Linux kernel developer Alan Cox called on European open source supporters Thursday to fight moves within the European Union to introduce strict software patenting.
During his keynote speech at the European Linux 2000 conference in London, Cox said that pressure from America to introduce US-style software regulations would have disastrous results for the European software industry.
In Europe it is possible to patent a complex software system but not elementary or abstract aspects of that system. In contrast the US allows specific parts of a software system to be patented. The EU is currently debating doing the same. It is expected to issue a directive by the third or fourth quarter.
Cox says the US system places ludicrous limitations on small software companies and open source developers because they have to pay a licensing fee every time they use a common programming technique.
"In the current US environment it would be impossible to build the Internet. In Europe, at the moment we have fairly sane patents for software but the EU is lobbying hard to introduce similar laws and it is very important that people try to fight this," he says.
Cox goes further, suggesting the main reason WAP has not been a success in the US is because of draconian patenting regulations.
"The only way that America is going to stay sane is to change or to screw everyone else over, which is very often the case when dealing with Europe," he says.
According to Cox, the key to fighting this move within the EU is to increase awareness of the issue.
"As long as enough people within the technical community point the European Union at the right things, it will be okay. But I am worried about the technical ability within the EU."