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Software Patents Circumvent European Parliament

Hemos posted more than 9 years ago | from the the-joy-of-special-interest-groups dept.

Patents 378

Tom writes "Despite the european parliament's vote to exclude software patents, the patent lobby is pressing forward and patentability of software is on the agenda of a workgroup whose advise the european council will likely follow. The european council is at odds with the parliament concerning their stance on software patents. The patent lobby is facing a narrow loss in the parliament, which has voted against software patents, but now circumvents democracy by convincing the council. If they succeed, software patents could be coming to Europe before christmas." <update> The links above seem to have stopped working for me - however, ffii is carrying the news as well.

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378 comments

Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU... (1, Interesting)

BobTheLawyer (692026) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071761)

The European Parliament has no ability to propose legislation - it's always the Council of Ministers that does this.

Re:Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU.. (1)

coopseruantalon (835573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071812)

No matter what. It is always the bureaucrats that get their way. The EU is rotten to the core. Talk about taking the worst from captalism and statecontrol and putting it toghether...

Re:Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU.. (5, Informative)

Anspen (673098) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071824)

Don't you hate it when you correct a mistake with a mistake? :)

Actually the only institution that can propose legislation is the European Commission. Both the council and the parliament can amend though.

What I'm wondering is how they think to get this past parliament. "sneaking" it into the text or not, the subject is one where the EP has co-decision right. Which means it's shouldn't become law until the EP has voted on it

Re:Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU.. (2, Insightful)

coopseruantalon (835573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071850)

Anyways the contries themselves have to accept the new laws. Then fight for years in courtrooms and be sentenced large fines that they can just refuse to pay. Or maybe we'll be thrown out? I sure would like to get kicked(I'm from Denmark)

Re:Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071980)

Me too, I'm from the UK.

Re:Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU.. (2, Insightful)

Khazunga (176423) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072262)

I hope you don't really mean what you say. Without the EU, in the XX century, Europe managed to start to world wars. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, as they say...

Even if I don't see it as likely we'll ever get that far down the shit hole again, a dismantled Europe doesn't stand an economic fighting chance against the US or China.

The solution isn't to go back, but to go forward and fix the system. Simplify and empower the EU.

Re:Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071840)

But the Council of Ministers often implements (or tries to) the "conclusions" of the European Council.

Re:Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU.. (5, Insightful)

dyfet (154716) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072109)

"The European Parliament has no ability to propose legislation - it's always the Council of Ministers that does this..."

And this is precisely why the EU is the least democratically accountable institution in Europe today. In every sitting national government on the European continent today, legislation is created and passed by a (presumably) democratically elected parliament, or that house of a bicamel parliament that is directly elected. In many cases, European governments are formed either directly out of the elected body of parliament itself (as in the British model) or out of some more complex relationship that certainly includes the directly elected house of parliament and a democratically elected executive (such as the French system).

By contrast, the European Concil is a body appointed by national governments, that has the authority to directly legislate. While the EU Parliament can approve or "rubber stamp" an act of the EU Council much like the "soviet" era parliament, if it chooses to reject a council law, the Council is given the power to override Parlaiment unless a super majority (66%) chooses to oppose it.

Indeed, the EU transational governance is not very different in functional arrangements and democratic principles to that that of the old Soviet Union. And they wish to further ratify this defective system through a constitution that retains this principle undemocratic form of governance as well as expanding the power of the EU into a true European Government.

As noted, the original council draft on European patents was rejected by the European parliament. In a democratically functional society and government this would in effect have been a veto. It is to the shame of Europe and to the very principles of democratic governmance that this alone was not enough to kill the council directive, and that the will of the elected parlaiment, and most importantly of all, the ONLY democratically "legitimate" and accountable institution in the entire EU, can so easily be rejected.

Personally I do not believe Europe is ready for transational Governance. There is no true transational political expression today, perhaps with the exception of the "Greens". By contrast, when American federalization occured, there was already well established and popular trans-state political movements and proto-parties, such as Federalists, etc. By contrast, when we look at the EU parliament, it is composed of people elected from strickly individual national political parties. There are no "European Socialists", for example, though there are members of the French socialists, Finland national party, German Social Democrats, etc. This lack of true transational European political expression I believe is why Federalising Europe is impractical at this time, and certainly helps to explain why some believe they could bully through an undemocratic and defective institution onto European nations like the EU system of today.

Re:Whoever posted this doesn't understand the EU.. (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072299)

"There is no true transational political expression today, perhaps with the exception of the "Greens"."

Well, actually, I think there is, as expressed in the parliamentary groups in the EU parliament. The parties cooperate more than we get told.

However, the media mostly utterly and completely fails to report EU politics (they only report national EU politics), and the local governments have a tendency to blame 'the EU' for things they themselves voted through council or lobbied the commission for.

It must be damn practical for a lot of national politicians to have a scapegoat like the EU.

I wonder how long it will take before the parliament drives a revolution, kicking out dangerously corruptible, interest-conflicted and unaccountable council and commission.

glad to see (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071765)

that not only the USA is corrupt and is controlled by big businesses.

hey Europe... Hope you like corperations telling you what you can and can't do, because unless you guys get VERY vocal right now, they will own your arses in a matter of weeks.

