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Euro Patent Restart Demand Repeated by Parliament

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the once-more-into-the-breach dept.

Patents 204

sebFlyte writes "ZDNet UK is reporting that the European Parliament's Conference of Presidents has ratified and repeated the demands of the Parliament for the computer-implemented inventions directive to be sent back to the drawing board, even though the Commission has refused to re-start it after previous demands. From the article: "It is not certain that the Commission will comply with the request of the Parliament, nor that it will use the opportunity to draft a good text ... The new Commission is not obliged to follow the Parliament's request and they might still try to keep all options open and ask the Council to adopt the agreement of last May without a new vote, so as to gain even more options for themselves."

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204 comments

would this invalidate the GPL? (1, Interesting)

briancnorton (586947) | more than 9 years ago | (#11701921)

Perhaps a bit off-topic, but if software CAN'T be patented, then couldn't one LEGALLY take that unpatented open source code and make a commercial product out of it, thus negating the GPL? (IANAL, and it shows)

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (5, Informative)

NiceGeek (126629) | more than 9 years ago | (#11701963)

no because the GPL'ed software is copyrighted not patented. Not the same thing.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11701968)

Well, if the draf is really bad you could always patent the GPL itself :-)

"Method for protecting open source code from intellectual property infringement".

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (1)

samtihen (798412) | more than 9 years ago | (#11701972)

Well, even if it isn't patented I'm pretty sure it is still copyrighted.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11701980)

You're confusing patent and copyright. if the software was patented, you couldn't write your own piece of software that did the same thing, even if you never saw the code for the patented product in the first place.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (2, Informative)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 9 years ago | (#11701983)

if software CAN'T be patented, then couldn't one LEGALLY take that unpatented open source code and make a commercial product out of it

No, because the open source code is still copyrighted. (Patents != Copyright). Patents are more general than copyrights, pplying to ideas rather than realisations (and, please, IANAL - someone speak up if I've missed out/messed up).

What patents bring to the table is the ability for someone to patent a concept (one-click purchasing, say) and then prevent anyone else from implementing something similar.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703255)

Copyrights do not apply to purely functional items.

Patents fill this gap by giving limited protection to an invention.

Business method & Software patents really hose all this thinking by allowing concepts to be patented rather than an implementation.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (1)

arendjr (673589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702003)

Perhaps a bit off-topic, but if software CAN'T be patented, then couldn't one LEGALLY take that unpatented open source code and make a commercial product out of it, thus negating the GPL? (IANAL, and it shows)

It shows indeed.

The GPL protects your project through copyright, not through patents. Patents are simply not required for protecting software.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702007)

Patents are not what protects GPLed code copyright is.

Just because it isn't patented, doesn't mean that copyright protection goes away. In fact as things stand right now almost no GPL code in existance uses patented algorithms.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (2, Interesting)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702018)



You are confusing patents with copyright.

The GPL conveys a concept for usage rights and copyright terms.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (5, Informative)

SmokeHalo (783772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702064)

There's a difference between a patent and a copyright. Berkeley Labs [lbl.gov] has a nice "noob" summary for people like me. From there:
...patent protection can apply to the method or process. Remember that copyright protection does not protect the method, but the expression of the method. Patent law, on the other hand, can protect the method as well.

In a more perfect world... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702534)

Someone would patent the 'method or process' of filing outrageous software patents. I'm sure something prevents stuff like that; too much prior art, I suppose. :p

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702179)

No. You do not know what a patent is.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (2, Informative)

afstanton (822402) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702204)

No, that violates the copyright. If you take unpatented GPL code and learn a method from it and reimplement it yourself in a completely different way, that's fine. You have to be careful that your code is not even similar to the original GPL code, as that counts as a derivative work, but implementation of an idea is not protected by copyright - only by a patent.

Duuuuuuuuh! (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702228)

Patent != Copyright

The GPL is based on copyright law, not patent law.

Re:would this invalidate the GPL? (3, Informative)

k98sven (324383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702836)

Making a 'commercial product' out of something GPL-licensed doesn't 'negate' the GPL in any way.

The GPL does not make any distinction between 'commercial' or 'non-commercial' distribution. Any and all distribution must follow the terms of the GPL. Commercial or not doesn't enter the picture.

Don't you know there are commercial linux distributions out there?

And patents and copyrights are completely different forms of protection. You can't patent music. But that doesn't mean it isn't protected by copyright.

