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LWN.net Weekly Edition for June 13, 2013
A report from pgCon 2013
Little things that matter in language design
Kill software patents
Posted Dec 3, 2008 19:54 UTC (Wed) by dwheeler (guest, #1216)
Posted Dec 3, 2008 19:55 UTC (Wed) by flewellyn (subscriber, #5047)
Posted Dec 4, 2008 16:15 UTC (Thu) by felixfix (subscriber, #242)
What we really need is an emphasis on originality, not a ban on one particular type of patents.
Posted Dec 4, 2008 17:31 UTC (Thu) by lysse (guest, #3190)
Consider the motivation for introducing patents. The argument usually put is that patents protect the inventor of a machine, who might have invested considerable sums in the development of that machine, from being unable to recoup his costs because someone else has duplicated that machine exactly and can now sell it for only the costs of manufacture, without the need to recoup development costs. Well - the costs of manufacture in the case of software are precisely zero, but so are the costs of development; someone else who develops a broadly functionally similar program is still likely to end up spending just as much (or as little) writing it as the original developer, even if they end up slavishly duplicating every single technique and algorithm of the original. (Moreover, that duplication becomes necessary in cases like file format compatibility, as we've seen... extensively.) In any case, the duplication of software is already adequately protected by copyright law - which, of course, does not extend to mechanisms, which is why patents were seen as required in the first place; copyright law only covers form, not function - but software is form; the function is provided by the machine on which the software runs.
Posted Dec 4, 2008 17:56 UTC (Thu) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
it's also a very uneven playing field for a well established software company (with extensive distribution, advertising, and name recognition in place) compared to a startup.
as such it's still pretty easy for a large software company to reverse engineer and duplicate the functionality of a small companies product and then wipe out the small company (look what microsoft has done several times)
unlike other industries 'trade secrets' don't work in software because you have to distribute the exact instructions. you can obfuscate things to make it hard to figure out, but a determined person can just look at the instructions that you give to the CPU and see what you are doing.
in physical devices trade secrets can sometimes work because the secret can be in how the device was made.
now I am not arguing that software patents are a good thing, I'm just saying that you arguments for why they aren't are invalid.
Posted Dec 14, 2008 2:01 UTC (Sun) by lysse (guest, #3190)
Still, well done; that strawman never saw it coming.
Prose analogy patents
Posted Dec 4, 2008 18:59 UTC (Thu) by dmarti (subscriber, #11625)
Posted Dec 4, 2008 23:23 UTC (Thu) by tialaramex (subscriber, #21167)
Who says Steve lacks an incentive? It takes a profoundly narrow mind to look out into the world and conclude that (to pick some famous names from the shelves near me somewhat at random) Lewis Carroll, Ambrose Bierce and William Goldman were coldly calculating individuals, writing whatever would generate the maximum income. No, each of them had his reasons for writing, whether a pittance or a fortune was the reward, and in no case is their best work that which an accountant or a lawyer would have said was most certain to be profitable.
When we look historically, we find that the incentive granted by these new monopolies was always an incentive to people who were already rich, to screw people and get richer. The reality of software patents is patent trolls, just as the reality of US prohibition was organised crime and massive corruption in the police and judiciary. When you find yourself making a law to "fix" a problem that didn't exist and the law causes you problems you never had before, it's a bad law and ought to be repealed. And if the courts or the patent officials make bad law by practice where there was no law by statute, drive it out with better laws.
Posted Dec 4, 2008 23:43 UTC (Thu) by felixfix (subscriber, #242)
I know it would eliminate the GPL, but I also believe that the GPL is only necessary in a world of copyright lawyers. The core idea behind GPL is that it is in everyone best interests to share work, such as the linux kernel, rather than hoard your own copy and struggle to keep up to date with continual merges to keep up with public changes. I have done that too often to think it a viable development method.
Thank you for reminding me again how much I detest the very idea of copyright.
Posted Dec 5, 2008 1:20 UTC (Fri) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
This really is a political problem. A powerful and influential minority convinced governments around the world that keeping their monopolies is a good idea. Well, if people are complaining when the price of petrol goes up, so should they when the price of music, books, films and software does the same. Otherwise, we've go nobody to blame but ourselves.
Posted Dec 5, 2008 1:43 UTC (Fri) by felixfix (subscriber, #242)
Posted Dec 5, 2008 0:38 UTC (Fri) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
- the inventor invented without patent protection
- many competitors entered the market, making the product cheap
- the inventor's company is still alive and well
I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd say that it was written by a disgruntled employee. There are overtones of sarcasm too - it completely reverts the logic as to why the patents are supposed to be a good idea (i.e. they tout "maximum profits for the inventor" rather than "public good"). It ends with "the inventor discovered our legally sanctined monopolies and is a happy monopolist these days". Hilarious!
Posted Dec 5, 2008 23:49 UTC (Fri) by bignose (subscriber, #40)
I find all too little indication they have any awareness of a motivation for getting good ideas into the public domain. Instead, the *entire site* appears to buy into the idea that artificial, legally-enforced restriction of natural usage of information is a good thing because it's a motive for the gatekeepers to profit.
Posted Dec 7, 2008 1:01 UTC (Sun) by bojan (subscriber, #14302)
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