Re:glad to see (2, Insightful)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071814)

It's ok, the French won't like it and will strike. They're pretty good at bringing the country to a halt to make a point.

Re:glad to see (1)

coopseruantalon (835573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071862)

If each contry then takes turn halting the legislation then will avoid patents forever.

Re:glad to see (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071946)

We have a weird system in Europe. We tend to live our lives by member state laws and then when these laws don't do us justice we go to the European courts to appeal.

Re:glad to see (3, Interesting)

jenesuispasgoth (518053) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071941)

I'm sorry, I can't let you say this, as a French person. We don't go on strike just to "make a point". We go on strike without telling anyone, just so everyone else knows that we CAN (thank you French Railroads for making me get up at 5h30 am because you went on strike this weekend without telling anyone ... not even your own people in the company.)

Re:glad to see (1)

Reignking (832642) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072217)

HA! My fiance worked at (big French company) last year, and they struck to have a party! They had kegs and parades! And once they were all out of sick days, they were upset that they couldn't strike anymore w/o getting paid. Some strike...grève it up!

Re:glad to see (2)

gmknobl (669948) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072028)

Amen brother. What's this called? An Oligarchy? Rule by the powerful few that thing they are better than others? In this case it's people who run big corporations who think they have the right to make money by hook or by crook.

It will be interesting to see how this goes in the U.S. too. Rest assured that if there's any big monied interests that give heavily to the Republican Party or at least have to the Bush family that we will see a diminishment of rights for the common folk, i.e. legislation or directives on the side of patents.

I wish this were just flamebait but it's now cold, hard reality in the U.S. (This will probably be rated "overrated!" ;-)

Silly question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071780)

If the governments decide "we will not have software patents" then how can a group go "yes we're having software patents"? It's not like they can enforce them without legal backing.

It's like me making a law that anyone who comes within 150ft of my house owes me $2.50 for every occurrence, and then sending out bills. It might sound impressive and I might write some really nice legalspeak to go with it, but when it comes to collecting the people I bill can just go "piss off"

Re:Silly question... (3, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071877)

The problem is that the majority of the EU governments has not decided "we will not have software patents".
The parliament has said so, but it has not quite the clout it should have in a democratic country.
It can still vote the proposed guideline down, which might result in no EU_wide rule about software patents at all.
But the parliament lacks the power to make laws on its own, which is probably the greatest flaw in the power structure of the EU. If it had that power, this year's decision would be final and the patent lobby would have lost for the forseeable future.

Re:Silly question... (2, Insightful)

TooMuchEspressoGuy (763203) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071957)

"But the parliament lacks the power to make laws on its own, which is probably the greatest flaw in the power structure of the EU. If it had that power, this year's decision would be final and the patent lobby would have lost for the forseeable future."

So your solution to rampant government power is... to give the government more power! Brilliant!

Seriously, though, if this were done, what would happen when a pro-patent Parliament is elected? Then you would probably be clamoring for Parliament to be stripped of its right to make laws.

The best solution, it seems to me, would be to simply decide to leave patent legislation up to the member states. That way, the EU can have its cake and eat it too, so to speak.

Re:Silly question... (2, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072009)

So your solution to rampant government power is... to give the government more power! Brilliant!
No, to redistribute the power.
Seriously, though, if this were done, what would happen when a pro-patent Parliament is elected? Then you would probably be clamoring for Parliament to be stripped of its right to make laws.
No. The reason we want more power for the parliament is that it's the only part of the EU that's directly elected. They are also the most transparent part, the most responsive part and the most easily reachable part (by "common" people). And there's 732 of them, which automatically gives you a more diverse bunch (at least with political diversity we have in Europe).

Re:Silly question... (2, Informative)

vidarh (309115) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072078)

No, his solution is to transfer the power from the Council, which consists of the sitting cabinets of the member countries, to the directly elected EU parliament.

It would have a profound impact, because the Council's make up depends on election systems that in many important countries favors the large established parties, followed up by the process of choosing the cabinets, which means that the Council is highly unrepresentative of the general political landscape in the EU.

The Council is an artefact of the EU being a union of countries that are not subordinate to the union and where the executive power of the countries are each held by the cabinets - it isn't designed to be a democratic institution. It is designed to be a way for member governments to agree on common policy.

Leaving patent legislation up to the member states wouldn't really solve anything - it would mean companies would face the cost of dealing with different policies in 25 different countries, and it would mean open source projects would have to deal with 25 potentially different approaches.

Re:Silly question... (1)

upside (574799) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072242)

Wrong.

The EU has X amount of power right now, and remains X. It's a question of who controls the EU, the parliament, the commission or the council of ministers.

The democratically elected parliament is a better option than an anonymous elite of bureaucrats, IMHO.

Re:Silly question... (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071984)

You miss the point that the EU is not a country. It is a union of countries, which is still something fairly new. As a result the EU has a lot of parallel power structures: national parliaments, the council (consisting of ministers of the member countries) which represents the interests of the governments of the member states, the comission (appointed by the national parliaments) which is the EU's executive branch - like a cabinet of sorts, and the EU parliament which is the closest you get to a "federal" government.

Since the EU is a union of countries, not of subordinate states, many decisions which in a federation like the US would be taken by the parliament is taken by the council as representatives of their respective governments.

It's a result of the problems of getting a lot of different sovereign governments to agree on how to give up power.