Amidala put it best... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11703211)

If this body is not capable of action, I suggest new leadership is needed. I move for a "vote of no confidence"...in the parliament's leadership.

wOw (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11701934)

Who would say

Profit Anyone? (5, Interesting)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 9 years ago | (#11701938)

FTA [i]Hugo Lueders, the director of public policy at pro-patent organisation CompTIA, is also unsure what will happen next. He contends that software patents are needed to ensure that the EU can keep to the goals set by the "Lisbon Agenda" --- that the EU will become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010.[/i] Does that comment sound like: 1. Establish Software Patents 2. ??????? 3. Thriving and Inventive Computer Industry (ha!) 4. Profit! to anyone else?!?

Re:Profit Anyone? (2, Insightful)

HEXAN (790837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702250)

Despite all the hand wringing on /. There is a real issue here that does not get any coverage. Most of the developing world (including China) is becoming aware that the value of their IT industry is tied directly to enforcement (and support of) copyrights and patents. Without protection for IP, including patents, the value of software falls to zero, which many here argue in favor of. However, you cannot build and sustain capital investment if you cannot provide a return on said investment. Without protecting the investors' _right_ to a risk-based return (this is the essence of property rights), you will never build anything beyond a sub-poverty society. If you fail to protect the inventor, why should you expect them to thrive?

Re:Profit Anyone? (1)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702719)

I'm not disagreeing with that - I'm simply saying that blind and imprudent transitions to patents without many other things you need to make them work properly will only result in a lack of development except from a select few.

Re:Profit Anyone? (1)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703026)

"Without protecting the investors' _right_ to a risk-based return (this is the essence of property rights),". Um, no you have that wrong the essence of property rights is,"this is my shit and you can't take it." Another part of property's value is its scarecity(sp?), there is no IP scarecity.

Twats (5, Interesting)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#11701946)

I consider myself a pro-European Brit, but the intransigence and power of the unelected Commision to act in the face of the elected Parliament makes me foam at the mouth like Norman Tebbit. Is it really so hard for them to see that those with a mandate should be sovereign?

I want a close and strong European Union -- I just don't want this European Union.

Re:Twats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702124)

Is it really so hard for them to see that those with a mandate should be sovereign?

I'm pretty certain they see.

But I don't think they care.

Re:Twats (4, Funny)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702255)

I think an oversight committee elected by members of Parliment to oversee the members of the unelected commission is clearly in order!

Re:Twats (3, Funny)

AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702574)

Or, forget about employing yet more bloody civil servants and change the rules so that when Parliament says something the commission has no choice in the matter.

Except that isn't going to happen because civil servants are the very last people to actually let politicians influence government. ... And people thought Yes Minister was cynical...

Re:Twats (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702646)

The main power that the parliament has is to remove the commissioners from office and replace them. Something they should consider if the commission keeps ignoring them.

Re:Twats (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11703036)

The council of ministers is the most powerful body in the EU. It can overrule the commission, but so far it hasn't. You can complain to the right British minister. I don't know who that is, perhaps Patricia Hewitt. She is an elected official and doesn't do anything about this mess either.

Re:Twats (1)

mormop (415983) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703078)

Couldn't agree more.

What, after all, is the point in going through to all the trouble of an electoral process is a bunch of failed has-been politicians who are appointed with no direct electoral mandate can overrule with no justification required?

I remember in the 80s/90s one euro commissioner - Martin Bangemann (German) who spent an inordinate amount of time trying to limit motorcycle power output to 99bhp. Funnily enough, the only manufacturer whose entire product range already met this criteria was BMW. Hmm... no signs of dodginess there then. All this was based on a survey so flawed that a six year old could have seen through it and the whole thing could have been neatly nipped in the bud if the commission hadn't kept bringing it back after the parliament had buried it (in the same coffin as the democratic ideal perhaps).

it's not that simple (1)

idlake (850372) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703096)

The European parliament is a fairly untested body as such bodies go (the first direct elections were held in 1979) and it's not clear that voters pay much attention to its election (voter turnout is generally low). Therefore, it was prudent not to transfer too much power to it right away.

The Commission itself is unelected, but it is composed of representatives from democratically elected member governments. That's no different from when a group of foreign ministers get together and hammer out agreements that then get ratified by the national governments. You don't scream bloody murder because your foreign minister represents you internationally, you kind of expect it.

Having said that, I think that the European Parliament is proving itself, while the Commission is demonstrating that it is out of touch, on many issues. So, maybe it is time to shift more power to the parliament. But I understand why things haven't started out that way.

