Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 21/1/2005Someone at the European Union has been listening to Tubthumping, the Chumbawamba hymn to non-stop erotic drinking with the chorus "I get knocked down, and I get up again. Ain't never going to keep me down.

Friday 21/1/2005
Someone at the European Union has been listening to Tubthumping, the Chumbawamba hymn to non-stop erotic drinking with the chorus "I get knocked down, and I get up again. Ain't never going to keep me down." Despite every sign that nobody outside a select group of interested parties actually wants software patents, the controversial measure to legalise them is going onto a list of things to be approved by a meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture on Monday. According to the FFII, this addition to the meeting happened 13 days after the deadline for such things, and in the face of continued and substantive opposition by the majority of representatives.

As Groklaw points out, it's not hard to guess what's happening when naked political manoeuvring like that is combined with unparsable statements like this from David Ellard, one of the officials behind the proposal: "It will not make it possible to patent 'computer programs as such', but it will ensure that computer-implemented inventions are patentable -- consistent with general patent practice." These people do not want debate or oversight, they want their own ideas pushed through without opposition or analysis. People do that when they know what they have to do is unpopular and, furthermore, that they have no chance of making them so.

With recent surveys showing that nearly 30 percent of patents contradict others and the rate of dispute increasing exponentially in the US, even the keenest booster of protecting innovation by taxing invention should be keen on a bit more discussion and a little less haste. Better to get it right first time than have to reform it later, when entrenched and well-funded interests are liable to get in the way. But no, software patents are so essential for the EU that they have to be voted on by farmers. Now. This instant. I think I'm going back to my loud music.

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