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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
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  5. <title>Software Patents in Europe - Open Letter - May 10th, 2004</title>
  6. </head>
  7. <body>
  8. <center><h1>Software Patents in Europe</h1>
  9. [<a href="/activities/swpat/swpat.html">Introduction</a> | <a
  10. href="/activities/swpat/background.html">Background</a> | <a
  11. href="/activities/swpat/status.html">Status</a> | <a
  12. href="/activities/swpat/documents.html">Further Reading</a>]
  13. </center>
  14. <br />
  15. <center> Open Letter [2004-05-10]
  16. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20040531.html">2004-05-31</a>]
  17. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20040706.html">2004-07-06</a>]
  18. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20040802.html">2004-08-02</a>]
  19. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20040906.html">2004-09-06</a>]
  20. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20041004.html">2004-10-04</a>]
  21. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20041101.html">2004-11-01</a>]
  22. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20041206.html">2004-12-06</a>]
  23. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050103.html">2005-01-03</a>]
  24. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050207.html">2005-02-07</a>]
  25. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050307.html">2005-03-07</a>]
  26. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050405.html">2005-04-05</a>]
  27. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050502.html">2005-05-02</a>]
  28. [<a href="/activities/swpat/letter-20050606.html">2005-06-06</a>]
  29. </center>
  30. <h2>Open letter to all citizens of Europe</h2>
  31. <h3>May 10th, 2004</h3>
  32. <p>Dear Fellow Citizens,</p>
  33. <p>Have you ever heard of internet protocol (IP) telephony? This is
  34. beautiful technology! While sitting at your PC, you click a
  35. number and the computer dials for you -- automatically! To chat to
  36. the person on the side you can use a headset plugged into your
  37. computer. To arrange a meeting with friends you can have a
  38. telephone conference with as many people as you want. Also, if you
  39. and your partners own a webcam you can also see each other. With
  40. a flatrate connection no costs are incurred.</p>
  41. <p>The business opportunities are considerable: IBM expects cost
  42. reductions of 30% for professional users. The market research
  43. company Gartner expects the market volume to quadruple till 2007
  44. (as compared to 2002). Definitely a very interesting field!</p>
  45. <p>However - there is a road block called 'software patents': While
  46. Copyright law prevents competitors from selling applications
  47. (e.g. "Microsoft Word") under a different product name, software
  48. patents protect ideas and make them a creative wasteland for many
  49. years. Apple, for example holds a patent on a virtual wastepaper
  50. basket.</p>
  51. <p>Given the appropriate legal framework, Apple can prohibit
  52. implementation of the idea of a 'paper basket' in any other
  53. software application, regardless of the technical solution or
  54. programming methodology and language used. Alternatively they
  55. might choose to extort licensing fees from the programmer writing
  56. the paper basket software for using the idea of a wastebasket.</p>
  57. <p>Back to internet telephony. IP telephony is like an incredibly
  58. complex house of cards of ideas: how to synchronise audio and
  59. video? How to compress data such that users with low bandwidth
  60. analog modems are not excluded? All of these ideas are necessary
  61. for internet telephony to become reality.</p>
  62. <p>The result of software patents: no IP telephony at all! Professor
  63. Henning Schulzrinne from Columbia University (New York) currently
  64. suggests that programmers wait another 17 years, after which the
  65. patents will have expired!</p>
  66. <p>In the US there is a legal basis to enforce claims from software
  67. patents. Outside the scope of the law, the European Patent Office
  68. has been granting software patents for a number of years, which
  69. could not be enforced for lack of legal basis.</p>
  70. <p>Against good reason employed at the crafting of the European
  71. system and against the will of the European Parliament, which
  72. reaffirmed the undesirability of software patents in September
  73. 2003, the European Union's Council of Ministers now seeks to
  74. force legislation similar to the US! Now - less than seven months
  75. later - the European Union's Council of Ministers and the
  76. Commission prepare to vote for the exact opposite of the
  77. parliamentarian will. What an affront to our elected
  78. parliamentary representatives!</p>
  79. <p>This abuse of the basis of democracy will have severe economic
  80. consequences: despite current law the European Patent Office has
  81. already granted 30,000 software patents. How much creative and
  82. hence economic potential is blocked for decade(s) by this? How
  83. many jobs do software patents cost or prevent?</p>
  84. <p>Who has an interest in monopolising ideas and dealing with them?