I'd patent Paper-Shuffling... (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702011)

I'd patent Paper-Shuffling, foot-dragging and obfuscation, but I see there's Prior Art.

The players:

European Parliament's Conference of Presidents

the Commission

the Parliament

The new Commission

the Council

Ok, I'm lost. Though I think I can see why nothing's happening.

It reminds me of a The Committee Game someone wrote on our PDP11 about 25 years ago. (The committee forms to form a plan of action to deal with the nefarious Kally Spaeth, but first they head up to McDonalds for refreshments in the arcane Dodge Dart, and generally it's a lot of running around without actually doing anything about the nefarious Kally Spaeth. I think it was in parody.)

I blame Microsoft... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702031)

...for making people accept that a restart is required to apply patches.

It's highly worrying... (5, Insightful)

delta_avi_delta (813412) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702076)

...when a body which purports to be democratic does not listen to those who represent the people. We have spoken, we have shouted, we have sent you nasty emails. If the bill gets carried, it will indicate that the European Union is designed to give people the appearance of having democratic power with the parliament, while the real power resides with commission, who seem emminantly influenced by big business.

Re:It's highly worrying... (1)

Wybaar (762692) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702129)

We the people of the United States would like to welcome the people of the EU to our world :(

Re:It's highly worrying... (2, Insightful)

Java Ape (528857) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702270)

In other words, the European system isn't working any better that the American system.

Hmmm. As geeks we know what to do when a system becomes unresponsive . . . REBOOT!

Re:It's highly worrying... (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702369)

I like to login via a terminal and stark killing processes, myself.

Re:It's highly worrying... (1)

Piquan (49943) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702665)

The problem is, politics is a fork bomb.

And each committee does a setsid, so you can't kill off process groups wholesale.

Yes, you've got a problem over there (2, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702471)

Normally I read people outside the US saying interesting (negative) things about how our country looks from the outside. I have to say the EU is looking rather bad in this case. Questions that come to mind:

Who is in charge over there?
How is the government supposed to work?
Why do they vote on some things and not others?
Are there multiple mechanisms to pass laws?

Are the "parliament" and the "commission" similar to our "house" and "senate"?? That would explain the back and forth, but it doesn't look like they both need to approve of this thing to make it happen.

Regardless, I've told my european friends and coworkers to watch that their new government doesn't do like ours and take control from the states and later hand it over to large corporations. They all laughed.... even I didn't expect it to happen so quickly.

Re:Yes, you've got a problem over there (2, Informative)

terrymr (316118) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702717)

The commission is the executive branch ... like the cabinet ... the parliament is the legislative branch.

This is exactly why further integration is needed (4, Insightful)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702887)

Anti-EU people take this example to denigrate the integration process, but in fact it shows that MORE integration is necessary.

For instance the parliament still has little power, but without it this directive would have been passed months ago. Without EU at all, it would have been passed years ago under pressure from US-based megacorporations.

I'd say that even though the situation is dangerous, it shows that the European parliament is perfectly doing its job and representing the will of the European people, and counterbalancing the ivory power that is the Commission. In particular, kudos to Michel Rocard, former French Prime Minister and one of the main forces in this legislative fight. A friend of mine met him when he was just starting to discover the issue; and he was pleasantly suprised to find how he listened to anti patent arguments and quickly acquired knowledge and decided to act.

OK, question (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702150)

If the commish ignored the last demand, why would they pay attention to this one? Or is this just for the parliament to make their objections absolutely clear?

Also, question: Is the EU parliament in the end going to be, or are they right now, as pissed off about this as Slashdot seems to be? I mean, whether the parliament cares about patents or not, you'd think. In the U.S. if a branch of government got outright snubbed like this they'd probably wind up doing everything in their power to kill the idea of software patents forever, even if they didn't really care about software patents, just out of spite

Re:OK, question (1)

rcs1000 (462363) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702720)

It's funny; I doubt the average MEP (Member of the European Parliament) really gives that much of a shit about software patents.

However, I am sure as hell that they do not like being ignored. Having your powerlessness so exposed is like having someone insult your mother - it makes you very, very angry.

I wouldn't be surprised (well, I would, if only a little bit) if the EU Parliament (again) excercised their right to completely kick-out the Commission. It would be a constitutional crisis, albeit probably a welcome one.

