Best Argument: Needed
Just say no to software patents
Suppose, as Steven argues, that intellectual property can be defined and described, and needs to be protected. Can it be Patented? I would argue that a Patent is the wrong way to protect such a thing, if it even exists. Copyrights are used for other products of the mind such as music, eBooks, and newspaper articles. To me, it makes the most sense to apply copyrights to software as well. Copyrights offer plenty of protection by themselves.
Can software patents be fixed? Over the years, we've heard many ideas such as shortening patent expirations, crowdsourcing prior art, making lawsuits less expensive, and more. My answer to all this is: Why bother? We can have innovation without patents. Some of our greatest innovations such as the World Wide web were not patented (thank goodness!). Patents are a drag on innovation, because they incentivize non-productive behavior. We'd be better off without them.
Software is more like a machine
We've covered a lot of ground, but I want to circle back to what I think is the fundamental misunderstanding of software patents.
Software is not the same as mathematical formulas or literary text. Software is much more like a machine. A typewriter is no more of an invention than word processing software -- I'd actually argue that word processing software requires considerably more inventiveness. If a person comes up with an innovative new idea, the idea should be patentable regardless of whether the implementation is via a traditional mechanical machine or a virtual software machine. Once you understand the nature of software in this way, software patents make perfect sense.
There are improvements that can be made to the patent system, but they are the same types of incremental improvements every large system needs. Scrapping the system is just a bad idea.
Not the people's choice
Steven Shaw is not a popular guy. Why? He's writing that software patents are necessary. Oops. Ed Burnette made a compelling case that copyright law -- rather than patents -- should hold sway over software. However, Shaw's argument held together well. His bottom line: "There are improvements that can be made to the patent system, but they are the same types of incremental improvements every large system needs. Scrapping the system is just a bad idea." I'll give Shaw a narrow victory. The crowd apparently disagrees.