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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1" ?>
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  3. <head>
  4. <title>FSFE - Software Patents in Europe - Open Letter - May 10th, 2004</title>
  5. </head>
  6. <body>
  7. <center><h1>Software Patents in Europe</h1>
  8. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/swpat.html">Introduction</a> | <a
  9. href="/campaigns/swpat/background.html">Background</a> | <a
  10. href="/campaigns/swpat/status.html">Status</a> | <a
  11. href="/campaigns/swpat/documents.html">Further Reading</a>]
  12. </center>
  13. <br />
  14. <center> Open Letter [2004-05-10]
  15. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040531.html">2004-05-31</a>]
  16. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040706.html">2004-07-06</a>]
  17. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040802.html">2004-08-02</a>]
  18. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20040906.html">2004-09-06</a>]
  19. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20041004.html">2004-10-04</a>]
  20. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20041101.html">2004-11-01</a>]
  21. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20041206.html">2004-12-06</a>]
  22. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050103.html">2005-01-03</a>]
  23. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050207.html">2005-02-07</a>]
  24. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050307.html">2005-03-07</a>]
  25. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050405.html">2005-04-05</a>]
  26. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050502.html">2005-05-02</a>]
  27. [<a href="/campaigns/swpat/letter-20050606.html">2005-06-06</a>]
  28. </center>
  29. <h2>Open letter to all citizens of Europe</h2>
  30. <h3>May 10th, 2004</h3>
  31. <p>Dear Fellow Citizens,</p>
  32. <p>Have you ever heard of internet protocol (IP) telephony? This is
  33. beautiful technology! While sitting at your PC, you click a
  34. number and the computer dials for you -- automatically! To chat to
  35. the person on the side you can use a headset plugged into your
  36. computer. To arrange a meeting with friends you can have a
  37. telephone conference with as many people as you want. Also, if you
  38. and your partners own a webcam you can also see each other. With
  39. a flatrate connection no costs are incurred.</p>
  40. <p>The business opportunities are considerable: IBM expects cost
  41. reductions of 30% for professional users. The market research
  42. company Gartner expects the market volume to quadruple till 2007
  43. (as compared to 2002). Definitely a very interesting field!</p>
  44. <p>However - there is a road block called 'software patents': While
  45. Copyright law prevents competitors from selling applications
  46. (e.g. "Microsoft Word") under a different product name, software
  47. patents protect ideas and make them a creative wasteland for many
  48. years. Apple, for example holds a patent on a virtual wastepaper
  49. basket.</p>
  50. <p>Given the appropriate legal framework, Apple can prohibit
  51. implementation of the idea of a 'paper basket' in any other
  52. software application, regardless of the technical solution or
  53. programming methodology and language used. Alternatively they
  54. might choose to extort licensing fees from the programmer writing
  55. the paper basket software for using the idea of a wastebasket.</p>
  56. <p>Back to internet telephony. IP telephony is like an incredibly
  57. complex house of cards of ideas: how to synchronise audio and
  58. video? How to compress data such that users with low bandwidth
  59. analog modems are not excluded? All of these ideas are necessary
  60. for internet telephony to become reality.</p>
  61. <p>The result of software patents: no IP telephony at all! Professor
  62. Henning Schulzrinne from Columbia University (New York) currently
  63. suggests that programmers wait another 17 years, after which the
  64. patents will have expired!</p>
  65. <p>In the US there is a legal basis to enforce claims from software
  66. patents. Outside the scope of the law, the European Patent Office
  67. has been granting software patents for a number of years, which
  68. could not be enforced for lack of legal basis.</p>
  69. <p>Against good reason employed at the crafting of the European
  70. system and against the will of the European Parliament, which
  71. reaffirmed the undesirability of software patents in September
  72. 2003, the European Union's Council of Ministers now seeks to
  73. force legislation similar to the US! Now - less than seven months
  74. later - the European Union's Council of Ministers and the
  75. Commission prepare to vote for the exact opposite of the
  76. parliamentarian will. What an affront to our elected
  77. parliamentary representatives!</p>
  78. <p>This abuse of the basis of democracy will have severe economic
  79. consequences: despite current law the European Patent Office has
  80. already granted 30,000 software patents. How much creative and
  81. hence economic potential is blocked for decade(s) by this? How
  82. many jobs do software patents cost or prevent?</p>
  83. <p>Who has an interest in monopolising ideas and dealing with them?