Re:OK, question (4, Informative)

iabervon (1971) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702817)

IIRC, the Parliament can dissolve the Council (or Commission?) with a vote of no confidence. They obviously wouldn't do that just on a whim, but they might if the other bodies ignore repeated demands from different portions of the Parliament.

This is a bit like the US legislature. They can pass laws, but the Justice Department can fail to enforce them (or the FCC can ignore them, etc.). If the Executive Branch department fails to respond, they can complain to the President, who can fire people. If the President fails to do anything, they can impeach him. This is, in fact, what happened to Andrew Johnson (backwards; he fired an executive for doing what Congress wanted), although he was acquitted by one vote.

So this is another step with which the Parliament can try to exert influence on the other branches without actually going all the way and using their actual power, which would be enormously disruptive to everything.

Note that the Parliament can also reject the directive on the second reading, but it's difficult and depends on enough MEPs actually showing up that day; if Parliament complains enough beforehand, the Commission is more likely to think that enough MEPs will show up to the vote to kill it, and the less interested they are in pushing the Council's text through (the Commission's mandate is to get some directive passed on software patents, because the current situation is broken, and their job is to get broken situations resolved in some way or other). If it's going to get killed in the second reading, they would rather save face and restart the process; if it's not going to get killed in the second reading, they want to get it done.

Okay I'm from the US (2, Informative)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702154)

and don't understand world events... But the Commission has more power than the Parliament and can get legislation to the Council that the Council has to act on?

Is the fear that there are enough votes in the Council that this will pass?

What the ?????? (4, Interesting)

Asprin (545477) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702197)


Does the EU even *have* a government? This is so confusing! Motions that can be executed with no vote, organizational groups that do what they want regardless of the vote? What gives? It's like the thing was designed *by*, bureucrats *for* bureaucrats, and voting is just a technicality.

Can somebody help to make me less ignorant and point me at an online EU-civics 101 tutorial that outlines how the EU government is organized, what are the responsibilities of the major components and a general overview of the rules?

Please?

Re:What the ?????? (4, Informative)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702350)

It's like the thing was designed *by*, bureucrats *for* bureaucrats

Well, and I don't mean this in a bad-way, that's pretty much how the EU was set-up - or, more accurately, that's how the fore-runner(s) of the EU were set-up. Six European nations decided to have a coal and steel agreement. One thing led to another, over a long period, and with other nations joining at semi-regular intervals. The decisions were taken by career politicians and bureaucrats. It's comparatively recent that we've even had a parliament, and still more recent that we've actually been permitted to elect the members of said parliament.

Re: EU-civics-101. I'll second that. We - even those of us in Europe - desperately need to know how the hell our continent is run.

Re:What the ?????? (1)

henni16 (586412) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703226)

We - even those of us in Europe - desperately need to know how the hell our continent is run.
Well..I had that for a whole semester in school, in the year before graduating:
How does the EU work..what does it do..its history..who votes/appoints whom..where are the democratic deficits..
what will be the problems in the future (EU extension; mind you: ~1996/97).. currently debated plans to solve the current and the likely future problems etc.

At least at my (German) school people getting their "Abitur" (graduating degree after 12/13 years of school if passing the exams)
had to take two years of "Politische Weltkunde" ("political world knowledge") and make an exam - unless they didn't specialize on history or geography anyway.


But sadly, most people couldn't even say "who elects whom" on a national level..
No, the chancellor isn't elected directly by the people. Neither is the president. *sigh*

Re:What the ?????? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702535)

I'm Dutch and like many Dutch we have no clue about how the European parliament works and we dont even WANT it.

Our government will hold a public vote on the issue if we agree to sign the European constitution, but they already said that if we all vote NO they will ignore the public vote. They already signed the damn thing without consulting the general voting public.

So if you think your US republicrats are bad, seems like Europe wants to be even better.

Of course, Europe cant agree on a single language or a place for the European parliament so there is 2,500 translators to translate all laws to/from every single European language and constant moving around of ALL people in the European parliament to their new temporary habitat.

With all this mess, I was betting my savings on USD and not EURO. Worked fine in the 1999-2000 timeframe I was working in the US. Unfortunately US politicians are even better at wasting money than our European version, so now I'm screwed.

Re:What the ?????? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702613)

The EU explains itself:

http://europa.eu.int/institutions/index_en.htm [eu.int]
Take a look at the dropdown box in the upper right side of your browser window for different languages.

Re:What the ?????? (4, Informative)

henni16 (586412) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702961)

Does the EU even *have* a government?
No, At least not a democratic one.