As EU matures and integrates tighter, hopefully the parliament will manage to wrestle more power away from the Council as the justification for the power of the Council will become smaller, but that's not going to come easy.

One of the problems of the EU (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071785)

It's not democratic enough, and "the people" feel too far away from their MEPs. I don't even know who my MEPs are, I did politics for 2 years (I also got a D in that subject though...).

I fear it's going to make it through, undemocratically.

Yet more proof the EU is in a total state of chaos, in so many ways, it's scary.

Re:One of the problems of the EU (1)

Epeeist (2682) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072248)

> I don't even know who my MEPs are, I did politics for 2 years (I also got a D in that subject though...).

I know mine. Unfortunately, one of them is Arlene McCarthy. What a Labour MEP is doing supporting this legislation is baffling, though she is a keen suppporter of our corporation loving Prime Minister.

Lobbys (2, Interesting)

FiReaNGeL (312636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071790)

God I love lobbys... they always succeed at promoting the interest of 5 companies to politicians and make them forget that they're supposed to legislate for the good of millions (their electors).

You gotta admit that its a tour-de-force that they're pulling on us year after year.

Why are they legal in the first place? Politicians (human beings) + Money = possibility for Corruption, isn't it?

Re:Lobbys (4, Interesting)

bhima (46039) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071821)

amazing isn't it! I love this quote from TFA: Laura Creighton, software entrepreneur, venture capitalist and vice-president of FFII, comments:

"Before today it was possible for generous people to look charitably at this text as an example of a tragic mistake, not malice. But not with this last-minute maneuvering. Only the most committed opponent to the democratic process would believe that the proper response to the widespread consensus that there is something profoundly wrong with the Council's text, is to race it through with an A-item approval the week before Christmas in a Fisheries Council Meeting. The bad smell coming from Brussels has nothing to do with the fish."

whining on /. won't help (4, Insightful)

Sanity (1431) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071835)

You gotta admit that its a tour-de-force that they're pulling on us year after year.
What have you done about these issues? As Edmund Burke said:
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing".
So if you haven't actually tried to do something about this (perhaps by writing to your elected representatives, or donating to organisations that oppose software patents) then you have nobody to blame for this but yourself.

Re:whining on /. won't help (1)

KontinMonet (737319) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071918)

Believe me, some of us have been writing and writing. The trouble is that we are dealing with wholly unelected 'representatives' whose only agenda is their govt puppet masters and industry lobbyists.

But even my elected representative (one of Blair's babes) ignores everything I send [OONA KING!! Yes, you! I hope you are reading this]. Or they are so intellectually challenged that the phrase 'software patent' means something to do with underwear for sick people (so what's all the fuss about?)...

Re:whining on /. won't help (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072007)

I went to school with Oona... totally irrelevant I know.

Re:whining on /. won't help (1)

Sanity (1431) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072014)

Believe me, some of us have been writing and writing.
As have I. It is rather saddening to see how utterly useless many MPs are, Labour MPs in particular. My MP is Labour, at least he forwarded my letter on to Lord Sainsbury, to which I received a form reply, but he avoided actually taking a position against that of the government, irrespective of the persuasiveness of my arguments.

Sometimes I really wonder why these people bother getting in to politics just to be the puppets of their party whips...

Re:whining on /. won't help (2, Interesting)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071992)

Recently my governor signed a bill that lets Verizon and Comcast decide what communities are worthy of broadband by eliminating the ability for those communities to roll their own solution.

I wrote my governor, signed a petition, and alerted as many other people as I could of this horrible bill. And you know what happened? Our illustrious governor SIGNED THE FUCKING BILL INTO LAW.

Now, if any community wants to roll its own FTTH or wireless mesh network to provide cheap broadband, they have to have paying customers before 2006/1/1 or a letter from Comcast or Verizon saying they aren't planning to provide service. That's right, all these corporations have to do is write a letter saying they're planning on providing service (with no timeframe) and a community can't get broadband themselves. Then they watch their kids move away, their businesses dry up, and their hometown become a ghost town.

So writing a letter or even organizing a protest won't work against lobbyists. Politicians are businessmen, and businessmen speak one language: Money. And when the top 2% of people have 80% of the wealth and own or run most of the corporations, there won't be change without a violent revolution.

Re:whining on /. won't help (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072236)

write a letter saying they're planning on providing service (with no timeframe)

Are you from PA? If so, you may want to actually read the law. If the telco (this excludes comcast, btw) says no to the community, they MUST (by that same law) provide the service within 14 months. That sounds like a time frame to me.

While i agree the telco shouldn't have veto power over something the community wants to do, maybe you should also get all your facts straight.

Re:whining on /. won't help (1)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072281)

Thanks for the correction.

But at what speeds? And at what cost? If a community wants to roll out 10Mb symmetric fiber with static IP to every home for $15/month, asks Verizon for permission, and they say "Oh yeah, we'll give them 512/128kbps ADSL with a dynamic IP and bandwidth caps and harsh user agreement for $50/month" how is that fair?

And what determines "provide service" does that mean "start installing the service" does it mean "have one paying customer"??? This whole thing is disgusting.

As an IT worked in the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072121)

I will require that I hold up on ANY coding work until I have access to the patent database and sufficient time to work out if any continuing functionality I am required to do is not already patented.

