European Software Patents Directive

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2003-08-19: Help stop software patents in Europe!

Potential badness going down in Brussels on 2003-09-01 [and now again on 2004-04-14 and 2004-11-25], when the European Parliament vote on the Software Patents Directive, which could mean the end of creative software development as we know it. Check out these examples of things that will be patentable.

The FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) are urging software creators and users (yes, that means you!) to air their views in various ways. As well as staging events to protest in person, they are encouraging webmasters to demonstrate online:

If you administrate some servers or own some webspace, you might wish to block or delay access to certain web pages on 2003-08-27 [and now again on 2004-04-14].

This can be done in a more or less gentle fashion. Some examples on what you could do are shown at

Do you think that blocking access to web pages is too drastic a measure to take? Have you considered how many web pages will be rendered inaccessible later by means of software patents if we fail to prevent this law now? Which of the two is less drastic?

Don't go risking your job (!), but if you have your own website then maybe put something there.

Anyway, tell everyone. And join the 233897+ people who already signed the Petition for a Software Patent Free Europe.

Without freedom of choice there is no creativity.
- Captain James T. Kirk, stardate 3157.4


Good news! People power worked for once, and the vote has been delayed. Thanks to those who attended the demonstrations in Brussels [photos] and to the 3000+ websites that participated.


Bad news! New EU IP Law Deemed Harmful.



"Anyone who infringes copyright - even unwittingly - may have his or her 'assets seized, bank account frozen and home invaded.'".

Please contact your MEP in time for the vote on 2004-03-08. Here's what I wrote.

2004-03-10: EU Passes Nasty IP Law

Oh dear. What fun it will be to be a Lawyer in the 21st Century! Sadly not a bundle of laughs to be a citizen though :(

Well, at least some MEPs took my advice and amended the directive to less resemble Terry Gilliam's Brazil:

Before the vote, critics said the law was flawed as it applied the same penalties to both professional counterfeiters and consumers. But a late amendment limited them to organised counterfeiters and not people downloading music at home. [ BBC NEWS ]

However, the Beeb neglect to mention that although in non-commercial cases the assets and bank accounts of alleged infringing consumers are safe, their homes can still be raided; this is not covered by the aforementioned amendments.

Of course, this is merely a directive that offers guidance for governments to pass law, within two years. But it is certainly not a positive direction to take.

What is particulary worrying is that the French Conservative MEP Janelly Fourtou, who originally proposed the directive and fast-tracked it through EU parliament without proper debate, is married to the CEO of Vivendi Universal, a vast media corporation (courting Microsoft) which stands to gain thousands from the new IP powers. Nice.

Just goes to show that The Law is, truly, an a$$.

...*runs away* to Sealand...

2004-04-10: More protests against software patents in Europe

2004-05-09: EU Moves Toward Software Patents

2004-11-30: Dziekuje Poland! *

Poland Votes Against EU Software Patent Directive :-)

In a fortnight I'm off to a meeting in London...

2004-12-14: Software Patents Meetings at DTI

2004-12-22: Wlodzimierz Saves The World!

Defiant in the face of mounting pressures from Big Business, the Polish Minister of Science and Information Technology has called a halt to the evil directive that is tearing apart democracy within the EU.

Thanks Wlodzimierz :-)

2005-07-06: EU throws out the software patents bill!

Of course, there is still a danger that the Dark Forces will regroup and slip in some other back door, so we must remain vigilant...

© copyright Malcolm Smith 2003-08-19 - last updated 2005-08-02 - links verified 2003-09-07