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How IP Law Helps FOSS Communities

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the strange-bedfellows dept.

Open Source 98

dp619 writes "Fighting against software patents (New Zealand has banned them) tends to blind FOSS communities to aspects of IP law that actually serve them well. While certainly not perfect, patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret law each has something to offer FOSS communities. Penn State law professor Clark Asay wrote a guest post for the Outercurve Foundation briefly describing some of the ways in IP law can help open source developers."

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missing the point (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44824819)

Open source isn't supposed to help developers. It's supposed to help USERS.

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44824951)

Can't it do both? So black and white around here.

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44825013)

Generally, no it can't. Buyer vs. Seller is a zero sum game.

With three or more actors, a low-price seller and a buyer can collude against a high-price seller though.

Re:missing the point (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44825249)

Buyer vs. Seller is a zero sum game.

Only if you assume that they're both douchebags. Assuming that, just because some people are douchebags, everyone's a douchebag, is not a nice way to live.

In any case, your analogy is flawed.

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44829083)

You haven't disproven that everyone isn't a douchebag. Everyone is out for themselves unless they kill themselves. There is no situation where a living being doesn't use resources to live. It's why we need greed to survive. The analogy is perfect, and becomes moreso with every merger which allows a single corporation, who's sole purposed for existence is to make more and more money, to control vast, unavoidable swaths of life. Monsanto comes to mind. Try buying any bit of food without somehow touching something Monsanto makes. You'd find it pretty hard when one company controls 80 to 90% of the market like Monsanto does. (Not demonizing the company, just giving an example of relevance for today) Make no mistake, those with capitol completely control those without. So maybe the anaolgy is flawed, but that's only because it's worse than a 0 sum game for the consumer. It's a stacked deck in a rigged game.

Re:missing the point (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44832923)

I give away stuff for free and still manage to live pretty well. So does FOSS.

Re:missing the point (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about a year ago | (#44825563)

No. In fact, informed transactions only happen when there is a benefit for both parties. Ignoring that the economics are very different for the tangible and intangible, a key element of all economies as we know them is the benefit of division of labor. Even at actual disadvantage, it is better for both parties to trade so long as a comparative advantage exists. This is literally entry level economics.

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44829151)

Theory versus reality is a hard lesson to learn. There is no way a single individual can make an informed choice on the best purchase to make. There are too many variables. It is however significantly easier for the seller to determine the prices that a market will bear, especially when the costs of doing business essentially make monopolies a necessity. In the digital world, the prices of good should have gone down significantly with the advent of nearly costless distribution means, in fact that has not happened in the way it should. Despite growing profits, recording studios are still claiming profits through legally gaming the system, simply because they have the money to find the loopholes. Please do not suggest that there is an equal footing between the haves and the have nots. I'm not suggesting that capitalism is bad, just that we are in severe need of a market correction, because this sure isn't a free market by any means.

Re:missing the point (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44825619)

Buyer vs. Seller is a zero sum game.

There isn't a voluntary trade without mutual benefit. Buyer vs. Seller is always positive sum.

Re:missing the point (3, Insightful)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#44825877)

Buyer vs. Seller is a zero sum game.

That is simply false. If it were true, economic exchanges would never occur.

In a zero sum game, the total cost of the participants gains and losses in utility--for one perhaps increasing and the other decreasing--add up to zero. One side may win, the other may lose, but both sides cannot win.

Let's say you've developed hydrophobia want to sell your used canoe on Craigslist. Let's say that I want to buy a canoe to go camping on an island in the middle of a lake. Your asking price is $300 and I think it's a good deal. I give you the $300; you give me the canoe. You're looking at this and saying, "Well, I'm less one canoe but I've gained $300 and he's less $300 but he's gained a canoe. So, it's break even." Or worse, you might be thinking, "Ha, that sucker. I had no use for that canoe so it was clearly worthless. But I can now by a sweet raincoat with my $300."

What you're missing here is a very basic economic reality: value is subjectively determined. Because of your hydrophobia, the canoe has no utility for you. You'd rather spend $300 on rain coats. So the exchange is a gain in utility for you. I, on the other hand, cannot make a paper boat out of three Benjamins and expect to get to my campsite. Money's use is that it can be exchange for something useful. I decide that I'll get more utility out of the canoe than $300 in the bank, so I buy it from you and from my perspective I've also gained in utility. It is, in other words, a win-win.

Where there is no force, compulsion, coercion, rent-seeking, or other machinations involved, free economic exchanges can always be win-win scenarios. People simply wouldn't trade, buy, or sell if they didn't value what they gained more than what they gave away.

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44827421)

If you've developed hydrophobia, I want to be nowhere near you, and you won't have long to enjoy your raincoat anyway. The word you want is aquaphobia (despite it mixing Latin and Greek words).

Re:missing the point (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#44830957)

The word I want is hydrophobia. Clearly you have in mind the term hydrophobia as a chemist might use it, and that is well. But the term also has a long pedigree of being used to describe the fear of bodies of water. Read any details about the life of the emperor Heraclius, for example, as you'll find it used to describe the condition he suffered after thoroughly defeating the Persians in the 7th century. When he got back to Constantinople, he is said to have a bridge of ships constructed over the Bosphorus so he could cross, with potted trees lining the whole so he could pretend he was on land. When the early Muslim conquests began, part of their stunning and speedy success may be attributed to the failure of this emperor to respond to the crisis. He refused to leave the city and cross into Asia for fear of leaving land.

Re:missing the point (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44824977)

Not really. The "Users" in RMS's time WERE developers of some ability. Even when ERS took up the Open Source banner over Free Software, he was looking at it as a Developer.

People who are strictly users don't really care. This is how the UNIX vendors, Microsoft and Apple were able to dominate their respective fields for so long. It was only people who wanted to develop extensions of closed software that Open || Free vs closed became an issue.

Re:missing the point (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about a year ago | (#44826913)

"Not really. The "Users" in RMS's time WERE developers of some ability"

Open source would ENORMOUSLY benefit PC gaming. In fact the few games that were open sourced have all had amazing work done to them. Who cares if only a small subset of the gaming community/fans have the potential to fix/work on the code? That's true of anything requiring serious effort. I can only imagine where we'd be if it was required by law to open source all games. So many classic games would not have to have 'gangrene' code. Where would Mechwarrior 2 and other classic DOS games be if their source was required to go to a library and then be opened after a decade (after the sales window)? Right now companies are allowed to confiscate software and purposely break it or neglect it. There's no good reason why games have to break at all, and they could continue to be updated as hardware changes if not for the backwards and completely corrupt IP law.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhAR8rWPluQ [youtube.com]

FS2 SCP mod community

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Re:missing the point (1, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#44827001)

Not really. The "Users" in RMS's time WERE developers of some ability. Even when ERS took up the Open Source banner over Free Software, he was looking at it as a Developer.