It's like the thing was designed *by*, bureucrats *for* bureaucrats
That's essentially true.
Also, there's the parliament that is
a) a nursing home for politicians that some national party can't get rid off because of prior achievements or
b) has to move out of sight for a couple of years because of national affairs.
c) Also "parliament" sounds somewhat democratic; but don't give them real power because otherwise they might stop you from getting things done -
like introducing software patents against Europe's interests.


and point me at an online EU-civics 101 tutorial that outlines how the EU government is organized
This [dadalos-europe.org] looks promising (from the "International UNESCO Education Server for Civic, Peace and Human Rights Education").
Also, there is a very short overview [eu.int] on the(?) EU site.

EU Law Trails? (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702199)

Would someone please clarify the players in EU lawmaking, and their role in the process? America at least has floated cartoons [school-house-rock.com] making our quaint process clear to naive schoolchildren (of any age). Where do members of the following bodies come from: election by people per nation / across the EU; or sent as representatives of national governments; or selected by the EU government itself? Where do the laws/regulations/rules/treaties/agreements they produce come from: national governments; EU government subdivisions; independent citizens; overseas committees like the US; nongovernment foreign or European policy organizations? And where do the rules they produce go: to another body for decision, to national governments for ratification, or just into effect as law?

The players:
- EU Parliament
- EU Commission
- EU Council
- Any others (like, eg, some kind of "EU Parliament/Council Reconciliation Committe")?

Re:EU Law Trails? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702497)

Searching a bit gave me the following link:

The EUROPA site [eu.int] which I found this handy-dandy flowchart [eu.int] on! With that many steps, no wonder it's confusing!

Re:EU Law Trails? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702693)

That's really useful. Now, a flowchart for the populations of the Parliament, Council, and Commission - who says which people are members of these groups?

Disgraceful FUD on BBC (4, Insightful)

hazee (728152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702203)

The BBC coverage [bbc.co.uk] of this issue states that "The open source movement, of which Linux is the flagbearer, eschews notions of property and instead allows anyone to examine and tinker with the inner workings of software."

As a BBC license payer, I'm incensed that they could be spreading such FUD. Since when has Linux "eschewed the notion of property"?

Just because the open source community is vehemently opposed to software patents, doesn't mean that they don't support the "notion of property". Without such notions as copyright for instance, the GPL would be impossible.

Re:Disgraceful FUD on BBC (3, Insightful)

hazee (728152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702410)

My complaint to the BBC:

As a BBC license payer, I'm appalled by the factual inaccuracy in the "EU software patent law faces axe" article.

The statement is made that "The open source movement, of which Linux is the flagbearer, eschews notions of property and instead allows anyone to examine and tinker with the inner workings of software."

This is nonsense, verging on the libellous. The open source movement has no such stance. Even minimal fact checking would quickly reveal that the Gnu Public License, under which much of today's open source software, including Linux, is released, depends fundamentally on the protections and rights granted by copyright.

The concept that the open source movement seeks to destroy any sense of property is precisely the sort of scare story being pushed by large computer manufacturers in their attempt to railroad the software patents directive through the European parliament.

I expect better from a supposedly neutral and unbiased news organisation.

Re:Disgraceful FUD on BBC (1)

evvk (247017) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702561)

> Without such notions as copyright for instance, the GPL would be impossible.

The GPL would be unnecessary. Anyone has the right to copy everything as much as they wish (as it should be) so why not release the source too.

Property is theft. -- Pierre Joseph Proudhon.

Re:Disgraceful FUD on BBC (1)

hazee (728152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702754)

That's the crucial distinction between the GPL and BSD licenses. With the BSD license, anyone can rip off your work and bury it inside their own proprietary code, without giving anything back in return.

Hence it could be argued that the BSD license benfits freeloaders, while the GPL benefits the community as a whole, something that would not be possible without the protection of copyright.

Re:Disgraceful FUD on BBC (2, Insightful)

jpetts (208163) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703005)

As a BBC license payer, I'm incensed that they could be spreading such FUD. Since when has Linux "eschewed the notion of property"?

Just because the open source community is vehemently opposed to software patents, doesn't mean that they don't support the "notion of property". Without such notions as copyright for instance, the GPL would be impossible.


Then why are you telling us? Write to the BBC...

Calling all Euros (0, Troll)

jaymzter (452402) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702212)

could you please get your noses out of the air long enough to explain how such a goverment could have been designed in your socialist utopia?

