European software patents not pending

European software patents not pending

Summary: The convoluted politics of the new Europe have saved us from software patents. Thank you, Poland. Now we'll be able to see which is the best approach, that of the EU or the US

TOPICS: IT Employment
It may have escaped your notice, but we Europeans are now the biggest federation on earth. With 25 nations and 455 million people in the European Union, we're bigger than the US on almost any metric that matters. We're not one nation but in matters economic we do have one law – and that law is set to overturn software patents, thanks to brand-new member Poland.

Here's something else that may have escaped your attention – as it escaped the lobbyists behind the unwelcome idea that Europe wanted software patents. The mathematics of the voting system in the European Council is similar to the presidential electoral college in the US: different states get different numbers of votes according to their population. When Poland and nine other states joined in May, this mathematics had to be redone – and the new numbers have just come into effect, before the vote that would enshrine the patent legislation. The new numbers fall 16 short of the majority needed: Poland has 27 votes. Our Ohio has come through.

It is entirely appropriate that Poland should have the casting vote here. Its role in technology history is under-appreciated -- Polish intelligence had made great progress in decrypting Enigma messages by the time WW2 broke out, giving Bletchley Park information that led directly to those famous successes and their consequences. These days, Poland – like many of the recently democratised European states – has seized on enterprise and consumer IT, from high level security through to video game production, as a quick way to get ahead. No wonder it is so cool on the idea of software patents, which protect the established and the rich at the expense of the innovative and risk-taking.

In many ways, Poland and the other ex-communist states are our California. The weather's not so hot, but the spirit of creativity and possibilities newly unleashed is very strong. And that spirit is not with software patents: it is scandalous that they got so near to being on the books. Scandalous, but unsurprising – Bill Gates is always welcome at Number 10, but Tony Blair probably thinks Linus Torvalds is the name of a Norwegian shipping company. Bill, you forgot Poland.

We're big enough not to need the US: instead, US software will labour under the extra inconvenience and cost of licensing agreements, while European software will be free to be developed and distributed as we see fit. If the US wants to give us a monopoly on free and open-source software, then we'll have to cope as best we can.

It has always been the contention of the big names behind software patents that they encourage and protect innovation. We say they do the opposite. Now, thanks to Poland, we'll have a chance of finding out who was right all along.

Topic: IT Employment

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  • Excellent news !
    Thank you Poland for using you weight on the side of democracy (EP and numerous people on vs. Commission and lobbyists) and the side of innovation and competition vs the entrenched (US&JP) businesses !
    Contratulations to the enlightened Polish ministers and all thoses who worked hard to preserve our (European software developers) right to work on a competitive market.

    B. European computer science researcher
  • Yes indeed. Thank you, Poland.
  • How come I do not feel at ease yet.
  • I hope you are correct, that software patents are off the EU agenda for now. In the end, I think it will benefit us all, including those in the US lke myself.

    But, I confess I find a certain irony in reading an article in a UK based webzine, trumpeting the EU's coming successes over the US . . . because a particular market segment (software) is LESS regulated in the EU, than in the US! It's an odd -- if welcome -- reversal of the usual pattern.

    The problem with government regulation and monitoring is that it usually starts well, but almost always ends with featherbedding useless or inefficient work, and in the end, hurts us all, even those who it set out to help! I wish I knew of a perfect answer -- if government regulation causes problems, so does the corporate greed and short-sighted economic behavior we so often see in the US.

    But, for the moment, I'll be satisfied with the demise of EU software patents!
  • This doesn't mean that the battle is won, but that we are now able to fight meaningfully to save our industry again!

    So, before this is overturned, or Poland is pressured to change its mind, it's now time to start writing politicians and articles which educate on the horrors of software patents.

    Three Cheers for Poland so far!
  • Thank you Poland. Thank you complicated and beareaucratic EU for upholding democracy...
  • Good news in a good article. Thanks to all those, who made this possible.
  • From southern California:

    Bout time this moved from theory and into practice :)
  • Proud to be Polish at least!
  • Great job, EU.

    I thought they were going to get you too. Too bad my country insists on doing things the hard way. Show us the way!
  • Thank God ....
  • For the first time I am really proud of our politicians' action.
  • That was only the first step. We, europeans, have now an occasion to defend our democracy (and money :D
  • I am from US but have been working on the elimination of software patents and I am elated that the EU has taken its stance. We have a lot of work to do here yet, thank-you for setting the right example. This is one American who is grateful to our cousins across the pond ;-)
  • No prior/limited public knowledge of the legislative work on EU part or public/inadequate consultation on the matter? - one of Brussels' distrustful moves to control everything and everywhere was foiled by Poles - but only just. They have already paid their [high] price for joining EU and have been subjected by EU ministers to many concessions and compromises using treats and pressure on Polish officials during so called Poland's EU accession negotiations. We shall watch this space - "the game is not over yet" - we've only gained valuable time. Let
  • Praise to Joy, the God-descended
    Daughter of Elysium!
  • Thanks for saving Europe!

    Poland is Rocks!
  • Polish and proud of IT
    Polska nareszcie się przydała w Unii, a unia Polsce :)