People who are strictly users don't really care. This is how the UNIX vendors, Microsoft and Apple were able to dominate their respective fields for so long. It was only people who wanted to develop extensions of closed software that Open || Free vs closed became an issue.

Back in the days, computer users were technically proficient out of necessity - either you had to know electronics and solder to build your own computers, or to write software to make it do what you want.

The thing was, Steve Jobs realized that computers shouldn't be for just the technically minded - it was a transformative technology that could revolutionize how things were done. But to do that required getting the computer out of the hands of techies and into the general public - world-changing technologies just aren't world changing if they are locked up and not shared. (Sound familiar?)

So fast forward to today where computers are everywhere - they are some of the most powerful tools mankind has created. Thing is, though, as a tool, it should assist the user in helping them do what they want, not be an end to itself. After all, if a tool doesn't help you, it's pointless.

A car helps transport people - but drivers don't have to be mechanics to use them. If they had to be, we'd probably still be back in the late 19th century where cars were a rarity because the reward wouldn't be there. Likewise a computer is useful for many things - entertainment, communications, assistance, information delivery, etc.

But you have to realize that users don't care how it works - they don't want to know because that's not reason why the computer is so useful. The computer is useful because it allows them to go about their day efficiently - perhaps to look up a tidbit of information through Wikipedia, or connect them to with like-minded individuals scattered throughout the globe. Or advanced research - things like software defined radios (these people don't care how computers work - they write their DSP algorithms and have them "magically" work - they don't care about OS updates or kernels or whatever).

And I'm sure you'll agree that not everyone needs to know how a computer works. Your mechanic doesn't - yet they use a computer based diagnostic machine to fix your car (would you like to have your car on the stand then have the mechanic say it's going to take days because he accidentally hosed the diagnostics machine playing around with the new Linux kernel?).

The car: yup bolt its hood shut, thank you. (1)

DrYak (748999) | about a year ago | (#44829643)

Thing is, though, as a tool, it should assist the user in helping them do what they want,

Yup. Do what the *end users want*.
The tool should *not work against them*.
Not do what *the makers decided to do*.

It should do what the end users want, even if the end user want to do something weird.
I should not be served a DCMA because I use a hammer as a paper weight instead of using it for nailing.
If I want to pry appart two pieces stuck together, I can use a screw driver. I won't be required to buy an extra "pro business deluxe" license to acquire a small chisel because screw drivers are only for screws even if they have the exact shape I need.
Re-purposing something to be used as something else that wasn't thought by the maker is a normal think.

Also tools and object don't work against you. When you open a condom package, no secret database will record which person had sexual activities together. When I put a book into my shelf I more or less expect to find it back with the same content (baring from accident involving cats pushing everything or 3-years-old with a crayon in the hand), I don't expect its content to have been remotely sanitized to please the powers to be.

After all, if a tool doesn't help you, it's pointless.

Same for tools which work against you instead of helping you.
Same for tools which you are forbiden to use in a certain way.

Just imagine a world were "your license doesn't cover that use, you're breaching end-user-license-agreement by doing that and we will revoke the tool" was applied to real object like WD-40 and Duck-tape ?

A car helps transport people - but drivers don't have to be mechanics to use them.

On the other hand, I you happen to be a mechanic you can tweak the car. Even if you're not, your are still allowed to open the hood and do a quick trouble shooting for things within your capabilities if you want. You don't need, but that doesn't mean you're forbidden by law to even think about doing it.

You can even add after market part and other modification to a car (as long as some ciritcal part pass enough safety-certifications as not putting people in danger. Just like an after market power supply won't immediately provoke a fire the instant you try to use it with your computer).

Or at least that was until recently, until software started appearing in the mix. Now you have weird stuff, like onboard computer which can only be serviced by a licensed technician using special connection to access the car over a proprietary and secret connector+protocol, or car which only accept MANUFACTURER-licensed after market parts because the electronics only speak a proprietary protocol.
Yup. It's your car, but even if you wanted it, you couldn't do what you want with it (Even if the thing you want won't kill anybody).

Compare that on a farm where an old borken tractor's motor could be repurposed to power something else.

Likewise a computer is useful for many things - entertainment, communications, assistance, information delivery, etc. But you have to realize that users don't care how it works - they don't want to know because that's not reason why the computer is so useful.

I don't care how a piano work. I just play it. I call a specialist to tune it, repair it, etc.
BUT I would be really pissed off if I got sued the moment I open it's hood just to look at the hammers.

Or advanced research - things like software defined radios (these people don't care how computers work - they write their DSP algorithms and have them "magically" work - they don't care about OS updates or kernels or whatever).

You realise that you exactly brought up one of the reasons to keep thing openable? advanced research? Even if radio is heavily regulated (to avoid one accidentally fucking up another transmission), you can still do research and even program your damn SDR if you want? You're not limited to just using the few available radio gizmo at the store. You can hack stuff (As long you follow the local regulations and don't fuck up every single other radio gizmo around you).

would you like to have your car on the stand then have the mechanic say it's going to take days because he accidentally hosed the diagnostics machine playing around with the new Linux kernel?

Or because microsoft fucked up an update and/or a virus speard using some 0-day exploit and has hosed the diagnostic computer (remember that it needs to be only for the DRM on the proprietary protocol to work)

The target of opensource is not to force everyone using computers to necessarily be a mechanic.
The main targets of opensource is to give the freedom to any end-user to:
- study the content
- hackit if they want

And that's important if you want to see if a tool necessarily does what it says it does, and doesn't do anything either by malicious intentions (back door planted) or negligence (exploitable bug). If it's open, someone with the necessary skill will end up finding it one day, even if you personally don't have the skills.

It's also important to letting you do whatever you want. You may want to only use it as recommended. But some other user would like to re-purpose the tool for other needs I wouldn't like artificial problems to that.

Take the iPods/iPhones/iPads as exemple. Even if Apple did lock their software. There are artists who still find a way to incorporate them into their artwork. There are tons of other uses beyond what initially Apple had planned for them. Luckily for now, only the software is locked, but you can find new uses which don't require a change of software.
Opensource proponents simply would like this kind of liberties to also be allowed at the software level.

With enough such deviations, new idea and new possibility emerge. A hackable device is a specially kind of "Distributed R&D" opened to the whole users' crowd.

You can see what kick starter, 3D printing, etc. have managed to bring from outside the big enterprise world.
What they bring to the physical world, opensource brings to the software world.

Yes, nobody wants to *NEED* to recompile a Linux kernel just to get their smart TV to start up and show movie.
On the other hand, some *might WANT* to be able to, just because they need it for a hobby project. They should not be arbitrarily prevented from (with no technical reason).

