair enough, but in the Patents debate we made a conscious
> decision to stand with SMEs and not seek some kind of Free Software
> exception.

I suspect you might be misinterpreting what Ciaran meant.

I don't think he was advocating that the free software movement  
should have just sought to protect the interests of free software  
creators and users and to hell with everyone else (which IMHO would  
have been a catastrophic mistake, and I said so at the time).

I think he meant that the argument that swpats are bad because SMEs  
can't afford or defend against claims of infringement isn't the  
primary reason we are worried about swpats, it just happens to be a  
reason that is easier to explain to people.  Ditto for the issue of  
trivial patents.

The fundamental reason that I am worried about swpats is because they  
prevent people from building on ideas for 20 years without any  
commensurate benefit to society to offset this harm.

If we focus on the costs for SMEs, then this problem could in-theory  
be solved without addressing the fundamental issue by creating a fund  
to defend SMEs.

If we focus on the problem of trivial patents then this too can, at  
least in theory, be solved without addressing the fundamental issue  
too - because even patents on non-trivial ideas do more harm to  
society than good.  For example, the RSA algorithm wasn't trivial,  
but its inventors were not motivated by the desire to obtain a patent  
(as evidenced by the fact that they didn't bother to patent it for 6  
years after they invented it), and so there was no actual benefit to  
society to compensate us for tolerating the RSA monopoly for 20 years  
(the algorithm would have been invented anyway).

As Ciaran said, if we don't ask for what we want (or complain about  
the thing that actually worries us) then we risk not liking what we get.


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