Basically, down tools.

STOP SPREADING THIS CRAP: Whining DOES help (2, Insightful)

buddhaseviltwin (786340) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072218)

Whining on Slashdot amounts to broadcasting your insight and complaints to a forum of people who care about the issue and NEED TO DISCUSS IT SO WE CAN ALL STAY INFORMED ON WHAT THE OPPOSITION IS DOING.

Whining teaches Slashdotters what tactical moves the opposition has taking, what the stakes are, and what is expected from us to overcome the hurdles that are put in front of us.

Lastly, whining is an effective way of getting caring people's sympathy. Some people need to hear the whines of injustice to get involved.

Now, I do understand that any group needs to get past their whining stage, but telling people to stop whining on /. is not a real solution.

If *YOU* want to something to get people talking more strategically, then *YOU* should start writing comments on Slashdot and any other forum to get people talking about strategy and actions they can take to get involved.


Re:Lobbys (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071848)

Why are they legal in the first place? Politicians (human beings) + Money = possibility for Corruption, isn't it?

Because Politicians + Money = Corruption, therefore Corruption + Suggestion of stopping bribery = No Can Do. Also if you get into power the chances of becoming corrupt increase exponentially: Probability = Money^(Power). Its a bad system and the only way to stop it is to get into power and start making some of that lovely money - you'll soon forget about all this corruption bull-crap.

Re:Lobbys (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071871)

I certainly understand the sentiment that lobbys suck and can do bad things, but it's important that they are legal. Consider a lobby formed by 100,000 private citizens trying to convince their lawmakers to fund wind energy research.

Sure, each of them could spend 30 minutes writing a letter to their lawmaker, but shouldn't they be able to all donate $15 and send a single, well-spoken member to make their point in-person? And what then is the difference between this single member of the group and a professional lobbiest?

And what happens when one rich, man spends $200,000 and 2 weeks "lobbying" for his issue of the day, using only his private funds and time? Certainly we can't stop private citizens from spending their own time and money to bring their issues to the attention of their lawmakers. And shouldn't our 100,000 friends of wind power be allowed to do the same sort of thing? Individually they could not, but collectively they could easily match the time and money put forth by the rich man.

Re:Lobbys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071971)

1 * $200,000 != 100,000 * $2

Re:Lobbys (2, Insightful)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072106)

The top 2% of the population controls 80% of the wealth. If wealth was more fairly distributed, I'd agree with you.

Bill Gates' net worth is ~$29.5 billion. Let's assume he'll use half of that to ensure that Microsoft keeps its software dominance, because that means a jump in stock price and more money for him in the long run. That's about $15 billion or $11.3 billion euro. To match that kind of lobbying money, every man, woman and child in the EU (That's all 306.9 million of them) would have to contribute 36.49 EUR.

But how many people in the EU honestly care about software patents? 1%? Maybe? So that means that 1% (3.069 million) would have to contribute 3,649.87 EUR or $4,843.03 USD. That's 1/6 of what I make in a year.

This estimate doesn't include other software companies that stand to gain from patents, like Apple, Real, PeopleSoft, Adobe, and Macromedia, not to mention thousands of other vendors that are going to throw their considerable weight behind this.

In a democracy, or even a republic, all people are created equal, and have equal say in government. Our voice is our vote. But once you start bringing lobbyists into this, you remove equality. People with more money have more access and influence. They're "more equal" than others.

Sigh. (5, Interesting)

nativespeaker (797751) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071791)

I really don't know what to think anymore. What has happened to democracy? Corporations seem to hold sway over the political arena with utter exclusivity these days. How could free speech have been replaced so easily with corporate lobbying? I say that if Microsoft wants their damn patents so badly, they drag a soap carton out to the public park.

It pains me to see Europe slipping down the same slope. Learn from our folly, yeah?

Re: Sigh. (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072101)

"I really don't know what to think anymore."

Son: Dad, I have to choose what to study next year, and I think I want to become a software engineer. You think that would be a cool job?

Dad: Yes, son, but did you hear that software patents got passed in the EU last year?

Son: Yes, I heard. So I'd better study to become a lawyer then, eh?

Dad: Yeah, not so cool a job, but one day it'll buy you a bigger house than ours, son.

Re:Sigh. (5, Interesting)

mikers (137971) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072168)

Sigh, Sigh, sigh... "Any idiot can face a crisis - it's the day-to-day living that wears you out." - Checkov.

In case you didn't notice, most "modern" democracies are just feudalism in disguise. Does the fact that politicians wear... Business Suites maybe clue you in? Or how about that in the US all leaders are the ridiculously rich? Or that money == power in these countries? The new feudalism is business owners == the land owing aristocrats, peasants == employees!! Ever noticed you can't get rich being an employee? Unless you run a big ass company, or wait... Own a business.

And government is just there to cater to business, not the "people". Once in 4 years the peasants have a chance to elect someone from a tiny little rich group. We have no recourse if we elect a lier or looser. The government is open every day for lobbyists and the rich and powerful, but only once every four years for everyone else.

This is modern democracy for you, this is what the US wants everywhere in the world, including the EU. Because they are the richest, they will rule it. Via the wealthy, via the big corporations.

See Noam Chomsky for some more enlightenment.