Currently, IP rights (patents, copyrights, etc.) are saddly abused in that direction (preventing uncontrolled use) rather than in their original intent (protecting and helping invention/creation).

...Software patents: no sense (1)

DrYak (748999) | about a year ago | (#44829789)

Also, software patents (and in general, patents on anything not physical, like "methods") make no sense at all.

Patents did make sense for industrial inventions.
It makes sense because physical objects take resources to create, they're expensive.
Idea are cheap: they are mostly free. It's the implementation that's challenging.

Back to the car method:
- If I'm the inventor of cars, I won't be able to create a prototype. I would need materials, I would need physical experimentation, etc. To invent cars, I would need to go talk to some industrials. Explain to them what a car is (or would be), and ask for funds to actually be able to at least test the idea and see if it works.
The risk is that industrials will listen carefully, will answer "no, thanks" and pretend not to be interested, then once you step out, start building your invention and getting all the money and keeping it for themselves.
You need patent to protect complex designs of physical objects.

- If you're a software engineer (well I'm actually soft of in this business), and have an Idea (or 20 different, actually), you don't need no industrial sponsor to finance complex building process. Just lock your self with a few beer, fire up the laptop and type your code over the week-end and see how it turns out.
It only costs time and a few basic equipement.
Nothing that needs to be protected.

Idea come for free, writing code is cheap.
Making a complete design for a physical object is much more complex, building a prototype requires lots of ressources.

Only one of the two needs patent protection.

Re:missing the point (1)

Shompol (1690084) | about a year ago | (#44827041)

People who are strictly users don't really know the difference.

That's what you should have said. Even the least caring users are directly affected by what's "under the hood" even if they never bother to open it. Your examples are not exactly convincing either:

Microsoft ... able to dominate

Mostly before Free Software gained momentum. Look what is happening to them now.

Apple ... able to dominate

They kind of stagnated until Jobs came back with a copy of Free BSD...

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44827197)

People who are strictly users don't really know the difference.

That's what you should have said.

they dont care because they dont know the difference. the reason is that there needs to be something that benefits the user by virtue of being open source, some thing that provides direct benefit that couldnt be done if it werent open source, until then users will never care about it and the only people that will care about it are developers. for example Android being open source provides geeks with some cool features but nothing to the majority of users who have no idea about it and no reason to care.

Microsoft ... able to dominate

Mostly before Free Software gained momentum. Look what is happening to them now.

in the markets that they have always dominated they continue to dominate, they came too late to the current incarnation of smartphones and tablets which has nothing to do with free software.

Apple ... able to dominate

They kind of stagnated until Jobs came back with a copy of Free BSD...

claiming NextSTEP is just a copy of free bsd is retarded, surely youre not that stupid though maybe you are.

yeah , it's not like Android is Linux based (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44827875)

> smartphones and tablets which has nothing to do with free software.

Yeah, it's not like most smartphones run Linux or something. ;)

Microsoft wasn't late; they've been trying to do smartphones for at least ten years. Their system, Windows, just isn't any good for phones. Windows, as it's name implies, is designed for having many windows open doing different things, on hardware large enough to handle many concurrent applications. On a phone, you need to start with a small kernel with real-time capabilities, then build apps on top of that. You need Linux.

Re:yeah , it's not like Android is Linux based (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44835307)

Yeah, it's not like most smartphones run Linux or something. ;)

yeah and iOS runs Darwin so iPhones are open source! dont be so dumb, this had nothing to do with any rise of free software.

Microsoft wasn't late; they've been trying to do smartphones for at least ten years. Their system, Windows, just isn't any good for phones. Windows, as it's name implies, is designed for having many windows open doing different things, on hardware large enough to handle many concurrent applications.

so, whilst we know the lack of a broad choice of applications does hold back windows phone the undeniable part is that it does indeed perform better than android, i dont personally like windows phone and if i were going for a non-Android phone i would probably go an iPhone because i dont see any reason to choose a windows phone over an iphone other than maybe price but where the performance of Android is the most frustrating thing about the os for me i was pleasantly surprised to find windows phone to be incredibly smooth and slick. i still wouldnt choose one but certainly performance is not an issue for them.

On a phone, you need to start with a small kernel with real-time capabilities, then build apps on top of that. You need Linux.

rubbish, one linux phone os has succeeded and many linux phone operating systems have failed, the key element clearly is not linux. in fact if you look at performance the most sluggish major phone os is Android, they even had a specific project that they publicly talked about targeted at addressing that problem and while it alleviated the problem a bit performance is *still* a problem even on my stock nexus 7 with the latest os version.

Re:missing the point (1)

Shompol (1690084) | about a year ago | (#44830999)

claiming NextSTEP is just a copy of free bsd is retarded

I did not call it "just a copy" but merely pointed out that it is based on open source, while you claimed to be an example of closed source success. Can we settle on "a copy with some bells and whistles attached"?

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44835371)

I did not call it "just a copy"

no you said he "came back with a copy of FreeBSD [slashdot.org] ", how do you figure? it wasnt Free BSD, it was NeXTSTEP which is nothing like FreeBSD in fact while there may have been some BSD code in there the kernel was actually built on the Mach kernel. but more to the point when NeXTSTEP was created FreeBSD didnt even exist yet!

Re:missing the point (1)

Shompol (1690084) | about a year ago | (#44836273)

may have been some BSD code in there

There have beem "some", it is a fact. How much was it is arguable, but definitely much more than "may have been some".

FreeBSD didnt even exist yet!

FreeBSD did not exist, but free BSD did. You knew it, right? Here is an amusing article for you:

How Free Software Contributed to the Success of Steve Jobs and Apple [oreilly.com]

Re:missing the point (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about a year ago | (#44828165)

Yes and no. The idea of free software is that users and developers are ultimately the same. If you encounter a bug as a user or need some feature, you can fix it on your own, or, if you don't know how to do that, you may send the source to some grey-bearded friend who will patch it for you. That's the idea. It means that users are informed and encouraged to learn about the technology they use and hack and adjust it to their like, rather than being forced to use a weird blackbox with paid upgrades every few months.

Unfortunately, the OP confuses open source with free software. Free software is always open source, but not all open source software is free (as in freedom).

By the way, the argument that most users don't care about free software is (a bit) on a par with the argument that most slaves in ancient Rome didn't care or that women don't want to have the same rights as men. These arguments are probably wrong, but even if they were right, they would completely miss the point.

Re:missing the point (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year ago | (#44835523)

It means that users are informed and encouraged to learn about the technology they use and hack and adjust it to their like, rather than being forced to use a weird blackbox with paid upgrades every few months.

