|| ||Richard Stallman <rms-AT-gnu.org>|
|| ||Response to Collins' article|
|| ||Mon, 06 Dec 2004 23:24:22 -0500|
People who use the term "intellectual property rights" (*) are
generally either trying to confuse you, or already confused
themselves. Since Dr Collins is a trained specialist, I think he
knows what our point really is, and that he only feigns to
I have been campaigning against software idea patents for 14 years,
and I welcome the support of Linus Torvalds. Both he and I are well
aware that copyright covers the details of expression of a program and
does not monopolize ideas--whereas every patent is an explicit
monopoly on use of some idea (**). This is precisely why we are
campaigning against software patents and not against software
copyrights. Both of us are noted for developing powerful, successful
software packages (which, taken together, form the basis of the
GNU/Linux operating system), and both of us are aware that such
projects entail combining thousands of different computational ideas.
If a country allows computational ideas to be patented, developing a
large useful program means running a gantlet of patent threats--which
only the megacorporations think they can do.
Offering us the opportunity (at great expense) to use patents to take
shots at other software developers would hardly assuage the damage
that others would do when they point their patents at us. The
European Parliament understood that the "patent protection" software
developers need is protection from patents.
Fortunately, Dr. Collins is mistaken in believing that the GATT
agreement (***) requires software patents. Several other countries
that adhere to the WTO reject software patents, and the European Union
would be wise to join them. In the past few years, the European
Patent Office has issued over 30,000 software patents, in blatant
defiance of the treaty which set it up. The Parliament's version of
the directive will reaffirm that these patents never had validity, and
will keep European software developers and users safe. Now the
question is whether the Council of Ministers will support developers
and users generally, or the megacorporations only.
President, Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org)
* See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.xhtml for more explanation
of why the term "intellectual property" is harmful and should be
** My dictionary defines an idea as "a product of thought". Every
patent covers some idea, in this everyday meaning of the word; a
software patent is therefore a patent covering an idea that can be
used in software, and idea for computation.
*** To avoid using the prejudiced term "intellectual property rights",
I refer to the part of GATT that deals with copyrights, patents and
trademarks as TRIPES rather than TRIPS. TRIPES stands for
Trade-Restricting Impediments to Production, Education and Science.
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