At least we can vote our crappy politicians out of office to make them responsive

yes, I am trolling - but I still wanted to ask

Re:Calling all Euros (2, Interesting)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702460)

The EU is not a government.

It's primarily a trading body, but has pretentions to be more than that.

The EU Commission is appointed by the individual member states, so whilst we can't vote for them directly we can kick out the morons who put them there.

The EU Parliament is directly elected, but has little actual power - there are too many vested interests to ever give it any real power... it makes decisions over minor matters.

The European Court is the bit that keeps the countries in line with their treaty obligations... they actually have the power to force governments to change their laws (the UK is often being slapped down these days because of its draconian 'anti-terrorist' laws like imprisonment without trial... we have out own camp X-Ray called Belmarsh, and the EU Court has basically ordered the government to close it).

There's another one I think (I thought there were 4 parts to the EU... might be wrong).

Re:Calling all Euros (1)

jaymzter (452402) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702507)

Thank you very much for an insightful answer to my trollish post. I was ignorant of the facts you stated.

Re:Calling all Euros (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702734)

While we were in our socialist utopia, large rich corporations took our politicians to dinner....

Seems we are just copying you ;)

This is great news (2, Interesting)

ninjadoug (609521) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702223)

This is great news, I hope that everyone who has not contacted their MEP will do so via faxmymp or otherwise. I may even go to the effort of sending a letter in the post to mine to say thanks, and to continue to listen elected voters over companies. Remember the parliment makes the decision based on voters preferances, it it just up to us to tell MEPs what we want.

EU structure (4, Interesting)

bfields (66644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702232)

Conference of Presidents, Council, Commission, Parliament.... For the poor confused Americans among us, could somebody draw us the European equivalent of the "how a bill becomes law" flow chart? I'm completely lost.

--Bruce Fields

Re:EU structure (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702370)

1. a major player (france, UK, germany, italy) wants a piece of legislation to become a law

-> 2. the draft is juggled between the comission and the parliament for years

-> 3. in case of a directive the member states can play with the law for a few years before putting it to force

-> 4. the comission tries to see if all the laws in member states are roughly the same that the comission and parliament passed

-> 5a. if a small member state has unlawful deviations from the law passed by comission and parliament, somekind of punishment takes place unless it's hastily corrected

-> 5b. if a large member state has unlawful deviations from tha law passed by comission and parliament, go back to #1

-> 6. ???

-> 7. a bill becomes a law

Re:EU structure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702421)

also, at any point feel free to insert empty threats from the comission, like "unless you all adopt this and that, we'll decimate your economy :".

in phase #2, there's a chance someone unrelated will step up and become a champion of said draft, making the passing of the law become solely dependent on the political power of said champion, rather than the laws merits. The said champion must be able to speak fluent french for the law to be passed.

Re:EU structure (1)

gclef (96311) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702375)

I'm completely lost

The problem is, right now so are the Europeans [bbc.co.uk] .

Summary, for those too lazy to click: 9/10 Europeans polled in January knew "little or nothing" about the European consititution.

Re:EU structure (2, Funny)

Mournblade (72705) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702377)

Even better would be if someone were to make a new "Schoolhouse Rock" video of the process.

Re:EU structure (1)

Johan Veenstra (61679) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702419)

Good question, I too haven't got the foggiest idea.

Greetings from Europe

Re:EU structure (4, Funny)

Mr_Icon (124425) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702543)

Conference of Presidents, Council, Commission, Parliament.... For the poor confused Americans among us, could somebody draw us the European equivalent of the "how a bill becomes law" flow chart? I'm completely lost.

Dear sir:
Thank you for your interest in the political structure of the European Union! To better accommodate your request, we have set up a comission who will meet and discuss the best possible way to handle your inquiry. The committee will hold its first meeting whenever the participating local councils meet to select the representatives needed for the first meeting of the committee.

With kindest regards,
The helpdesk committee

Re:EU structure (3, Funny)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703000)

Hold on! You have not properly consulted the Flemish-speaking Walloons of east central Turkey in the constitution of your helpdesk committee commission selection commission. We will not permit the commission to commit to any commitments without first committing to comunicate with them first!

Re:EU structure (3, Funny)

Mr_Icon (124425) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703225)

Unfortunately, our constitution is still being reviewed by the east-Cypriot Committee on Constituational Approvals, so technically the constitution of which you speak is not yet in effect. We just use a set of rules we jotted down on a napkin while we were out for a croissant snack one day.