That's a disingenuous comparison, in fact I can't think of any software at all for which I've done paid upgrades 'every few months' so what specifically are you referring to?

Even with open source applications like GIMP I would still rather use my copy of Photoshop CS2 than go to all the work to make GIMP a viable replacement. On the other hand Blender actually is in some real cases a viable replacements for its closed-source competitors. To win over users free software has to be better, not just cheaper and you have to remember that software is just a tool to get a job done and most users would rather replace a tool that doesn't work right than learn how to modify it and then do the work to make it work differently.

Re:missing the point (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44825609)

It can help both. Most early open source (before the term was invented) was libraries intended for use by other programmers. The whole rational behind the GPL is to preserve the right of the user to modify the code, thus the user is also a programmer.

Re:missing the point (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year ago | (#44835541)

The whole rational behind the GPL is to preserve the right of the user to modify the code, thus the user is also a programmer.

But in the incredibly vast majority of cases the user is not - and doesn't want to be - a programmer.

Re:missing the point (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44835909)

I was talking about the rationale to create the GPL, that implies when it was first created and not the state that exists today. When the GPL was first created it was for software primarily intended for developers. Initially this evolved from the license first used with GNU Emacs, but then when formalized as a "license as subroutine" it was applied to other GNU programs which were primarily GCC and other Unix tools replacements.

Most of the clauses in the GPL are there precisely to allow the end user to modify the program, not just inspect the source code, or at least get a helper to do the modifications (ie, the sysadmin). This means that the end user can actually do the modifications and recompile and run the modified program, thus all portions must be present to allow a full rebuild.

Re:missing the point (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year ago | (#44837761)

I was talking about the rationale to create the GPL, that implies when it was first created and not the state that exists today.

I understand, my point was that the reason users don't really care about open source is because most users aren't programmers and to a non-programmer user it really makes no difference, sure they could pay somebody to add features for them but the reality is that most of the time it's only businesses that do that. Open source needs to provide a tangible benefit to non-programmer users for them to care about it.

Re:missing the point (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44825695)

Says you.

I share my code because I want to help developers with the tools I work on, not because I have some altruistic, high-minded goals about helping users.

Different projects have different goals. The fact that people who would download my tools could be called "users" of them doesn't make them any less developers. To make broad, sweeping statements about who should benefit tries to pigeonhole the mind of the developers of open source projects, and that is a fool's game, because everyone has their own reasons for sharing.

Re:missing the point (2)

someone1234 (830754) | about a year ago | (#44827117)

In Open Source, there is no clear boundary between developers and users. This is actually a benefit of open source, any user could be a developer.

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44829599)

Who says? The GPL seems to be aimed that way, my open source projects are that way because I felt that I'd done something cool, and I wanted to share it with other developers. My goal very much is to help developers.

Re:missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44838851)

It help's developers... Ie the writer of the code.. If he does not want anyone else to close down and use his source without giving back then it's his choice..

Also opensource have many flavors that gives both developer and user (as in developer that uses) different benefits..
GPL - The developer owns the rights and wants to keep it open... If you want to use it then you need to publish your changes too for the benefit of the community. If your project uses this you need to keep your project as GPL too...
LGPL - Feel free to soft-link against it.. No need to opensource your code, but any changes you make to their parts you need to publish...
BSD - Almost do what you want.. Keep it open, closed or whatever.. depending on the license you might need to acknowledge that you are using the software.

OpenSource is there to help the community.. In some cases the 'owner' of the code and in some cases the developer that wants to use the open-source code.

New Zealand didn't ban software patents... (4, Informative)

drussell (132373) | about a year ago | (#44824831)

They basically just banned adding "on a computer", etc. to a patent automatically becoming a new patentable "invention".

Re:New Zealand didn't ban software patents... (5, Informative)

Nuke Bloodaxe (582098) | about a year ago | (#44825665)

*sigh* I am in New Zealand, and yes I have read and understood the legislation. For full disclosure I am also an Associate Member of the IITP, one of the groups who pushed hard to get this mess sorted out.

Most people skip the most important line which reads:

"A computer program is not a patentable invention." Section 15, part 3A: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2008/0235/latest/whole.html?search=sw_096be8ed8054d616_computer+program_25_se&p=1#DLM1419225 [legislation.govt.nz]

Now, is that unclear to anyone?

Re:New Zealand didn't ban software patents... (1)

drussell (132373) | about a year ago | (#44825763)

Section 15, part 3A:

I stand corrected.

Mod that link up.

Re:New Zealand didn't ban software patents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44826205)

*sigh* I am in New Zealand, and yes I have read and understood the legislation. For full disclosure I am also an Associate Member of the IITP, one of the groups who pushed hard to get this mess sorted out.

Most people skip the most important line which reads:

"A computer program is not a patentable invention."

Okay. But wouldn't something like "A system comprising a computer with a touch-sensing display, and a program running on that computer such that gesture A causes the computer to display blah blah blah" still be a patentable invention?

I don't see too many patents in the news these days on a computer program as such; they usually involve some sort of human interface hardware, some sort of network, more than one computer, etc. -- and people are still criticizing them as "software patents" because the interesting bits that made it patentable in the first place belong entirely to software. (I'm aware this may be selection bias, in that because of cloud and touch-screen smartphone hype, patents of this sort are more likely to make the news than patents on a single computer program.)

So I guess it depends (1) on how one defines "software patent" and (2) on how NZ applies those exclusions. Does anything happening in a computer program get ripped out of the patent, and the remainder judged for novelty and non-obviousness? Do patents formulated as "a system comprising ... and a computer program" get ruled out? Or is it the most narrow "if your patent's claims start with "a computer program", it's bad, everything else goes"? I'm sure there's ample case law on the other exclusions in that section to make this pretty clear, but I'm not in NZ or familiar with the workings of their patent system in practice, so I really don't know.

If you can fill in more info (or link to a good explanation) on how far that line will (likely) be applied by the courts, I for one would greatly appreciate it.

Re:New Zealand didn't ban software patents... (2)

Nuke Bloodaxe (582098) | about a year ago | (#44826373)

It's a bit too early in the piece to see the legal ramifications at this stage, but I'll give you a brief outline of what would most likely happen in this environment:

"A system comprising a computer with a touch-sensing display, and a program running on that computer such that gesture A causes the computer to display blah blah blah" ; this is actually two separate things, one is the physical hardware which is a device capable of sensing touch. The program running on the device that performs other actions in reaction to the manipulation of that device is considered software, as it may be substituted at any point by another program that can interpret the gesture differently.

