Linus Torvalds speaks out against EU patent law

The creator of Linux has urged the EU Council not to adopt a draft directive on software patents as he considers it 'deceptive, dangerous and democratically illegitimate'
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor
Linux creator Linus Torvalds has made an appeal to the EU Council to oppose the adoption of the Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions, known as the software patent directive.

In a statement published on an anti-patent Web site, Linus Torvalds, MySQL co-founder Michael Widenius and PHP creator Rasmus Lerdorf, said that software patents must not be legalised.

"In the interest of Europe, such a deceptive, dangerous and democratically illegitimate proposal must not become the Common Position of the member states," said the three open-source luminaries. "For the sake of innovation and a competitive software market, we sincerely hope that the European Union will seize this opportunity to exclude software from patentability."

Linus Torvalds, Michael Widenius and Rasmus Lerdorf were not able to confirm the statement in time for this article, but MySQL co-founder David Axmark said all three had confirmed the statement by email to him.

In the statement, Torvalds, Widenius and Lerdorf explain the risks of the software patent directive, including concerns that relaxing the law on software patents could damage the European economy.

"Software patents are dangerous to the economy at large, and particularly to the European economy," said the open-source proponents. "Copyright serves software authors while patents potentially deprive them of their own independent creations. Copyright is fair because it is equally available to all. A software patent regime would establish the law of the strong, and ultimately create more injustice than justice."

People have been misled about the risks of software patents, according to the statement. "The draft directive in question is deceptive because it leads laymen, and even those legal professionals who are not familiar with the intricacies of patent law, to falsely believe that it would exclude software from patentability," it said.

The group says that if the EU Council adopts the draft proposal from May it would be undemocratic. This is due to a change in the voting weights of EU members which means that the council members which supported the initial proposal no longer have a majority vote.

Florian Mueller, the founder of the anti-patent Web site, said this statement comes at a vital time, as the EU Council is due to convene later this week and will soon try to formally adopt the proposed change to the directive.

The anti-patent campaign received another boost last week when the Polish government withdrew its support for the patent directive.

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