Lessig: A war against the freedom to innovate

Lessig: A war against the freedom to innovate

Summary: Stanford law professor and free software advocate Lawrence Lessig called on the open source community to stand up and fight or risk being buried by patent-wielding legacy businesses with arsenals of powerful lawyers. "There is a war against the freedom to innovate and this community has done way too little to resist," Lessig said.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Patents
10
Stanford law professor and free software advocate Lawrence Lessig called on the open source community to stand up and fight or risk being buried by patent-wielding legacy businesses with arsenals of powerful lawyers. "There is a war against the freedom to innovate and this community has done way too little to resist," Lessig said. "I am a puny, independent law professor. If you are depending on me [to fight the war] you are hopeless and lost," he added.

He pointed to Microsoft, which he said could spend more than anyone could imagine in defense of what he called its monopoly, primarily through arming itself with lawyers and defending its patents. "Microsoft believes a form of property [patents] to be their saving grace. There is a huge sucking sound as Microsoft fills its arsenal with lawyers," Lessig said during a keynote at the Open Source Business Conference.

According to Lessig, big, bad Microsoft wants to lock out competition, and the open source--what Lessig likes to call "free software"-- community is the anti-monopoly. Despite the fact that Microsoft has mostly used its patents defensively so far, the company could switch to offense, he said.

His advice to the open source crowd was to stop sitting back and watching others wage the battle and to become part of the struggle to ensure that innovations don't get eclipsed by the incumbents who want to stifle competition. "You could start simply with how much money and support you are giving to organizations supporting pro-innovation messages....More significant is to become part of the debate. The biggest problem is that the debate is dominated by lawyers and lobbyists who don't have a direct stake in the outcome." He called for Republicans in the crowd to get involved, so that the Republicans in power can

Topic: Patents

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

10 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Regulation and Not Innovation

    http://blog.jimjohnston.com/wordpress/?p=7
    jjohnston@...
  • Who loses?

    As SCO has shown, using lawyers to attack OSS generates TONS of bad press. Who will step up and be next? One way to rally the troops is have M$ do it! THAT would bring together EVERYONE against the evil empire.
    Roger Ramjet
    • MS knows...

      ...that becoming even more socialist will not help its cause.

      Hiding behind the government (patent laws) is textbook socialism.
      Omch'Ar
    • MS and OSS

      Do you really think MS cares about what the OSS troops think? MS already knows that they hate MS and that no press, no matter what, will change their mind. If MS had a legal patent and went to court correctly, say going after a company or group, not the average user, the press might not be that bad. At least as far as the average user is concerned.
      richhayes
  • As usual, Lessig

    Lessig is one of the most important people in the debate over copyright law (among other areas). I have followed his journey for the last 5 years, and he never ceases to amaze me. I agree with about 85% of what he says (and believes), and his arguments seem to be making a difference, especially in the world of free culture. I have noticed that the amount of 'free' content is rising, and the Creative Commons licensing system is the key to it all. You don't need to look any further than the incredible effort O'Reilly is making to free their books after a certain, fixed period of time (http://www.oreilly.com/).
    opensourcepro
  • need to resolve the big question first

    A single big issue is at the heart of all the wrangling over open source and innovation. [b]Until the United States Supreme Court rules on the legality of software patents, there will be no fundamental change in the software development landscape.[/b] What we have now is a status quo of sorts - the assumption by the lower courts that software patents are valid and enforceable, but substantial attention paid to prior art and the context in which the software is used.

    [b]Of course, the USSC could rule that software patents are valid.[/b] My belief is that is what will ultimately happen. To the extent that patents have in the past been able to protect new IDEAS, not just the IMPLEMENTATION of those ideas, software patents are a reasonable extension. At best we might get some clarification of the scope of such patents, or perhaps a requirement that the combination of software code AND intended use are what constitutes a valid patent, implying that similar code could be used in new contexts without infringement. I'm not holding my breath, people.

    [b]If the OSS community had any organization and any guts, it would force this process.[/b] Find a quality software patent infringement case and fund its appeal up the court ladder, ideally with an appeals court reversing a lower court ruling in favor of the patent holder. That's where the checkbook-waving comes in. The risks are substantial: I'm not sure a good test case is out there.
    GDF
  • Where do you see innovation in Open source?

    I only see copy of existing applications and concepts. No revolution there. Only a bunch of zombies working for free for the benefit of the industry.
    alan0012@...
    • Uhhh - TCP or WWW for starters

      And the list goes on and on from there.

      But then maybe you have been too covered up debugging your Windows Aps to do your homework.
      djc1309@...
  • Maybe they should just close the patent office too

    If the open source people are violating the patent laws by using the intellectual property of large companies, who is in the wrong? They have evey right to call out the lawyers if their legal rights to the material are being violated. I think you are supposed to pay the owners of the property to use it. As far as the right to innovate goes, that is what Microsoft have been getting sued for worldwide. If you can't play with the big dogs, get out of the yard.

    Mike
    bammike
  • Text of speech

    Does anyone know where I could find the full text of the speech? If so, could you leave a comment at http://www.ukuug.org/mediawatch/?p=127. Ta
    UKUUGMediaWatch