The real interesting bit is actually the touch sensing display, which would be a device with embedded software that provides a basic API for positional feedback. If the embedded software provides gesture recognition as part of the panel, independent of the computer, then you have something that would probably be patentable. This would not stop someone creating another panel that could sense touch, but leave out all of the embedded API to the point it only provided RAW touch output and had to rely 100% on a software implementation for the rest; in that case you can patent the panel, but the software would be covered under standard copyright. In each case the software can be considered independent of the panel, except when the panel itself provides feedback to a computer as a result of embedded software [even then it has to be considered in it's entirety, not as independent bits, and would be trivial to get around.]

Now there is an older article here: http://www.iitp.org.nz/newsletter/article/430 [iitp.org.nz] Where if you look down to "The New Amendment", keyfeatures, point 4 you'll get the gist of where we are at. There are probably better sources and articles, but unfortunately I don't have them to hand right now. Key thing to remember is that it's all untested at this time, wait and see :)

again with the version from five years ago? (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44827899)

You're linking to the 2008 version. GP accurately described the version that was actually passed.

The final version even included examples. It says that on one hand taking an old invention and implementing it in software doesn't make it new, on the other hand a new invention that happens to be built in C++ is a new invention. In other words, whether it's software, hardware, firmware, or dinnerware doesn't effect patentability.
Newness controls.

Re:again with the version from five years ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44828235)

Novelty controls. FTFY.

Re:again with the version from five years ago? (3, Informative)

Nuke Bloodaxe (582098) | about a year ago | (#44828287)

Here we have the legislative page: http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/legislation/bills/00DBHOH_BILL8651_1/patents-bill [parliament.nz]

Here we have the link to all related bill documents: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2008/0235/14.0/versions.aspx [legislation.govt.nz]

Additionally here we have a link to the "live" bill currently in force, this is the passed version, 235-2: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2008/0235/14.0/whole.html [legislation.govt.nz]

If you note Section 15, 3A, it still says the same. This is what is known as a trump line, in that under the currently in force legislation software is an invention which is not patentable.

I would be most interested in linked examples of what you are referring to, because I certainly have not found it on the government legislative website so far, so that a more informed debate may occur.

Re:again with the version from five years ago? (3, Informative)

Nuke Bloodaxe (582098) | about a year ago | (#44828355)

Ahh, just spotted what you were referring to, it's a SOP. A supplementary order paper, and in this case it is the one that caused controversy and was not enacted into the final bill: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/sop/government/2013/0237/latest/whole.html#DLM5187401 [legislation.govt.nz] . I repeat, this SOP is not in force. Such papers are proposals for changes to the bill, you'll see this one is shown to be a proposal by it stating it is so.

So, please be a bit more careful, and link to your material next time :)

Re:again with the version from five years ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44828847)

You are wrong. And you're being arrogant while being wrong. You shouldn't do that.

Re:again with the version from five years ago? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#44830631)

The final version even included examples. It says that on one hand taking an old invention and implementing it in software doesn't make it new, on the other hand a new invention that happens to be built in C++ is a new invention. In other words, whether it's software, hardware, firmware, or dinnerware doesn't effect patentability.
Newness controls.

And that's the way it should be. Because let's say you invent a new radio modulation scheme that lets you approach Shannon's limit far closer than ever before even in the worst conditions.

If you implement it as hardware, you can patent it, fine, we understand. If you implement it as software (using an SDR), then it being software should have no impact on its patentability. Perhaps you do fancy signal processing - so now you have an embedded DSP doing part of the work, and hardware doing the rest.

What New Zealand really said was "on a computer" was no longer a sufficient transformation to make it new and novel (one thing companies do with expiring patents is find new uses and patent those - cue drug companies facing with expiring patents that go and combine the expiring drug with some other drug to make new one - so you end up taking one pill instead of two).

Sometimes you can see it happening in real life - I believe a few years ago the patents on Bounce dryer sheets expired and a year or so before that they came up with contests and other things to find new uses for it. Of course, one of the reasons would be to... file a new patent on a new use for it.

Re:New Zealand didn't ban software patents... (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44825881)

Basically I'm not anti-patent, but software patents just strike me as completely wrong. Mostly because the overwhelming majority of them are crap, either overly broad idea obvious to anyone who has thought about the problem, or ideas that have been done previously by someone who didn't think to patent it (or couldn't afford the expense of patenting).

But overall patents still have a chance of succeeding at their original goal: provide a limited monopoly in exchange for disclosing your new invention. Note that the goal here was not to encourage invention directly, but to open up the invention instead of keeping it secret. Thus we can build upon the foundations of people before us, we don't have to join guilds to learn secrets about how machine work. There is indirect encouragement of invention still, there is some hope of being able to build and create a business with the invention before the giant corporation takes the idea and makes it cheaper and bankrupting you. This can work with software patents, assuming it isn't abused like it is currently.

Problem with sofware is that too often there is nothing new about the patent, nothing is novel. Something can be an "innovation" without being worthy of a patent, after all a new version of Word is an innovation. You need people in the field to think that it is a great new invention or that it took a lot of time and effort to refine the idea, and it's irrelevant what the end users who don't know the field think about it (some hipster marvelling at slide-to-unlock). Anything over broad needs to be disallowed right off the bat, no more "method to remotely upgrade firmware on a device" unless it is a very specific and novel technique that does not forbid all possible expressions of the concept.

Similarly the time granted to patents is too long for the pace of software change, I think it may even be too long in other areas given the ability to rapidly create a new factory and supply chain and marketing channels for a new product, much faster than was imagined by the creators of patent law. Something between 5 and 10 years seems appropriate for a software patent. 5 years is very short, many startups don't even get their first product out the door in that time, and 5 years is shorter than some patent lawsuits. 10 years seems reasonable to me especially if we're also getting rid of the vast majority of software patents anyway and keeping only the really good ones.

I wish I had mod points, thinking instead of KoolA (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44827923)

I wish I had mod points. You've thought things through and offered solutions, like shorter patent terms.

I wholeheartedly agree, a lot of bad patents, mostly overbroad ones or non-novel ones have been granted. That doesn't mean that a specific patent on a legitimately new invention shouldn't be issued just because the inventor built the invention on an SSD rather than discrete transistors. It means USPTO needs to stop issuing patents on things that aren't new, are obvious, or are too broad - all of which is current law.

Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44824837)

A man from foundation, which has affiliation with Microsoft, telling devs how FOSS can benefit from IP law. I see these words more like "come to the dark side, play our game...". How about abandoning stuff like software patents and we all benefit?

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (3, Insightful)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44825045)

Expect to see a lot more efforts like that after the NZ changes.
From sockpuppets, astroturfing to huge reports and fancy foundations ... the public has to be corrected on the NZ legal story.

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (1)

recoiledsnake (879048) | about a year ago | (#44825533)

NZ banned software patents the same way they're banned in Europe i.e Not really.

