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Stallman Critical of OSDL Patent Project

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the moving-back-before-you-move-forward dept.

226

PatPending writes to mention a News.com article about Richard Stallman's objections to the OSDL patent project. He argues that the project may actually be 'worse than nothing', as it will undermine certain legal tactics. From the article: "'Thus, our main chance of invalidating a patent in court is to find prior art that the Patent Office has not studied,' Stallman wrote. Second, patent applicants could use the prior art uncovered by the OSDL to write patent claims that simply avoid the technologies used in the tagged software. 'The Patent Office is eager to help patent applicants do this,' Stallman wrote. Finally, he wrote, a 'laborious half measure' such as the Open Source as Prior Art project could divert attention from the real problem: that software is patentable in the first place."

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Aboslutly correct. (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 years ago | (#16157328)

"Finally, he wrote, a 'laborious half measure' such as the Open Source as Prior Art project could divert attention from the real problem: that software is patentable in the first place.""

Aboslutly correct.

Thank God (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | about 8 years ago | (#16157367)

I was beginning to think everyone had just accepted the idea that the patent system is just a game people will be forced to play.

DAMNIT: I SAW STALLMAN AND CRITICAL (-1, Flamebait)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | about 8 years ago | (#16157485)

And was hoping it would finish "condition due to a massive heart attack." That fucker needs to die.

Re:Thank God (1, Insightful)

cloricus (691063) | about 8 years ago | (#16157556)

Oh god. I think I just read a Stallman point of view and agreed with every point. :| I didn't think that would ever happen...

I guess I'm going to be one of the people chanting "down with this project" now?

Re:Thank God (5, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 8 years ago | (#16157676)

Keep in mind that the we're talking specifically of software patents here.
Drug and hardware patents are also problematic, but the reform had better be well considered, or the cure could be worse than the disease. The specific case of software, however, is one where we can eschew playing without destabilizing the economy too readily.

Moral correctness is not enough (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 8 years ago | (#16157379)

It's like saying nobody should steal, so I won't lock my car/house/whatever.

Sure, in the long term, and a perfect world, you might want to get rid of software patents. Right now however they are real and are here and measure that combat them face to face have some merit.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 years ago | (#16157513)

Measures like this give they appearence that something has been fixed.
We must continue to point out that it's not only broken, but that software patents are a mistake to begin with.

You don't need the perfect world, you need to put in the efforts to take political steps to see that congress ends software patents.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (2, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | about 8 years ago | (#16157589)

It's like saying nobody should steal, so I won't lock my car/house/whatever.

-1 Analogy

No it's not like that at all. It's not like anything, except the plain statement that patents, designed for finite, physical objects, should not be applied to infinitely reproducible items like software.

Software is not a house, a car or any other physical thing. Please stop pretending it is.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (3, Insightful)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#16157654)

Why does software not being a physical object make it less suitable to be patented? Patents are there so that if you invent something, someone else can't copy it and mass produce it cheaper than you can, without having paid anything for the development. If I invent a new software algorithm, and it is not patented, then someone can copy it (not a copy of the code, but of the process) into their own software, which they have far greater resources to distribute and undercut on price. Why should I spend time inventing new algorithms, then?

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (3, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | about 8 years ago | (#16157784)

If I invent a new software algorithm, and it is not patented, then someone can copy it (not a copy of the code, but of the process) into their own software, which they have far greater resources to distribute and undercut on price. Why should I spend time inventing new algorithms, then?

Because chances are the algorithm you created was most likely neither novel nor unique to the large amounts of algorithms created before you. As in... Your algorithm had to be based on some math that everyone knows or at the most an obscure math professor came up with years ago.

You aren't writing your own language but taking from knowledge of mankind and applying it to your own methods.

Secondly, copyrights protect someone from copying your code, but not your methods because if someone can simply recreate your algorithm simply by looking at the results and not even see any of your source code then again... your algorithm was neither novel nor unique and therby not deserve a patent.

