Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 9/3/2005Repercussions are building from Monday's amazing EU software patents decision - where procedural mystery replaced democratic accountability and as if by magic the much-despised directive moved forward once again. Many questions remain: why did the Danish representative at the meeting not do as its parliament had directed to kick the offending item into touch?

Wednesday 9/3/2005

Repercussions are building from Monday's amazing EU software patents decision - where procedural mystery replaced democratic accountability and as if by magic the much-despised directive moved forward once again. Many questions remain: why did the Danish representative at the meeting not do as its parliament had directed to kick the offending item into touch? Is the Irish hustlingin any way connected with Irish investment? And can the European Parliament itself make any headway against the seemingly unstoppable directive? In theory, it can: in practice, it seems unlikely.

All this is terribly depressing, not least to those in favour of the ever-closer union at the heart of the great post-war European experiment. Intellectual property is hard work: protecting software rights while promoting innovation and fair play is an issue that demands vigorous debate and cool, informed thought. Trying to squonk a dodgy deal through behind the scenes is bad for everyone: the software industry has prospered with a light regulatory regime, and this should not be replaced or discouraged without clarity at all levels. Instead, we have what one software developer described to me as "the FUD wagon" dispersing its slurry to all points of the compass.

What is most dangerous is the nagging suspicion that democracy has failed in the face of vested, powerful interests able to hide behind a veil of technology and international trade. Nothing of importance is too difficult for reasonable people to debate, or for our representatives to handle fairly on our behalf. If this doesn't happen, then those affected will wonder what to do instead. Far be it from me to point out that the Internet is managed by the biggest concentration of free software advocates on the face of the planet, people who as of now are thoroughly disorganised. Would it be beyond imagining that they might feel that their fundamental rights are being damaged, and like workers everywhere learn to organise themselves to prevent this? I don't know what an Amalgamated Union Of Internet Operatives could do to make itself a nuisance, but when one well-designed worm can cripple hundreds of thousands of computers and one dropped bus bar can take out an entire data centre, a few thousand unattended keyboards could cook up a storm indeed.

Not that I'm suggesting anything, you understand.