  85. In November 2003, the CEOs of Alcatel, Ericsson, Nokia and
  86. Siemens wrote to the EU commission and have spoken in favour of
  87. software patents. Did they know what they were doing? Obviously
  88. not - especially the telephony equipment suppliers would do
  89. excellent business in IP telephony.</p>
  90. <p>Obviously, patent lawyers are interested in new and complex
  91. regulation: after the European Parliament's decision the chamber
  92. of patent lawyers issued a 12-page position paper, signed by the
  93. president of the "computer software committee". From the point of
  94. view of the more than 700 patent lawyers in Munich (to these
  95. you need to add the legal personnel in companies and chambers)
  96. this effort is justified when there is a threat of losing an area
  97. of activity with the potential for growth. However, can the European
  98. economy afford to sacrifice its competitiveness in favour of these
  99. partial interests?? As long as the public discussion is
  100. dominated by patent lawyers in patent offices, lawyers in law
  101. firms, chambers, associations and ministries one gets the
  102. impression that these particular interests are the interests of
  103. the entire society.</p>
  104. <p>The nuisance of the patent system in the software field has been
  105. scientifically explored by MIT, the Massachusetts Institue of
  106. Technology. In a 2003 study its researchers found out that the more
  107. software patents a company holds, the less it invests in research and
  108. development.</p>
  109. <p>What happens in government, society and economy as a whole if
  110. these developments are not stopped? We bar people from being
  111. creative. We put societal development into the hands of
  112. bureaucrats bullying us for their own benefit at every turn. To
  113. use the words of the Czech President Vaclav Klaus "The EU is not
  114. about freedom and openness, but about bureaucratisation,
  115. regulation and harmonisation". If we leave this discussion to
  116. others, we may prove him right.</p>
  117. <p>Dear Fellow Citizens you know us - <a
  118. href="/">fsfe.org</a> and <a
  119. href="http://www.ffii.org">www.ffii.org</a> - as organisations
  120. fostering freedom in the digital age (<a
  121. href="/freesoftware/freesoftware.html">Free Software</a>) and public
  122. information goods.</p>
  123. <p>We will continue doing that work.</p>
  124. <p>Software patents will enslave all software, including Free
  125. Software. So in consequence this might be much more: the
  126. enslavement of society as a whole by the patent establishment.
  127. Therefore we ask you for support in our struggle for freedom in
  128. Europe! You can do this by:
  129. </p>
  130. <ul>
  131. <li>1. Protesting to politicians and administrations of your country</li>
  132. <li>2. Pointing entrepreneurs - not their patent department -- to
  133. the dangers of software patents and asking your government to
  134. fight for innovation and against software patents.</li>
  135. <li>3. Contacting the papers in your region/in your professional
  136. environment. Journalists have influence - but they first have to
  137. recognise that you take this problem very seriously!</li>
  138. <li>4. Supporting us with your donation: information on how to donate
  139. is available at <a
  140. href="/help/donate.html">https://fsfe.org/help/donate.html</a>
  141. and <a
  142. href="http://www.ffii.org/assoc/financ/account/">http://www.ffii.org/assoc/financ/account/</a>. Donations are tax-deductible in many European countries. If you let
  143. us know about where to send it, receipts for your tax authorities will
  144. be provided quickly. Also, in the case of FSFE, please indicate
  145. whether you want to be <a href="/help/thankgnus.html">publicly
  146. listed as our supporter</a>.</li>
  147. <li>5. Participating in the demonstrations we are doing in Mid May in
  148. many European capitals and cities, <a href="http://kwiki.ffii.org/SwpDemo0405En">http://kwiki.ffii.org/SwpDemo0405En</a>.
  149. </li>
  150. <li>6. Moreover you can sign FFII's "Call for Action II" via
  151. <a href="http://www.ffii.org/ffii-cgi/aktiv?f=euparl&amp;l=de">http://www.ffii.org/ffii-cgi/aktiv?f=euparl&amp;l=de</a>
  152. </li>
  153. </ul>
  154. <p>With kind regards,</p>
  155. <table width="100%">
  156. <tr>
  157. <td>
  158. <div align="left">
  159. <a href="/about/people/greve/">Georg Greve</a><br />
  160. Free Software Foundation Europe<br />
  161. <a href="/">fsfe.org</a>
  162. </div>
  163. </td>
  164. <td>&#160;
  165. </td>
  166. <td>
  167. <div align="right">
  168. Hartmut Pilch<br />
  169. Foundation for a Free Informational Infrastructure<br />
  170. <a href="http://www.ffii.org">www.ffii.org</a>
  171. </div>
  172. </td>
  173. </tr>
  174. </table>
  175. </body>
  176. </html>
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