The price of freedom.. (5, Insightful)

Sanity (1431) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071792)

..is eternal vigilance.

The anti-patent lobby in the EU has achieved great things, but the pro-patent lobby is extremely determined even in the face of a clear democratic mandate against software patents in the European and many national Parliaments. They know the system, they seem to have the support of many unelected Eurocrats, and they can and will exploit every possible loophole to legalise the over 30,000 illegally granted patents in the EU. This is yet another example of this.

The important thing is to keep up the pressure. When this topic has come up on /. in the past, there are always a few nohopers, who think any opposition to software patents is futile and we may as-well give up. These defeatists are the greatest allies of the pro-patent lobby, and they are wrong, as what progress we have made has demonstrated.

In short, keep fighting, don't give up, we have won a number of battles, but the war is far from over.

Re:The price of freedom.. (3, Informative)

Albanach (527650) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071893)

This is a good point, but seriously do keep up the fight.

If you live in the EU, drop another quick email to your MEP and national parliamentarians. It doesn't have to be a long rant against patents - just point out the massive opposition, the threat to jobs and the duplicity of voting on software patents at an environment or fisheries meeting without even a vote.

In the UK there will likely be a general election next year. Contact your MP now [faxyourmp.org.uk] it costs nothing bar a few minutes of your time. You can get contact details for your MEP here [eu.int] .

democracy in action. (-1, Flamebait)

deletedaccount (835797) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071813)

Who wants democracy anyway? We haven't had it for years. Vote for big business, big business with absurd religious moral stance, none of the above (as long as you're not in the UK, where the option isn't available) or big business. Or you could always abstain or spoil your ballot.

Great.

God, I hate being right... (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071849)

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=130588&cid=108 97528
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=130588& cid=108 98022

Re:God, I hate being right... (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071938)

Don't worry, it's still far from over. You'll still get plenty of chances to refer back to those posts.

EU Failure (5, Interesting)

TooMuchEspressoGuy (763203) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071859)

I'll probably get modded down for this, but oh well.

I find that this is just another example of how the EU is circumventing democracy. Instead of an enlightened body which supposedly has the needs of the body of European nations it encompasses in mind, the EU is quickly turning out to be nothing more than another bureaucracy set out to protect only its own best interests.

Even beyond that, however, there is another issue at stake. If a law is passed which standardizes software patents, all of the individual countries which make up the EU will be forced to accept it. So, say that, for example, the government of Germany would rather not accept software patents. Too bad, they'll have to anyway, despite the fact that the majority of the people there may not want it. So much for the will of the people.

So, for all of you globalists out there who saw the consolidation of Europe into a single entity as a good thing, it looks like you're reaping what you've sown. The EU is quickly becoming just another big, centralized, corporatist, United-States-esque government.

Re:EU Failure (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071916)

I find that this is just another example of how the EU is circumventing democracy.

That is its purpose: to make sure that business can proceed unrestrained by democracy. The EU is run by the unelected councillors who know that one day they will be looking for cushey jobs in industry as non-execs and "advisors". Thus, they have no interest in doing anything that in any way hampers their future employers' greed.

The parliament might actually take things into its own hands and disband the council, and that is something they will have to do someday, but that day will is far away.

TWW

Re:EU Failure (0)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071934)

You think you'll get modded down for suggesting that patents are evil? You must be new here.

Re:EU Failure (1)

TooMuchEspressoGuy (763203) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072022)

It wasn't so much the "patents are evil" message, but the fact that I was adopting an anti-globalist standpoint, that I was worried about. In my (limited) past experience with /. posters there seems to be a bias in favor of international organizations such as the UN and EU.

Then again, I could be wrong.

Re:EU Failure (4, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071966)

This has little to do with EU-specific stuff. The Council of Ministers consists of ministers from the various national governments, and it's them who are pushing this through. It's Sweden covered by Ericsson and Scania, Finland by Nokia, the Netherlands by Philips, Ireland by all US companies it provides a low tax haven for etc.

Re:EU Failure (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071986)

Except here in the US, the vast majority of people see patents as a Good Thing... as they should.

Re:EU Failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072013)

If anything, the blame should go on the eurosceptics, who will do whatever they can to insure Europe is never gouverned.

Whatever you may think, If Europe _was_ united there would be a democratic government. But instead, what we have is an association of states which allows their respective governement to wield much more power than they should. So if you really want democracy Vote yes to the upcomming constitution (which will give less power to the various councils, and more to the parliament)

Mostly because there is in this constutution the notion of popular referendum, where if you get a milion signatures -- which over Europe should not be too hard, you can get the EP to vote on anything the signatories deemed useful.

And this means that (perhaps) democracy will reaaly start growing.

You'll probably... (0)

Martin Spamer (244245) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072068)


get moderated down for building you position on a factual flawed premises.

It is the unelected council of ministers; i.e. ministers appointed from european nation states and not the EU parliament that seem to be screwing this up, by trying to by-pass that democraticly elected European Parliament.

Re:EU Failure (1)

imkonen (580619) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072103)

"So, say that, for example, the government of Germany would rather not accept software patents."