However, your effort and code should be copyrighted and protected by such methods.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (4, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | about 8 years ago | (#16157844)

Building on what you said: the whole basis of a patent is that of a trade. The public gives the inventory a time-limited monopoly, the inventor tells the public how his invention works. The reason this is a good deal for the public is the non-obvious clause. Patents are designed to protect things that nobody else can figure out how to do. If someone can look at your invention and think "Eh, I know how to do that", then your invention is not worthy of patent - the public would be getting a bad deal, because they're trading a monopoly for something they already know. Patents are designed so that when someone invents something really cool, he doesn't keep it as a trade secret. If he does, and he dies, then the world loses knowledge. If he patents it, then everyone knows how to do it (even if they can't use it for another ten years) and knowledge is retained. That is how patents can (and should) act towards the good. The problem now is that the USPTO is betraying their purpose by making crappy deals on behalf of the public. They're giving away monopolies like candy, and reaping the kickbacks (errr, I mean processing fees).

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 8 years ago | (#16157860)

inventor, not inventory. I knew there was a reason for the preview button.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157907)

inventor, not inventory. I knew there was a reason for the preview button.

Been playing much RPGs lately...?

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (3, Insightful)

F452 (97091) | about 8 years ago | (#16157827)

Maybe you shouldn't, if you're concerned about not getting monopoly protection. No loss to the rest of us. Someone else will do it in your place. Patents are supposed to promote innovation for the benefit of society. Software patents just stifle people who are already working on making better algorithms with no interest in idea monopolies.

----
Freedom is on the March!
http://www.movingtofreedom.org [movingtofreedom.org]

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | about 8 years ago | (#16157835)

The fact is *VERY* little software is actually anything truly new, not derivative, original, and worthy of a patent in the first place. It all builds off of other ideas, and concepts.

I also beleive that patents in regards to software don't fit the timeframe for patents on physical devices. It would be a far different situation if patents were only valid on software concepts for 3-5 years opposed to 20.

I would seriously challenge anyone to name a software concept from the past 20 years that doesn't have prior art, AND isn't/wasn't relatively obvious.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157843)

"Why should I spend time inventing new algorithms, then?"

If you don't want to, then don't. The world will do just fine with the algorithms invented and released for free by mathematicians and computer scientists.

Seriously, read a few math papers and you might realize they're doing things orders of magnitude more complicated than almost every patent. Why do they do it? There is a human drive, a desire to create new and incredible things, a desire to understand and conquer the unknown. That didn't magically appear when software became patentable, and it's not going to disappear (nor even diminish) when software is no longer patentable.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (5, Funny)

codehead78 (452976) | about 8 years ago | (#16157876)

Dude, cloning existing good software, assigning it a 0.1 version number, giving it away for nothing, and telling everyone they should be using the clone instead is what Open Source is all about.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (1)

SmokedS (973779) | about 8 years ago | (#16157887)

Software is quite literally, an algorithm. Math. Actually, it's algorithms made up of algorithms.
Thousands upon thousands of them in a medium size program. In millions of possibly patentable combinations. I literally write hundreds of potentially patentable things every single day. Almost all of these are simple combinations of things that have been done for ages. I'm sure that many of them are patented, illegally. Writing one takes minutes. Trying to find out if it is patented would be a project taking weeks, and would not be conclusive even then. It is literally impossible to verify that a program does not infringe on patents.

Software patents favor one party and one party only. Big corporations with large patent portfolios. Such companies can literally exclude competition from the marketplace through having their army of lawyers wield their arsenal of overly broad obvious patents. SMEs simply cannot afford to fight back.

Thank goodness software patents are not legal in the EU. It would be a disaster for SMEs like my company.

A huge number of SMEs signed a petition against software patents the last time they tried to pass this crap. Now it seems we have to do it all over again.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 8 years ago | (#16157894)

Why should I spend time inventing new algorithms, then?

The same reason you spend time writing software at all (that others with more resources may duplicate and undercut): The new algorithm solves a particular need of yours. It is useful.

This is why Sir Charles Hoare created the quicksort in 1960. It probably didn't even occur to him that this was something he should prevent others from using, and he still found it useful to invent. Thank God he did not -- could not -- patent it, or it would have been over a decade before people could have taken free advantage of the fastest-average-time general sorting algorithm known today. Imagine everyone else had been doing the same thing -- locking up merge sort, bin sort, r/b binary trees, avl binary trees, b-trees, etc etc. With all these foundations of computer science locked up in patents for 14-20 years, how much progress do you think the software world would have made compared to what it did with free access to all these ideas? Remember, we're talking about a fourth of the entire existence of computers.

