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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Research questions

From: P.L.Hayes
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Research questions
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 02:38:58 +0100
User-agent: KMail/1.6.1

On Monday 26 July 2004 23:25, keith richards wrote:
> Hi
> I'm researching a proposal for a broadcast news story
> on software patents and i'm looking for help on the
> following:
> 1/ Suggestions for how the story might be told in a
> way that engages the publics attention - specifically
> an individual example that would be able to illustrate
> and communicate the importance of the issue from a UK
> or european perspective.
> It would have to be something that could be filmed
> quickly and without much difficulty!
> 2/ Bromcom is one angle - are there any people who
> could be contacted for an interview - both within, and
> outside of, the free software movement?
> 3/ I understand that Bromcom allegedly charged high
> fees for licenses to their patented software is any
> information available on that?
> 3/ How would you summarise the story in 75 -150 words
> (approx) in a way that both conveyed the importance of
> swpatents, and gained the attention of a skeptical and
> possibly disinterested audience? Who would watch and
> why?

Is the Bromcom example a little too easy to dismiss as just a technical or 
industrial and governmental matter? Everyone already knows that the 
government wastes as much money as possible and that businesses are 
aggressive about 'intellectual property'. How about something more dramatic 
like a shot of a kid learning to play the violin (Illegal? - of course not!) 
followed by a similar shot of a student learning programming/comp. sci./maths 
(Illegal? - maybe!). You could have the student typing in the few lines of 
shell* or code that is all that's necessary to breach some of the trivial and 
simple patents there are. Or maybe you could show a small businessman trying 
to set up a website and falling foul of the plethora of crazy but true 
patents like those at the example website the FFII has? Is that too 
hypothetical? There's some interesting concrete examples at the FFII site 


It would be easy to show the public how confoundingly irrational software 
patents are and how they can and do impede basic work,progress and education 
in computing. I'd rather see something that shows how software patents can 
deny ordinary people the right to ordinary use of the _supposedly_ general 
purpose electronic computer they own. Maybe you could show someone at 
work,leisure or study using their computer in some of the ways it was meant 
to be used - not the way most people use computers nowadays; as nothing more 
than a socket into which they plug their restricted use, shrinkwrapped 

To me, the Bromcom technology seems a little too technical and what's 'worse'; 
it looks like the good guys have actually prevailed this time. Tabbed 
palettes and progress bars however are graphical, easy to understand and 
highly visible 'technologies' - already covered by European patents and just 
waiting for legal 'validation'. They pose an imminent and insidious but very 
real threat and I think it would be quite wrong to give the public the 
impression that the threat is only to profit making software businesses: All 
software patents are outrageous infringements of *individual* freedom of 
expression but you'll never convince the public of that unless you can show 
them that there are people out there who actually use their computers like 
musicians use their instruments and their music-ruled manuscript. 

*e.g. Progress bar:

echo -n $'__________\r'
for ((i=0;i<10;i++))
 do echo -n "#"
sleep 1

(saw this at http://wiki.ael.be/index.php/EnglishSWPatentExamples (progress 
bar link) and you can implement the old RSA encryption algorithm in a short 
shell pipeline but that patent's expired now. The DHT algorithm (not sure if 
it's expired) can be done in awk and both RSA and DHT appear in maths 
textbooks I have. It was the appearance of these latter two patented 
algorithms in elementary maths text books that first alerted me to the 
software patent madness - it was as if I'd bought my copy of  "A Tune a 
Day" (French horn) and found that it would be illegal to play some of the 
tunes therein). 

Sorry if that's not what you're looking for - it's not very specific I know - 
but I do wish someone would make a documentary, exposing this dreadful 
situation: If it _was_ happening to music,art or literature it would be all 
over the newspapers, radio and T.V.


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