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[GNU/FSF Press] New Documentary Film "Patent Absurdity: how software pat

From: Peter Brown
Subject: [GNU/FSF Press] New Documentary Film "Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system"
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2010 04:08:47 -0400
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20100317)

New documentary film "Patent Absurdity" is set to expose how the
judicial activism that led to the patenting of software has broken the
US patent system's promise of promoting the progress of science and
useful arts

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Monday, April 19th, 2010 -- The Free
Software Foundation (FSF) today announced the online release of the
documentary film "Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the
system" by independent filmmaker Luca Lucarini.

The film, funded with a grant from the FSF, explores the case of
software patents, the history of judicial activism that led to their
rise, and the harm being done to software developers and the wider
economy. The film is based on a series of interviews conducted during
the Supreme Court's review of *in re Bilski*, a case that could have
profound implications for the patenting of software.

"The *Bilski* case before the Supreme Court is really the story of the
judicial activism of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, who
during the 80s and 90s became dominated by patent lawyers who wanted an
expansive reading of patent law. They opened the floodgates to the
patenting of software ideas and business methods, previously held by the
Supreme Court to be unpatentable subject matter. The price of that
activism is being paid by today's programmers, who find it increasingly
difficult to write software without risking being sued, and by
businesses who have to face increased litigation and legal fees.
Software patents block compatibility and standards, make programmers
remove useful features, and are the cause of unknown amounts of
frustration in the daily life of many individuals," said Ciaran
O'Riordan, the director of the End Software Patents campaign, and a
technical adviser to the filmmakers.

Dr. Robert Shafer, associate professor of medicine at Stanford
University, who created a free, publicly available HIV Drug Resistance
Database to interpret HIV drug resistance tests and develop new HIV
drugs (located at, described the film in
light of the way software patents have hampered his work: "I'm glad to
see a film that can explain the harm of software patents. I'm also
looking forward to a favorable outcome in the *Bilski* case. However,
biomedical researchers, medical care providers, and their patients
cannot afford to wait the many years it will take before any Supreme
Court decision has a practical effect on existing patents. There is a
hardcore group of special interests who profit from the system the way
it is now -- the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit, patent
examiners who essentially receive credit for their work only when they
issue or uphold patents, and the patent bar which benefits from
cross-licensing and patent litigation regardless of how ridiculous a
patent is. One of the saddest aspects of my experience has been to learn
that the influence of the patent bar is expanding rapidly within
universities through their offices of technology licensing."

Featured interviewees in the film include economists Ben Klemens and
James Bessen, and legal scholars Dan Ravicher, Eben Moglen and Karen
Sandler. The film also includes footage of the press conference at the
Supreme Court organized on behalf of plaintiffs Bernard Bilski and Rand
Warsaw, and their lawyer J. Michael Jakes.

Speaking about the release of the film, Luca Lucarini said, "I hope that
my film can bring to light the harm that the US patent system is
inflicting on our society through software patents. The goal of the
documentary is to increase the number of informed citizens educated to
take action, and so it has been licensed to allow everyone to share and
distribute copies of the film."

"Patent Absurdity" is available under the Creative Commons BY-ND
(Attribution-No Derivative Works) license, which encourages sharing and
widespread redistribution by all who receive a copy. The film was made
entirely with free software, in the Ogg Theora format.

Because anyone can show the film, the web site is compiling a list of
screenings, including a premiere at the Connecticut Film Festival

Highlighted Early Reviews:

"...probably the best introduction to a complex area for non-technical
users" --Glyn Moody, ComputerWorld

"It’s well worth watching, both for the opportunity to see so many of
the people who are influential in software freedom philosophy and law
and for the great explanations of the issues around the *Bilski* case
and the mission creep which has led to software patents. Share it with
friends, as this issue is only going to get more important as the
Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) promotes criminalization of
patent infringement." --Simon Phipps, board member of Open Source for
America and the Open Source Initiative

"It's a 30-minute movie, mostly of interviews. There's a great Beethoven
symphony at the end that starts to degrade as music patents spring up...
In short, it's priceless." --Pamela Jones, Groklaw

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting
computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute
computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as
in freedom) software — particularly the GNU operating system and its
GNU/Linux variants — and free documentation for free software. The FSF
also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of
freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at
and, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux.
Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

About Free Software and Open Source

The free software movement's goal is freedom for computer users. Some,
especially corporations, advocate a different viewpoint, known as "open
source," which cites only practical goals such as making software
powerful and reliable, focuses on development models, and avoids
discussion of ethics and freedom. These two viewpoints are different at
the deepest level. For more explanation, see

Media Contacts

Peter Brown
Executive Director
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 319 5832

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