Toward the end, it appeared that the European Council might not approve
software patents after all. Representatives of the German and Italian
governments had expressed reservations, and an objection from Luxembourg
forced a discussion on what was supposed to be a fast-track vote. But, on
May 18, the Council voted in favor of a patent directive which strips
out the European Parliament's changes, and which thus legitimizes software
patents in Europe.
Believe it or not, this lengthy process is still not complete, however.
The directive must return to the Parliament one last time for final
approval; this vote is likely to happen sometime in the (northern
hemisphere) autumn. If the Parliament rejects the Council's draft, then some
sort of compromise will be hammered out. Thus, it is not time for
anti-patent activists to rest, even though they are likely to be tired and
discouraged. Software patents in Europe are not yet a done deal, but
heading them off will require efforts to educate members of Parliament in
all EU member countries.
It is also worth remembering that elections to the Parliament are happening
in June. Voter turnout in European Parliament elections tends to be low,
so those who do vote have a relatively strong voice.
If you are able to vote in these elections, you may want to consider learning the
candidates' positions on software patents and voting accordingly. There is
yet time to make a difference on this issue.
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