Meantime we see patent lawsuits going to places like UK and Germany because they give judgements and injunctions even faster than rocket dockets like East Texas. See Motorola vs. Microsoft on H.264 patents on Windows 7 for example, or Apple vs. Samsung/HTC etc.

If those are not software patents then what are?

http://allthingsd.com/20120502/german-court-backs-motorolas-injunction-against-microsoft/ [allthingsd.com]

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (2)

Hairy1 (180056) | about a year ago | (#44825955)

No - really - we did. Not sure if this is simply ignorance or wilful deception, but Software Patents are toast in New Zealand.

Now it may be true that you can still have embedded software which is part of a larger hardware system, but in terms of getting patents on software that runs on general purpose computers - they are most certainly not going to be granted.

Of course this does not invalidate existing patents, and we are yet to see any test cases that will better define the edge cases.

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44826497)

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (1)

jthill (303417) | about a year ago | (#44827207)

Mueller? Really? That's not even laughable.

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#44827321)

Oh I see, we get an Oracle shill to go with the Microsoft shill in the TFA.

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (2, Interesting)

recoiledsnake (879048) | about a year ago | (#44825503)

Outercurve's president seems to be the Apache Software Foundation's cofounder though.

Jim Jagielski, a co-founder of the Apache Software Foundation; a director of the Open Source Initiative; and currently a consulting software engineer for Linux giant Red Hat is now president of the Microsoft-sponsored, open-source friendly Outercurve Foundation's Board of Directors.

http://www.zdnet.com/microsoft-sponsored-outercurve-foundation-turns-to-apache-for-leadership-7000017596/ [zdnet.com]

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44827085)

So he used to be an Angel but Devil offered a better compensation package, and now we are supposed to worship him why?

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44826481)

And abandon money. Everyone will give according to their abilities, and receive according to their needs.

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (1)

gnupun (752725) | about a year ago | (#44831101)

... and receive according to their needs.

Why not receive proportional to what the give instead?

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44826831)

A man from foundation, which has affiliation with Microsoft, telling devs how FOSS can benefit from IP law.

So? That assertion doesn't refute the article, it just shows you have a religious viewpoint and are trying to discredit the article based on the affiliation of the website on which it is published rather than its content.

How about abandoning stuff like software patents and we all benefit?

Not everyone benefits, those (like research companies) who come up with truly innovative ways of doing things then need the capacity to put this all into production and produce, market and sell a product to benefit from that work and compete with companies that are expert at sales and marketing which dont have to worry about innovating because innovation isnt worth anything on its own.

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about a year ago | (#44827473)

So, the parties that don't benefit are research companies that come up with truly innovative ways of doing things and use software patents. Why don't you talk about the effects on unicorns and elves while you're at it?

Re:Ain't that a surprise.. not.. (2)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about a year ago | (#44828549)

Understanding the system, using it, subverting it, is totally fine. But some people will always confuse "having a use for something" with "loving this system".

IP laws are despicable, costly to mankind, dangerous for research and harmful for the economy. I am still making business plans that rely on these bad rules of the game, just like I would include corruption in my plans if it was unavoidable in my country.

Yes, rethinking copyright laws would force us to rethink all the open source licences. We would do that happily. Software patents can disappear overnight, OSS would not break a sweat over that. And trademarks are currently the less problematic aspect of IP laws.

Where did /. go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44824845)

Slashdot disappeared there for a few minutes.

I felt lost.

Re:Where did /. go? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44825497)

Slashdot's admins couldn't figure out how to copy all the user traffic to the NSA so they had to unplug the ethernet cable from the switch and plug it into the NSA's appliance. It would have only taken a couple of seconds but they had no clue which cable is which, so they just yanked out all the cables and tried them one at a time.

Re:Where did /. go? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44825635)

The splitter had issues during the crypto stories over the past days?

No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44824927)

No

Re:No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44825411)

Yes

Re:No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44826233)

Wait, what was the question?

Re:No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44827983)

If you had asked the GP to ask the GGP if the right-hand door leads to freedom, what would he have replied?

not a good sell (3, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about a year ago | (#44825051)

He doesn't sell it very well. He mentions the things that each portion of law DOESN'T do as an advantage. However, said thing is often done by another portion of the law, and without those laws, FOSS communities can do anything they wanted. The closest to an actual advantage listed is the DMCA's safe harbor, which is probably less than we would have had received had a court ruled on the issue. He has somewhat of a point about trademark, but it's a mixed bag, and far from the best vehicle for source designation in its current form. All in all, though this jackass demosntrates perfect why GNU considers "Intellectual Property" a word to avoid. [gnu.org]

Re:not a good sell (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44825671)

Some just want to be fellow travellers with a subtle message about Intellectual Property (IP) laws.
Some efforts will be long term to lure skilled coders away to projects that dont have anti DRM clauses.
Some efforts will be short term to ensure politicians stay informed about trade deals and the role of Intellectual Property (IP).

Dubious advantages (4, Insightful)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about a year ago | (#44826027)

Imagine a mugger who claimed that he's a good mugger because he left you with enough money to catch the bus home. Should you be thankful that he didn't shoot you and that "all" you lost was a few hundred dollars, your credit card, and last year's iPhone?

What the blog claims as the advantages of IP laws, such as DMCA's safe harbor and the limts on copyright and patents, are problems that wouldn't exist if the laws didn't exist in the first place (if the mugger didn't mug you, you wouldn't feel the need to be thankful that he spared your life).

Re:not a good sell (1)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | about a year ago | (#44831059)

"Another partial boon to FOSS communities is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA)." I guess when you're in jail for watching your DVD on a Linux box on the grounds you subverted the DRM you'll have that to console you.

Still don't see patents helping (2)

andymadigan (792996) | about a year ago | (#44825083)

His argument on patents seems to come down to the idea that FOSS can generate prior art, but that's only necessary because patent law exists in the first place. It still provides no net benefit to FOSS.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | about a year ago | (#44825449)

Open source communities can buy patents and use them to gain market share or revenue via licensing if they want, there's nothing inherent about releasing source that prohibits owning patents. They're expensive and difficult to acquire though which is why you don't often see it, so claiming a net benefit there is a bit of a stretch too.

Trade secrets on the other hand? The secrets are in the source, which once opened are no longer secret. I can't find any far-fetched argument that supports trade secret law in an OSS manner.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (4, Interesting)

Jaime2 (824950) | about a year ago | (#44825495)

That's how all of his points shake out. Every single one boiled down to... "Sure this law nearly turns thinking into crime, but there are some exceptions that you can work in". The FOSS philosophy requires no law to exist. For-profit software couldn't exist without legal protection. I'm not saying for-profit software is bad, but it certainly requires legal protection to sell something that requires almost no physical effort to reproduce.