Can they just leave the EU? This is not meant as a troll, just an honest question from someone (okay you guessed it, I'm American) who doesn't particularly understand how the EU works. I'm also fully aware there are a vast number of consequences to leaving the EU and Germany isn't going leave just over software patents. I just find it interesting that so many of these posts bashing the EU seem beyond this smaller picture and really seem to indicate a lack of satisfaction with the whole democratic process. If a member country really feels like its interests are being consistantly trampled on by the EU, can they just leave?

Re:EU Failure (1)

TooMuchEspressoGuy (763203) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072143)

Being an American as well, I (admittedly) have a somewhat limited understanding of how the EU works. However, from what I have come across, being an EU member state is somewhat like being a state in the USA. In other words, it's a contract, which cannot be broken.

Now, this would not be such a horrible thing if the decision to join the EU did not extend to generations beyond the one that "signed" the contract. As it is, however, even if at some point in the future there exists in a certain country a majority of people who wish to leave the EU, they cannot.

Re:EU Failure (2, Interesting)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072133)

Just like the WTO. Imagine if we could, as a global economy, say "You don't honor human rights, you don't honor worker's rights to unionize, and you don't meet environmental standards. Therefore we won't trade with you."

You bet your bippy China, Saudi Arabia, et al would clean up their act if we could do that.

Instead, the WTO is letting people like Monsanto prevent poor farmers from saving a portion of their crop or trading it with others (like they've done for thousands of years) because they've patented corn.

Re:EU Failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072199)

Even beyond that, however, there is another issue at stake. If a law is passed which standardizes software patents, all of the individual countries which make up the EU will be forced to accept it. So, say that, for example, the government of Germany would rather not accept software patents. Too bad, they'll have to anyway, despite the fact that the majority of the people there may not want it. So much for the will of the people.

I believe this is not correct. This link [ffii.org] seems to state something totally different.

States do not need to accept a Council agreement that does not represent their will

Background

Talks with politologists and Brussels lobbyists independently confirmed that the heads of state can reverse decisions of their ministers, especially in cases such as that of 2004-05-18 [ffii.org] , where it appears that the decision taken by the ministers does not reflect the will of a real qualified majority of governments.

There is no law that forbids reversal of such flawed decisionmaking. Nevertheless governments hesitate to do it, because it could undermine the trust in words given at international negotiations. OTOH, political malpractise of the level witnessed here is rare.

Re:EU Failure (2, Informative)

Seahawk (70898) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072210)

Hang on!

Patens has not been approved! The parliament voted no, and now the patent lobby is TRYING to convince the EU to do it anyway!

IF they manage to do it THEN there is something wrong - but up until now, the democracy seems to actually work.

So if you want to badmouth EU - at least have some better arguments, instead of saying things that are not true.

Disclaimer - I am definately pro-EU, but I DO see valid aruments against it - just none that are worse than the benifits.

Nothing to do with the EU (1)

Cybertect (85900) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072278)

I wish people would learn what's what before making comments like this.

The Council of Europe is a totally separate *intergovernmental* organisation and has no relationship with the European Union apart from having Europe in its name.

Take a look at their web site (http://www.coe.int). This is what they say:

-------------
The Council of Europe is the continent's oldest political organisation, founded in 1949. It:
groups together 46 countries, including 21 countries from Central and Eastern Europe,
has application from 1 more country (Bélarus),
has granted observer status to 5 more countries (the Holy See, the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico),
is distinct from the 25-nation European Union
-------------

Now look at the EU's list of its institutions.

http://europa.eu.int/index_en.htm

The Council of Europe does not appear in that list - N.B. the Council of the European Union isn't the same thing at all.

Some corrections and overview (4, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071860)

For the record: if the Council approves its pro-software patents text, all is not yet lost since there is still a second reading in the European Parliament. A downside of this second reading is that the EP can only amend the Council's text using absolute majorities there (i.e., half the number of MEPs must vote in favour of an amendment, regardless of how many abstain or are even present at the vote).

The big news is however that the Council Presidency is basically trying to circumvent the Council itself. In May, they reached a political agreement on the most pro-software patents text seen in EU legislative circles until now. At the Council meeting in May, Poland first abstained, then Germany and the Commission introduced some fake compromise amendment, and after a break Poland was not consulted again about its position, because there was a qualified majority in place even without its support. They confirmed [ukie.gov.pl] afterwards their position did not change because of the bogus compromise amendment.

Recently, Poland confirmed its position [slashdot.org] , after everyone in a meeting with HP, Novell, Microsoft and others confirmed that the text of the Council of Ministers allows pure software patents (contrary what is often claimed). And apart from Microsoft and the Polish Patent Lawyers association, everyone agreed that software patents would be bad for the Polish economy. Because the voting weights changed on 1 November (due to the joining of all the new member states to the EU), Poland's support suddenly became necessary and thus the qualified majority was officially broken.

Other notable events since the political agreement of May are the fact that in July the Dutch Parliament asked its government to change position [slashdot.org] from being in favour to abstention, and at the start of this month all parties of the German Parliament did the same [nosoftwarepatents.com] .

So the Council currently has an ugly text on the table which is no longer supported by a qualified majority in any way, but by means of diplomatic pressure on Poland and others the Dutch presidency (lead in this case by Minister Brinkhorst) is trying everything it can to push it through nevertheless.

