Suomeksi | på svenska
The European Parliament votes on software patents on the 24th of this month. Software couldn't previously be patented, as is the case for music and other works. Software patents only further the interests of software giants, not users. If the law is approved, it will be nearly impossible to cancel its effects. The time to act is now.

The most significant gains derived from software are not sales proceeds but services rendered to users. Free software benefit us all, yet, in all likelihood, they also violate many patents. Their strength lies in their being owned by us all equally. Unfortunately this form of ownership is also their weakness, as it is not in the interests of any corporation to protect free software against patent infringement lawsuits.

Any software developer can violate software patents unintentionally because software patents are secret until they have been approved; although legal claims can be made even before patent approval. The threat of patent infringement lawsuits can be used to stifle competition. Large patent holders can negotiate bilateral agreements by exchanging patent licenses. Small companies and individuals do not have such opportunities. This distorts the competitive environment. In the case of Linux, developers can be sued, leading to a potential collapse of the project which has brought many benefits to us all.

Wrongly granted patents are a big problem because they can encompass many unforeseen software ideas. Searching for software patents is practically impossible because the same idea can be expressed in a multitude of ways.

If patents couldn't be used to bring companies and individuals to trial, why would the software giants want them? If the law is approved, patent holders can sue almost all of their competitors. Software patents serve the giants and force smaller competitors to bankruptcies. Why isn't EU against software patents when they reduce competition, eliminate choice, and increase expenditures?

Troy Korjuslommi and Petri Koistinen
PLUG, Porvoo Linux User Group

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Examples of existing software patents. A horrifying read.
EFFI info on patents; Finnish coverage
EFFI open letter about patents
FLUG and FUUG patent opinion (in Finnish)

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