The question we can't get any real public dialog on is "How much protection is the right amount to create the world we want to live in?"

Re:Still don't see patents helping (2)

Hairy1 (180056) | about a year ago | (#44826067)

A case can be made for all current 'intellectual property', but in essence it is all founded in a social contract. Its a deal we enter. Trademarks exist to protect good will and brand identity. There is a social benefit in knowing a certain product is made by a certain company because characteristics like quality can be inferred. Without trademarks any time some company got an edge with its name the name would be copied by competitors.

In copyright there is a social benefit in the support of the creative arts. There is a question about whether the author/musician/film maker really needs to retain control for their lifetime plus 90 years however. It would seem more reasonable to limit it to say 10 years, thus giving the creator a opportunity for profit, but allowing it to enter the public domain for reuse in a reasonable period.

Patents are mostly evil and counter productive. Not just in software. From software to healthcare they make things more expensive and higher risk. The benefits usually presuppose what they are trying to establish; the existence of patents. Patents are justified by the social benefit of the release of information such that it will enter the public domain. To a large extent this encouragement to release the details of a software invention was renderer irrelevant by the open source community. The only remaining argument is a ethical one based on the presumed right of someone coming up with an idea to protect it. The problem is that others may come up with the same idea independently. Besides, there is no moral right to profit from ideas in any other intellectual domain.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about a year ago | (#44841611)

Patents also help when innovation is expensive. Consider drugs: a drug company will spend a whole lot of money on clinical trials and the like, and there's an excellent chance, for any given drug, that it's money down the drain. Patents on drugs allow companies to make enough money to support this. I haven't seen a better method to get an allocate this sort of research money. (This is a defense of the general idea; I'm not making any claim about specifics.)

Healthcare meds and equipment would be expensive no matter what, given the certification requirements. Satisfying those is going to take a lot of money, and that money has to come from somewhere.

Similarly, copyrights are valuable encouragement in software. It gives a reimbursement framework for the sort of software that's not fun to work on, and will be used by a limited number of people. It gives such a framework for large collective efforts like movies and TV series, and for successful individuals to be able to quit the day job and work on their art full-time.

I believe that the animus against copyrights and patents is because of their overreach, with only a small amount of opposition to their basic function. Given copyright laws like we had when I was a kid, anything from 1985 or earlier would be public domain by now, and I think that reasonable.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44826103)

That's how all of his points shake out. Every single one boiled down to... "Sure this law nearly turns thinking into crime, but there are some exceptions that you can work in". The FOSS philosophy requires no law to exist. For-profit software couldn't exist without legal protection. I'm not saying for-profit software is bad, but it certainly requires legal protection to sell something that requires almost no physical effort to reproduce.

That's not true, really. At least, not if "legal protection" refers to copyright law, DMCA, etc. -- if you're including basic contract law, then raiding farms and protecting farms from raiders would be the only for-profit industries left. ;-)

The for-profit software market would look very different in a world without copyright, but it's absolutely possible. Look at the example of real, expensive software now, stuff like CAE/CAD/CAM suites. With prices per seat starting in the k$ range and going up, there's plenty to afford sophisticated hardware copy-protection schemes that put Big Entertainment's puny DRM schemes to shame. Sure, they get broken eventually, but many companies would rather pay the maintenance contract and get features immediately, rather than wait a relatively long (months, for the high-end copy-protection dongles) and unpredictable time for the new version. They make the bulk of their money from large firms who wouldn't use cracked copies even if they're legal -- having a vendor on call for support is just too valuable to that sort of operation. Smaller firms (the ones who tend to be more likely to squeak by with a years-out-of-date pirated CAD system now) may skip it, and the size of the market will almost certainly go down, but you can bet the market would still exist.

Now, generic OSes? Office suites? Yeah, right. Those would never be sold absent copyright.

Re: Still don't see patents helping (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44826213)

I administer a lot of licenses for software that's more in the $16K to $40K range per seat. All these license managers, FLEXLM and the like, do is keep the honest guy honest. The companies that sell that software barely even bother with copy protection.

It all comes down to demand. What's sexier, the latest AAA shooter or fluid dynamics simulators?

Re:Still don't see patents helping (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about a year ago | (#44826651)

Wish I had mod points. A clear, concise explanation of which side requires force of law, and a final sentence that raises the question of balance while allowing the reader to seek his own conclusion. The epitome of a thinking person's post. Thank you.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#44826841)

but it certainly requires legal protection to sell something that requires almost no physical effort to reproduce.

Not if you want support from the guys who wrote it. Which, incidentally, describes some of the arrangements I'm involved with regarding open source software, on both sides. Copyright has never been a factor.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44827105)

That's how all of his points shake out. Every single one boiled down to... "Sure this law nearly turns thinking into crime, but there are some exceptions that you can work in". The FOSS philosophy requires no law to exist. For-profit software couldn't exist without legal protection.

For-profit software companies could absolutely exist without legal protection (I assume you mean copyright and patent law, without any law, no company could exist). Just look at companies like New Zealand's Koha Software, or Redhat, which do just fine releasing their software as open source.

The problem is it's not a level playing field, when you are competing against a bunch of douches who leverage a government monopoly (Copyright) against you, it's hard if you don't fight back with the same.

In a world without copyright, we wouldn't suddenly find ourselves out of a need for software. Since there will always be a need for software, there will always be a need for software companies to develop that software, whether copyright or not. What might happen, is a reduction in the huge numbers of douche companies who just package up some solution to an already solved problem in new wrappings and sell it again, and put more human endeavour into solving the problems we keep neglecting. Copyright has created a vast sea of inefficiency from people painfully reinventing the wheel, and deliberately building incompatible systems to enable vendor-lockin (or in the words of IP douches, "capture market value").

Re:Still don't see patents helping (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44827383)

The question we can't get any real public dialog on is "How much protection is the right amount to create the world we want to live in?"

Well, if you're located within the US Government the answer is obvious: more .

try producing an OS with no effort (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44828013)

I contribute to several open source projects, and I'm the maintainer for some. So I "get" open source. Your idea of "requires no effort" irks me, though, because it leads to very incorrect conclusions.

FOSS works well when many people want the same software. Apache and Linux are examples - everyone needs an operating system and there are millions of web servers. If 0.1% of users contribute,
they can build and maintain good software together.

Where proprietary software works well is when there are a limited number of users. If 1,000 people need a particular type of software, 0.1% participation in development is ONE GUY doing all the work. I've been that one guy, spending thousands of hours developing an application that saves people a ton of money. I do need the other 999 users to finance the cost, or the software wouldn't get written. Making 1,000 copies costs over $100,000. Adding one more doesn't cost that much MORE, but the effort and the cost is very real.