  84. In November 2003, the CEOs of Alcatel, Ericsson, Nokia and
  85. Siemens wrote to the EU commission and have spoken in favour of
  86. software patents. Did they know what they were doing? Obviously
  87. not - especially the telephony equipment suppliers would do
  88. excellent business in IP telephony.</p>
  89. <p>Obviously, patent lawyers are interested in new and complex
  90. regulation: after the European Parliament's decision the chamber
  91. of patent lawyers issued a 12-page position paper, signed by the
  92. president of the "computer software committee". From the point of
  93. view of the more than 700 patent lawyers in Munich (to these
  94. you need to add the legal personnel in companies and chambers)
  95. this effort is justified when there is a threat of losing an area
  96. of activity with the potential for growth. However, can the European
  97. economy afford to sacrifice its competitiveness in favour of these
  98. partial interests?? As long as the public discussion is
  99. dominated by patent lawyers in patent offices, lawyers in law
  100. firms, chambers, associations and ministries one gets the
  101. impression that these particular interests are the interests of
  102. the entire society.</p>
  103. <p>The nuisance of the patent system in the software field has been
  104. scientifically explored by MIT, the Massachusetts Institue of
  105. Technology. In a 2003 study its researchers found out that the more
  106. software patents a company holds, the less it invests in research and
  107. development.</p>
  108. <p>What happens in government, society and economy as a whole if
  109. these developments are not stopped? We bar people from being
  110. creative. We put societal development into the hands of
  111. bureaucrats bullying us for their own benefit at every turn. To
  112. use the words of the Czech President Vaclav Klaus "The EU is not
  113. about freedom and openness, but about bureaucratisation,
  114. regulation and harmonisation". If we leave this discussion to
  115. others, we may prove him right.</p>
  116. <p>Dear Fellow Citizens you know us - <a
  117. href="/">fsfe.org</a> and <a
  118. href="http://www.ffii.org">www.ffii.org</a> - as organisations
  119. fostering freedom in the digital age (<a
  120. href="/documents/freesoftware.html">Free Software</a>) and public
  121. information goods.</p>
  122. <p>We will continue doing that work.</p>
  123. <p>Software patents will enslave all software, including Free
  124. Software. So in consequence this might be much more: the
  125. enslavement of society as a whole by the patent establishment.
  126. Therefore we ask you for support in our struggle for freedom in
  127. Europe! You can do this by:
  128. </p>
  129. <ul>
  130. <li>1. Protesting to politicians and administrations of your country</li>
  131. <li>2. Pointing entrepreneurs - not their patent department -- to
  132. the dangers of software patents and asking your government to
  133. fight for innovation and against software patents.</li>
  134. <li>3. Contacting the papers in your region/in your professional
  135. environment. Journalists have influence - but they first have to
  136. recognise that you take this problem very seriously!</li>
  137. <li>4. Supporting us with your donation: information on how to donate
  138. is available at <a
  139. href="/help/donate.html">http://fsfe.org/help/donate.html</a>
  140. and <a
  141. 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
  142. us know about where to send it, receipts for your tax authorities will
  143. be provided quickly. Also, in the case of FSFE, please indicate
  144. whether you want to be <a href="/help/thankgnus.en.html">publicly
  145. listed as our supporter</a>.</li>
  146. <li>5. Participating in the demonstrations we are doing in Mid May in
  147. many European capitals and cities, <a href="http://kwiki.ffii.org/SwpDemo0405En">http://kwiki.ffii.org/SwpDemo0405En</a>.
  148. </li>
  149. <li>6. Moreover you can sign FFII's "Call for Action II" via
  150. <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>
  151. </li>
  152. </ul>
  153. <p>With kind regards,</p>
  154. <table width="100%">
  155. <tr>
  156. <td>
  157. <div align="left">
  158. <a href="/about/greve/">Georg Greve</a><br />
  159. Free Software Foundation Europe<br />
  160. <a href="/">fsfe.org</a>
  161. </div>
  162. </td>
  163. <td>&#160;
  164. </td>
  165. <td>
  166. <div align="right">
  167. Hartmut Pilch<br />
  168. Foundation for a Free Informational Infrastructure<br />
  169. <a href="http://www.ffii.org">www.ffii.org</a>
  170. </div>
  171. </td>
  172. </tr>
  173. </table>
  174. </body>
  175. <timestamp>$Date$ $Author$</timestamp>
  176. </html>
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