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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Research questions

From: Chris Croughton
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Research questions
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 10:42:01 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.3.28i

On Tue, Jul 27, 2004 at 08:38:15AM +0100, Ian Lynch wrote:

> On Tue, 2004-07-27 at 02:38, P.L.Hayes wrote:
> >  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. 
> Equally they won't be convinced unless you show them actual cases where
> such patents have been enforced to the detrimnet of an average computer
> user.

GIF?  OK, it wasn't a software patent as such, but the same principle
applies (it was a method of implementing a de facto standard).  That did
hurt "ordinary users", because when the patent was finally enforced
(after years of letting it become 'standard') prices of graphics
software went up and/or the software lost functionality (PaintShop Pro
was one of many graphics packages which just removed GIF support
totally, to avoid litigation, leaving users with GIF files and no
support).  Many shareware and free programs just disappeared altogether,
since the authors were making very little (if any) money from it they
couldn't afford the licence.  It's a big danger with patents, they can
lie dormant or with an implicit "no licence needed" and then the owner
(who may not be the original owner) decides to charge.

The FAT filesystem is another one which is an imminent threat, people
have been using it for years (if users aren't concerned about Linux and
other free software, look at Macs as another platform which needs to
interchange with FAT disks).  MS are now seeking to enforce that with
licences (yes, the FSF and others are fighting it on "prior art"
grounds, but many people could get stung before that gets settled).

Chris C

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