Re:EU structure (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702804)

As an AC posted below here is the website [eu.int] that explains the process, and here is a flowchart [eu.int] from the site.

I don't think there is a simple explaination because the system is inherently complex. If you care to understand it, have fun reading.

Re:EU structure (2, Informative)

LourensV (856614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703103)

Oh, and strictly speaking there are no European laws. What we call a European law is an agreement between EU governments to change their laws to work according to a certain specification, if you wish. That's why it's called a Directive.

So, if a government wants to do something unpopular, they lobby for it in the EU, and then create a Directive. Then they implement that directive in local law, and when the people complain, they blame the EU for it. That allows them to work against the people and for big corporations without taking the blame.

On the other side, having a single currency and free trade of people and goods is really useful, and it does help the economy a lot. You win some you lose some I guess.

Alright, so which is it? (1)

ccharles (799761) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702356)

Did they "demand" or "request" the restart? Both are claimed in TFSummary, and being from outside the EU I'm ignorant of which body is able to demand this kind of thing...

Re:Alright, so which is it? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702499)

In diplomatic language they're the same thing.

If you "request" that someone does something, you can bet there is going to be trouble if they don't.

Re:Alright, so which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702544)

That's only assuming you have some power over the target of the request. For example, when the UN requests that a country do something it is just a few words on paper.

Interesting term from TFA: (3, Funny)

SmokeHalo (783772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702378)

Hartmut Pilch, the president of pressure group the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII)...

So Europe has 'pressure groups', while America has lobbyists. Maybe that's our problem -- '**AA lobbyist' sounds too warm and fuzzy. They should be renamed 'motion picture pressure group' or 'recording industry pressure group'. That's got a nice evil ring to it.

Re:Interesting term from TFA: (1)

joebutton (788717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702664)

It's difficult to work in a group when you're omnipotent.

Have you tried Viagra?

Re:Interesting term from TFA: (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702920)

MPAA is too nice indeed, how about Movie And FIlm Assiociation... short MAFIA...

Re:Interesting term from TFA: (1)

SmokeHalo (783772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702964)

Clever, but that's too insulting to La Cosa Nostra. ;)

Re:Interesting term from TFA: (3, Funny)

Carthag (643047) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703179)

How about Movie And Film Industry Assoctiotion? :)

Is EU really democratic? (5, Informative)

Husgaard (858362) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702395)

I think this is one of the worst cases showing the democratic problems in the EU.

Nobody wanted this in the first place - except patent lawyers, patent offices and a few large software companies.

Before the directive was proposed by the European Commission, software patents were rejected twice by governments at international diplomat conferences on the change of the European Patent Convention.

Before the directive was proposed the European Commission held a public hearing. 91% of those responding were against software patents. 47% of the rest were patent lawyers and patent offices.

When the European Commission proposed the directive they sent out a press release saying the directive was to make software less patentable (liars!).

The only elected institution in EU is the European Parliament. Here the proposed directive was amended to not allowing unlimited patentability of all software and business metods.

Later the European Counsil amended the directive again, undoing most of the amendments the the Parliament did.

And now the European Commission and the Counsil (both non-elected, but appointed) are pressing to go through with the directive, completely ignoring the rights of the European Parliament.

Re:Is EU really democratic? (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703157)

With what you mention, I don't see how they are any less Democratic than the U.S. Our current government does whatever it wants and spends public funds to convince you that its what you wanted, or what you will want. But all policy is written by multinational governments and some local businesses and lobbys with enough pull. At least in the EU, they don't have external countries (other than the US), influencing the bills.

Re:Is EU really democratic? (1)

cortana (588495) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703183)

The Council is not unelected: it is made up of government ministers from each nation of the EU. I think (though I'm not sure) that any decision made by the council must be unanimous.

Of course, that doesn't prevent the same ministers from turning round as soon as they return to their home countries, and blaming unpopular legislation on the EU council...

Fascism - Patents exclude competitors (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702428)

Unelected Fascist Scum bowing to coporate pressure.
If this goes through then I'm joining the UKIP.
How come Parliament has less power than this Kremlin of Corporate stooges.
If this goes through then I advocate a return to Monarchy.
A benevolant dicatorship would be better than this.

M$ just Ownz0red Europe

Might as well kiss Linux Goodbye

Heres that Bill Gates Quote again:
The text is from an internal memo written by Bill Gates to his staff. Part of has appeared in another Gates memos.
If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. ... The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors."