Why does software not being a physical object make it less suitable to be patented?

Because software is math.

That's all it is. A program is just a series of mathematical operations performed by a computer. Now the computer is an invention. But the software is just a calculation. Patenting a software algorithm is like patenting a sequence of button pushes on your calculator, and by "like" I mean "is very literally the same".

Imagine if Sir Issac Newton had decided to lock away his Calculus? He might have had some legal troubles from Leibniz, but once they came to an amicable arangement, everyone else would have been out of luck. Is Calculus not a great invention? Of course! But like all math, it is an invention whose benefit comes from what could be built upon it. Thank goodness that Newton published his book and did not restrict others from using what it described, or you have to wonder where we'd be today.

Why shouldn't software be patentable? Because it's a patent on math, the fundamental language of the universe.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157938)

Imagine, if you will, software patents being the norm about 40-45 years ago. Do you realize that software design could have been held back nearly 20 years because such non-obvious constructs as "if-then-else", "while-do", "case", "repeat-until", record structures, objects, etc... would have all gotten patented by the Algol and Simula design groups and it would have been the 80s or 90s (depending on continuations) before the constructs that we all use to create software on a daily basis would have been freed up for general use.

Not to mention all of the algorithms in Knuth's books, automated parser generators, formal grammars, inherited/synthesized attributes, etc...

What's been lost already because people {have been / are afraid to be} sued?

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (0)

vadim_t (324782) | about 8 years ago | (#16158012)

Because algorithms are 99% of the time invented right while you're solving a problem that could be solved with one. If somebody else is faced with the same problem, chances are they'll reinvent independently the same thing. That makes them obvious.

At a young age, having only heard superficially of what a linked list was I could easily implement one. I also came up on my own with doubly linked lists, deques, etc, without having heard of them at all. I also figured on my own that caching data is a good way to improve performance. This is because those things are obvious. Right when you're staring at the code and thinking "Hmm, searching for the previous element in a singly linked list is a pain", the solution becomes almost blindingly obvious: Add a pointer to the previous element.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (1)

grcumb (781340) | about 8 years ago | (#16158013)

Why does software not being a physical object make it less suitable to be patented?

Because there are laws covering ideas and, however wrong they might be, they pass the test of applicability. Ultimately, patents were designed to present the rapid duplication of physical objects (and explicitly not ideas).

Patents are there so that if you invent something, someone else can't copy it and mass produce it cheaper than you can, without having paid anything for the development.

I'll get to development costs in a moment, because that's a valid issue. But first let's address the issue of mass production. Mass production of em is controlled by a number of very effective laws, so anyone attempting to make counterfeits of your software is subject to existing law. No recourse to patent law is required. Reproduction in digital format of your software (not the process) is subject to copyright law.

So what's left uncovered? The idea. Now you may argue that there should be legal restrictions on the use of ideas (or processes or other intellectual achievements), and some might agree. Unfortunately, governments have, in the past at least, refused to legislate exclusivity of ideas. In fairness, they have trodden dangerously close to doing so, mostly for the very reason that you give: to protect the research and development investment that people and companies make when developing new ideas.

That is a legitimate debate, and one that needs to be conducted well and fully.

But the facile conflation of the tangible and intangible, especially through analogy, is intellectually lazy and does nothing to advance this argument.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16158062)

The primary goal of patenting software is to make sure no one else can create the same software totally written in a different language. Example, the calendar program written is java verses perl. Let say that the idea of the calendar is patented in java, then no one can design the calendar software in perl without paying royalties. Even though built in different languages, in different methods, and different ways. Calendar have already been patented and locked into only one specific software and no one else can implement any calendar that resemble the likeness of it.

I even have heard someone trying to patent binary numbers 0 and 1, or bits and bytes so that they can charge royalty fees base on how much bytes you use in software programming. So let say that someone successfully get it patented. Know this person wants 1 millon dollar for each kilobyte that software uses. If you used 12 kilobytes to deliver your software they could be sued your software company for not paying the 12 million dollars fee.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (1)

RobertCorsaro (903911) | about 8 years ago | (#16157875)

He(and I) is also against software licenses. What is the moral difference between this and the GPL. Using the enemies system to fight the enemy is a good idea.

