Patent activists protest in Brussels

Opponents of software patents gathered in Brussels on Thursday to accuse the European Council of turning Europe into a banana republic
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor
Hundreds of people from across Europe gathered in Brussels on Thursday to demonstrate against software patents.

The demonstration was planned by European pressure group the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) to protest against the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive (CIID), which they fear will allow the widespread patenting of software in Europe.

FFII spokesman Jonas Maebe said the demo attracted considerable support.

"There were some 300 people, which is quite a lot given that it was only announced a week in advance," said Maebe. "We also had participants from all over Europe, including [among others] Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Poland."

Maebe said that one of the key themes of the demonstration was that Europe should not be a "banana republic" -- generally defined as a non-democratic state with widespread corruption and foreign influence. Some campaigners claim that the EU Council's attempts to adopt the directive without vote or discussion during Agriculture and Fishery meetings in December and January are undemocratic, particularly as a change in the voting weights of EU members means that the EU Council members which supported the directive in May no longer have a majority vote.

"I think the banana republic metaphor is a great way to express how many people feel about the Council and Commission: no discussions on substance, only attempts to quickly push everything quietly through at fishery meetings," said Maebe. "This is no longer just about software patents, it's now also about democratic legitimacy."

The 300 demonstrators walked past the buildings of the main EU bodies involved in the software patent directive -- the EU Council, the European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament (EP). They then handed Luxembourg's chief Council diplomat Christian Braun a banana, a letter of protest, and a webshop poster, showing some of the software patents that have already been granted. The Internal Market group at the EC were in a meeting, so the demonstrators were not able to pass on the letter directly.

The demonstrators also made a vocal protest against the directive during the march, said Maebe.

"While marching between the Council, Commission and Luxembourg permanent representation buildings, chants such as 'Innovation: Yes! Litigation: No!' and 'This is not a banana republic!' could be heard," said Maebe.

The demonstration in Brussels was timed to coincide with a meeting of senior members of Parliament, which yesterday agreed to ratify the EP's request for the software patent directive to be started from scratch. But, it is uncertain whether the EC will accept the Parliament's request.

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