Actually, he was offering an alternative ...
Posted Sep 18, 2006 17:51 UTC (Mon) by josh_stern
In reply to: Actually, he was offering an alternative ...
Parent article: Prior art won't solve the software patent problem (NewsForge)
This comment seems correct to me, but more of a case would need to be made to convince me that RMS's strategy is correct here.
Five implicit premises are on or near the table:
1. that the U.S. patent office will in the future always be on the side of those trying to get new patents;
2. that the existence of things like OSDL database will help persuade European Union legislators to favor patents there; and
3. that people putting energy into things like the OSDL database might otherwise devote their energy to anti-patent lobbying.
4. that the existence of such a database as a resource will help to make the same patents that would otherwise be granted stronger, rather than saving everyone a bunch of bother and nonsense by leaving them overly broad (and granted).
5. that no free software will get written, which otherwise would not have, because the authors or their employers are more comfortable with the relevant patent situation.
While "1" is true, the fewer bad patents granted, the better. If "1" were no longer true, then much of the backfire argument goes away as well. Making "1" no longer true by lobbying for change in the incentive structure of the patent office might be a more approachable goal than getting rid of software patents all together. I've got no opinion about the truth of "2" but it seems like something that needs more argument; it's not obviously true. The truth of "3" and "4" seems pretty questionable, and a little imagination should allow one to see that "5" is false.
In summary, it seems to me that the OSDL database could obviously do some overall good except if we believe the "backfire" argument. But the backfire argument rests on questionable supporting premises that RMS does not bother to defend in the linked editorial.
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