Re:Some corrections and overview (1)

ballpoint (192660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072008)

I've previously contacted some Belgian MEPs about this issue, and was pleased by their response. Is there anything we 'Belgians Against Software Patents' can do now regarding this matter, given that Belgium already seems to be on the right side ?

Re:Some corrections and overview (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072087)

Yes, getting more Belgian companies/businesses to speak out against software patents, because the Belgian ministry's position is ambiguous at best. There was already a nice statement in May [softwarepatenten.be] , but we need bigger companies. Companies like e.g. Telindus and Belgacom. Telindus has exactly 1 patent (on some modem modulation technique), Belgacom has 5 (none of them software patents).

Telindus is now an integrator/services company. It provides services for e.g. the Flemish government. Another company that does so is EDS (US company), and Accenture (US as well) does so for the Federal Government. Both EDS and Accenture are applying for business method patents like there's no tomorrow. If software patents are introduced, it won't take that long anymore until Telindus can only do things it gets permission for from EDS and Accenture, unless it starts wasting money on its own patent portfolio. Similarly, Belgacom also only stands to lose from the introduction of software patents.

However, to get into these businesses, you have to be a business yourself or (preferably) know somebody on the inside. I don't. Do you? If not, do you maybe know people who do? If so, please get them in touch with me (my email address appears mangled in the header of this post).

By the way... (0)

Sanity (1431) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072064)

...as the representative of all Slashdot users*, I would like to publicly thank you and everyone else on the front line of this battle - I personally don't know where you must find the energy, but am very glad that you do :-)

* Not true

Re:Some corrections and overview (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072147)

I know, I know, we dutch keep shooting the wrong politicains.

English (1)

lost in wet snow (747969) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071873)

Try those links in English: http://register.consilium.eu.int/pdf/en/04/st15/st 15967.en04.pdf (it only makes a little more sense then in German; my German really sucks.... )

This gets me so totally angry (4, Interesting)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071881)

I've never been so angry at these crooks in government before now. Dutch parliament rejects software patents, European parliament rejects software patents, they'll hurt the Dutch software industry very badly (I believe the total number of software patents held by Dutch IT companies is 3) and now the fuckers want to avoid all of that by adding it on to some fisheries decision.

Help me, fellow Dutchmen, how can we make this as public as possible as quickly as possible? I've never done anything active in politics before, but this must go into the spotlight! Give me some hints...

Re:This gets me so totally angry (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11071972)

Pin an angry note to someone's chest?

Re:This gets me so totally angry (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071995)

For now I've mailed an explanation, some links and a request for advice to some journalist friends. Not much time...

Antidemocratic conduct by EU Council (2, Informative)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071892)

What the EU Council is trying to do is, way above and beyond the issue of software patents, an assault at democracy itself. In a democratic system based on lawfulness, a decision needs to meet the majority requirements (in this case: the requirements for a qualified majority in the EU Council) on the day of the formal decision, not more than 6 months earlier. Since the EU Council's political agreement on May 18th, - the Dutch parliament called on its government to abstain (July 1st; abstention in the Council has technically the same effect as voting against) - the voting weights changed (November 1st, see http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/docs/041101qm.pdf [nosoftwarepatents.com] ) - the Polish government clarified that it cannot support the proposal in question (http://nosoftwarepatents.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php ?t=158 [nosoftwarepatents.com] , November 16th) - all four groups in the German parliament agreed on a joint motion against the Council's proposal (http://nosoftwarepatents.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php ?t=222 [nosoftwarepatents.com] ) Consequently, the Belgian minister of economic affairs even said last week that there was no more qualified majority in place: http://nosoftwarepatents.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php? t=233 [nosoftwarepatents.com] BTW, it's not just my opinion that it would be antidemocratic if the Council took the decision in question. That was said last week by Othmar Karas MEP, who is a vice president of the largest group in the European Parliament, the conservative European People's Party (Christian Democrats) - European Democrats.

1950: What if we had Software Patents back then? (4, Interesting)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071902)

This is the argument that we should be pushing. Back then you probably could have patented Bits and Bytes. How about it it happened in 1980: Makers of Wordstar and Visi-calc whould have locked the wordprocessing and Spreadsheet markets, respectively. Makers of CP/M would lockup PC OS' so MS would have never existed! What this will do is make all new and exciting stuff happen where SW patents do NOT exist.

Re:1950: What if we had Software Patents back then (2, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071994)

How about it it happened in 1980: Makers of Wordstar and Visi-calc whould have locked the wordprocessing and Spreadsheet markets, respectively. Makers of CP/M would lockup PC OS' so MS would never have existed!

So we'd have 2 of the best applications ever written and no microsoft? Well this isn't looking so bad after all. ;)

Re:1950: What if we had Software Patents back then (1)

Shrei (772115) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072082)

This is the argument that we should be pushing. Back then you probably could have patented Bits and Bytes. How about it it happened in 1980: Makers of Wordstar and Visi-calc whould have locked the wordprocessing and Spreadsheet markets, respectively. Makers of CP/M would lockup PC OS' so MS would have never existed! Now that you put the patent issue that way, i am not really sure if patents are really bad.