Remember most of the Euro Software Patents (pre law allocated) are American Megacorps.

Best way to contact your MEP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702470)

Anyone care to post some information on the best way to contact your MEP(s), this is getting silly and i may have to take action ;)

It's been provided before, but i cant find it now.

EU Bureaucracy (1, Informative)

Robotron23 (832528) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702475)

It seems likely that this modernization of the software law will take months to break through the many layers of European Union legal bureaucracy, it may be a few years before a competant software law is seen in its place.

Last time an attempt was made to get the ball rolling on this issue, Polish MEP's rejected it, thus it was pushed back. I mean for christs sake, when a country as insignifant Poland can effectively veto a law as paramount to modern IT and computing as this one, you know somethings wrong with the EU's dealing of legislation.

Re:EU Bureaucracy (2, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702539)

Poland is not insignificant.

And it's a damned good thing they did push the vote that way IMO. Nobody wants or needs this law. Everything is fine just as it is now, but there's a push by large US software companies to try to break our system just like theirs.

Re:EU Bureaucracy (1)

Husgaard (858362) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703170)

Poland did not veto the directive.

They only vetoed the decision that the directive should be adopted by the European Council without any discussion at a meeting between the agriculture and fishery ministers of the national EU governments.

I think is is quite positive that Poland recognized that something fishy was going on.

Sounds like Europe inverted "Separation of Powers" (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702517)

Did Europe get the concept of "separation of powers" inverted?

In the US system the whole thrust is to keep the government from running wild and stomping the people.

First the powers are limited.

Second, they are split up among three branches, so each has only its own powers and can't run the whole show.

Third, each branch has various impediments to the use of its powers, to slow them and/or require the cooperation of at least one other branch to get things done.

Fourth, each pair of branches has a mechanism to cooperate and throw a money-wrench into the third.

This sounds like the European system is letting a committee force a new law on the component countries of Europe with no way for any collection of elected legislators to stop it, even though they want to.

If so, the system has a bad bug and needs an ECO.

Maybe this showdown will bring it to the attention of those who can do something about it - before somebody figures out an exploit to turn Europe into a dictatorship (and turn the "bug fix" into yet another war, on a par with the WWs or the US Civil War / War Between the States.)

An EU primer (4, Informative)

tigre (178245) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702557)

As an ignorant American, I found this description of the various EU institutions [eu.int] very helpful. Interesting to note that the Parliament can dismiss the Commission if it desires to do so, and it would be interesting to see this happen, or at least have the threat of it issued to enforce Parliament's request/demand.

Re:An EU primer (1)

Husgaard (858362) | more than 9 years ago | (#11702762)

The description you referenced is precise.

But coming from within the EU system itself, it does not mention any of the problems with this system [euro-sceptic.org] .

#irWc.trolltal4.com (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11702616)

I question this. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11703029)

"the role of strong IP as an engine of European growth as part of the Lisbon Agend a is beyond question," said Lueders (from the pro-patent lobby).

I for one will question this.

Perhaps Mr. Lueders can show how one can start up a software company from scratch now in the U.S., without having to worry about a frivolous patent infringement lawsuit? Or without having to sell out a significant stake in your company to Venture Capitalists in order to pay for lawyers (and not developers)?

As mentioned recently on Slashdot, even Bill Gates recognized the stifling effects of Patents on technology back in the early 1990's.

Perhaps Mr. Lueders can show how innovation isn't stifled by this? And perhaps Mr. Lueders can show how innovation isn't stifled by a Patent Holder sitting on a Patent, keeping others from entering the field, and in the meantime absolutely botching the attempt to get the technology propagated. One classic case of this was Digicash back in the late 1990's.

Software Patents stifle innovation. And it is clear that they will put the EU at a disadvantage, beholden to the US companies which currently own most everything.

If the EU wants to have a hope of being able to compete, their only hope is to encourage innovation by Copyright protection, and not stifling development by passing Software Patents.

nevermind Parliament (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11703113)

what did Funkadelic have to say about this?

goDat (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11703204)

good Manners if You don't

I'm Confused bt this please explain... (1)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 9 years ago | (#11703232)

...I know the various contries have been refusing to support the measure...thats good it keeps software patents out of Europe... ...however as OSS supporter do we want the restart? or do we not want the restart? Are we on the side of the commision refusing to restart or the parliment?
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