I mentioned that if the other 999 users don't do their part and pay for the software, the software won't be developed. That's exactly what has happened with the software I spent over a decade on. An entire industry will no longer have a working version of the software they rely on because some of them thought it would be okay for them to steal it, leaving others to pay the costs . They won't get an IPv6 version and everybody loses, because I can't spend a few weeks working on something that will just be stolen. There are real costs, and if you take the product without paying your share of the cost, you leave someone else having to pay your share.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44828171)

The key phrase would be "...almost no physical effort to reproduce."

The problem is that the original production takes a great deal of effort, and has to be compensated for. While the freetards of the world think it's just about the cost of making a copy, that just isn't viable. Someone has to pay for the production in the first place.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44828505)

If you want to maximize profit, then distribute the official release in as many markets as possible at once, which will reduce copying. It's already a good idea. Much of today's copyright infringement (why do people call it piracy? we have a term that actually describes it precisely) is due to region lockouts.

Re:Still don't see patents helping (1)

Jaime2 (824950) | about a year ago | (#44840211)

Someone has to pay for the production in the first place.

Maybe, maybe not. It's perfectly valid to be OK with living in a world where all IP is of volunteer quality. For most of the history of man, music was produced for free, although performances were often paid for. In the renaissance, there was a trend for wealthy people to finance IP, yet still make it public. On the other hand, you will get a more efficient market if people make music and software for money.

The problem with using words like "freetard" or "M$" is that all that does is point out that one extreme or the other is stupid. Everyone already knows that.

As a example of you post not being informative: Did you use the word "freetard" because you feel that IP laws are too consumer friendly and should be tightened up? Do you really think that people are unaware that people make a living doing this? Why does IP take a great deal of effort to produce? Some famous songs were written by one person in 30 minutes. Should compensation be relative to effort? If I spent 30 years of my life writing a song, does that automatically make it worth millions of dollars, even if it sucks? Do content creator automatically "deserve" to be compensated? What if their creation does nothing but cause misery (like the guy who invented the gas chamber)? Should he get a royalty check ever time someone is put to death?

There are a thousand things to talk about. But you, and a million others, choose to talk about teenagers who think they should be allowed to download songs for free over the Internet. Yet, I'll bet you're OK with them listening to the radio for free.

They don't (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44825343)

I was hoping this was an "ask slashdot" filed by someone with English as a second language.

IP is really bad for FOSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44825551)

The arguments for IP helping FOSS are weak:

1) Copyright. The FOSS movement was created as a reaction against copyright being applied to software.

2) DMCA. How many DMCA cease-and-desist notices have we seen used to support FOSS, and how many have been issued against legitimate FOSS?

3) Trademarks. Same question as above. And the commercial branches of some FOSS projects have used trademarks to kill competing support/education.

4) Patents. No need for comment, TFA can only talk about "prior art" as a defence.

5) Trade secrets. FOSS has nothing to do with keeping information secret. Same line of argument as for patents.

Re:IP is really bad for FOSS (1)

Xtifr (1323) | about a year ago | (#44826473)

1) Copyright. The FOSS movement was created as a reaction against copyright being applied to software.

No, it was created as a reaction against software distributed without source. RMS couldn't fix his printer driver because it didn't come with source. And copyright is the only thing that allows copyleft licenses to require source distribution. Overall, I think copyright is a net benefit.

3) Trademarks. Same question as above. And the commercial branches of some FOSS projects have used trademarks to kill competing support/education.

Well, in response to "how many DCMA cease-and-desist notices have we seen" regarding trademarks, I think the answer is pretty clearly none. If you really meant, how many trademark lawsuits, I don't recall hearing of any. If you mean trademark disputes in general, then yes, there have been a few, but a lot of them were purely within the FLOSS community, like Firebird DB v Mozilla, or Firefox v Debian. And most were settled amicably, and, IMO, correctly. And overall, trademarks work great for the FLOSS community. Does anybody really mind that Debian has the exclusive rights to the name Debian? I think it's a very good thing. Sure, there are a few unfortunate situations that have arisen, like the kerfluffle over the Linux mark, and Open Office (dot org), but those are quite rare in my experience, and in general, I think trademark law has been a big benefit to the community in protecting project identities.

Aside from that, though, I think you nailed it.

Re:IP is really bad for FOSS (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about a year ago | (#44826931)

The specific problem that Stallman faced was that he couldn't GET the source code, which is a bit different than not coming with source code. And while it does allow copyleft software to have a requirement of source distribution, it also props up business models for which denying users the four freedoms is key component. For even freedoms 1 and 3, copyright is probably a net negative, and for freedoms 0 and 2, it definitely is.

Not Evil Per Se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44826211)

IP law is like traffic rules. Can be really useful, but also open to abuse. Which way it goes depends on who makes the actual rules -- all too often the wrong people.

Misleading title (1)

Meneth (872868) | about a year ago | (#44827341)

TFA doesn't say anything about laws that help FOSS, except for trademarks. Because they don't help. TFA only mentions a few cases where they don't hinder.

Re:Misleading title (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44828521)

TFA doesn't say anything about laws that help FOSS, except for trademarks. Because they don't help. TFA only mentions a few cases where they don't hinder.

Trademarks don't help either. They harm. FOSS is less likely to be able to afford to go to court over a trademark.

There is just one place where copyright law aids FOSS, and that is in licensing. Without copyright law, the GPL could not function. Some argue that the GPL is necessary only because of copyright law, but I disagree. It still covers the case where you get binaries but not source. Without copyright you'd be free to redistribute, but you could not practically make changes because you still wouldn't have the source code.

Without copyright law, no need for FOSS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44829823)

Therefore there's no need for copyright law and FOSS. The GPL could function just fine. If someone decided that they wouldn't agree, the result of their work would be decompiled and used by everyone else anyway.

FOSS works without copyrights because FOSS is a reaction to the restrictions on the information that copyright gives. Without those restrictions, there's no need for the reaction and therefore no need for FOSS since the result it was arranged for is already there.

Re:Without copyright law, no need for FOSS. (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about a year ago | (#44830799)

As if decompiling results in useable code. Nobody's going to be able to develop usefully with decompiled, or even intentionally obfuscated source code. In fact, they could provide the full source code and just strip out all the comments to render it a hopeless pain to use.

Outercurve == Micro$oft (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44827557)

So take anything they say with a HUEG grain of salt. Or two.

There is no IP law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44829561)

There is patent law, there is trademark law, there is copyright law, and so on. Those are all quite different laws with quite different rules and quite different objectives. Therefore it simply doesn't make sense to say "IP law is good" or "IP law is bad."

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