Stance on software patents - English link (2, Informative)

caveman (7893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071904)

For the benefit of non-german-speaking Slashdotters, the first addendum to document 11979 can be found here (PDF) [eu.int] and the parent document here (PDF) [eu.int]

Patents = Big Buisness (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071942)

Its like the car. Maybe you have a great new idea for a transmission system. But when the big companies have a patent on the wheels, engine, carb, exhaust, etc. You can't make a car to put in your awesome transmission system. Whats even worse, is that it might not even be just big buisness. 1 person might have wheel patents, Another engine patents, another carb patents, another exhaust patents. So we never see the advent of the car. It happened with radio before World War 1. You allow software patents, and all you're doing is making it illegal for people to develop software.

You know it will happen (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#11071956)

All the major players, with all the money, want software patents. Even if they don't get it this year, they will get it next year, or the next. They are not going to stop until they get it.

An Oligarchic Council is more efficient (1)

jimbro2k (800351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072025)

An Oligarchic Council is more efficient than a (semi-) democratic parliment.
This is because fewer payoffs need to be made to accomplish your goal.

Did what I could... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072034)

....at least, I hope I did, still open for suggestions.

I wrote to the people who are supposed to 'represent' me, and asked them how the hell our country (the Netherlands) could be behind this push for Software Patents, when a majority of parliament is against it.
A couple of months ago saw a petition voted in to have the minister of foreign affairs retract his support for software patents. And now aparently not only are we voting yes, we're also behind pushing the Polish to give up their resistance to these patents?
Even worse, this minister is from a party which supposedly is the most vocal supporter of the european -democratic- proces, demanding more power to the european parliament, and less to the council. (Great way to show it guys, now I know why I voted for you :( )

So a call to all dutch Slashdotters, write an email to your representatives. Not much time left to act.

CDA:
cda.publieksvoorlichting@tweedekamer.nl
P vdA:
voorlichting@pvda.nl
VVD:
Vragen stellen aan tweede kamerleden [www.vvd.nl]
D66:
http://www.d66.nl/contact [d66.nl]

(not a complete list, I know)

Compare prices on Politics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11072038)

- is one of the related links on this topic. Would those be retail prices for the man in the street or wholesale rates offered to corporates?

How very nice of you... (2, Informative)

danalien (545655) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072048)

to link to German PDF's .. but I'd think on a worldwide site like slashdot, it'd be prudent to try to use English (if available).

Link 1 - in English [eu.int]

To 'Link 2 [eu.int] ', there doesn't seem to be a corresponding English-version - from my vauge german skills, but mostly deductive skills - I'd say the document is some sort of addmendment to this org. Link 2 - in English [eu.int]

But maybe someone could translate 'Link 2 [eu.int] '? ... it's only 5 (five) lines.


PS. Linux ppl, use Acrobat's reader ... the native PDF readers seem to have trouble with these PDF's...

Re:How very nice of you... (1)

Wolfbone (668810) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072141)

"PS. Linux ppl, use Acrobat's reader ..." Only ghostscript based readers - xpdf and gpdf will work fine.

Re:How very nice of you... (2, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072254)

But maybe someone could translate 'Link 2'? ... it's only 5 (five) lines.


Without warranty on correctness:

Corrigendum to the draft of the rationale of the council

Subject: Common position of the council concerning the enactment of a guideline of the Eurropean parliament and the council about the patentability of computer-implemented inventions

Number 17 (page 5) gets the following version:

"Paragraph 2 was added to reveal that the range of protection of a patented invention may under certain circumstances and under exactly defined conditions also cover a computer program, being either the program alone or a program on a data medium. In the view of the council, this way the guideline follows the usual parctise of both the European patent office and the member states."

Who are we kidding? (1)

SlashDread (38969) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072061)

Software patents benefit mega-corps. Software patents hurt free software and -citizens-. Guess who is gonna loose.

Sigh... where is my anti-globalization protesters helmet. Perhaps the swiss police know...

European Union Is More Bureaucracy Than Democracy (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072166)

I know the shape and form of the EU is still somewhat in flux, but it seems to skew towards rule by buraucrats. Maybe that allows the different countries to get along under one authority. However, the downside is...well...you are ruled by buraucrats and stuff like this happens sometimes.

If anyone is still confused (2, Informative)

mikerich (120257) | more than 9 years ago | (#11072213)

I *think* this is what is happening. The Council is formed from the ministers of the Member States of the Union. It proposes legislation on the advice of the EU Commission (yet another body made up of appointed bureaucrats whose purpose is to develop and uphold the workings of the Union). This directive has been proposed under the so-called co-decision arrangement with the European Parliament - the directly elected body of the EU.

In co-decision, Parliament has some measure of veto over the Council - it is the strongest of the arrangements between the parties. Council has sent the draft directive to Parliament. Parliament could adopt the proposed legislation - whereupon it would have taken effect in the EU, instead it proposed amendments.

The amendments have then gone back to Council which now has a choice. It can choose to accept Parliament's amendments and produce a compromise directive. Or it can override Parliament - but only by a unanimous vote by the members of Council. This is why the Poles are being strong-armed.

If Council rejects the Parliamentary amendments and fails to vote unanimously, the legislation must then head towards conciliation and arbitration which is brain-bleedingly complicated since the Commission becomes involved.

So all is not lost, the insitutions are working, although I have to wonder about the fisheries involvement. I would have thought those ministers have their own problems at the moment.

HTH.

Mike.

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