Grammer nazis, please proof read this for me.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (1)

anarxia (651289) | about 8 years ago | (#16157888)

It's more like having a law that doesn't sense and instead of voting it down you have a law firm that will take cases for free.

Does the problem still exist? Yes.

Does the law firm help? Yes

I would call it a "better than nothing" measure but I wouldn't call it a solution.

Re:Moral correctness is not enough (1)

D. Book (534411) | about 8 years ago | (#16157905)

It's like saying nobody should steal, so I won't lock my car/house/whatever.

Sure, in the long term, and a perfect world, you might want to get rid of software patents. Right now however they are real and are here and measure that combat them face to face have some merit.


IMHO, a closer analogy to Stallman's position would be: "it's like saying people shouldn't spend money on wireless home security cameras if it makes them neglect securing their windows and doors, and particularly if it will make them even less secure when burglars pick up the wireless signal to monitor their potential targets from a safe distance".

Stallman himself preempted [newsforge.com] your thoughts:

"If the worst thing about the project were its inability to solve the whole problem, it would still be better than nothing. But given that it can also backfire, it can be worse than nothing."

Where is your counterargument? (1)

jbn-o (555068) | about 8 years ago | (#16158053)

Your views neglect to account for how much say Europeans have had, the history of patenting in Australia, and most importantly, what could happen if more people get involved in the decisions of their governments. Patent regimes are not natural, they are designed, proposed, and adopted (sometimes by force). It's time the people get busy and become more interested in this fight before they lose more freedom to express themselves. Software developers can tell the stories and I've found through my experience with radio that people will listen to those stories. But if those who know the stories remain silent and accept a myth that software patents are somehow inevitable and immutable, you have chosen to resign yourself to a horrible fate.

The arguments against software patents are profound and significant, particularly those from RMS whose views are at the heart of this /. thread. I'll leave it to you to visit the audio-video archive at the GNU.org website and hear him talk about them. You should familiarize yourself with them so that you can refute them and earn a +5 Insightful rating rather than just giving up, suggesting we have no counterarguments to offer, and letting oppressors have their way.

Re:Aboslutly correct. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157391)

> "Finally, he wrote, a 'laborious half measure' such as the Open Source as Prior Art project could divert attention from the real problem: that software is patentable in the first place.""

...and besides, it should have been called the Free Software as Prior Art project!

Re:Aboslutly correct. (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | about 8 years ago | (#16157704)

Aboslutly correct.

We are two months from an important mid-term election, two years from a presidential election. Patent reform ranks somewhere below The Bridge to Nowhere on the national political agenda.

Re:Aboslutly correct. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 years ago | (#16157842)

It doesn't mean it's not important. Some people can work on more then one thing in their lives.
Considering how patenting software is stifling innovation, I consider it pretty important.

"Aboslutly "

you know, I proof read that and still screwed it up. sigh.

Re:Aboslutly correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157731)

PatPending writes to mention a News.com article about Richard Stallman's objections to the OSDL patent project.

Aboslutly correct.

Can I get Insightful too?

Absolutism is impractical (3, Insightful)

RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) | about 8 years ago | (#16157937)

Yes, okay, sure... the Real Problem is that software is patentable in the first place. But does Stallman think that we're going to change that fact quickly just by being absolutist about it?

If not, how many ideas do we want to see slip into proprietary hands while we maintain our moral purism about software patents? This is a political issue, and political agendas live, eat, sleep & breathe half-measures. According to Stallman, "If we are not careful, this can sap the pressure for a real solution." Erm, what pressure? Where is the well-funded, politically connected lobby that's creating more pressure for a Real Solution than beneficiaries of software patents can create in the opposite direction? `Cause short of that, we all know that we're not going to see a Real Solution anytime soon.

IMO, the idea of "Open Source as Prior Art" is basically a good one that needs some tweaking. If Stallman is correct (and I have no way of knowing whether he is) that "when prior art is considered by the Patent Office during the patent-granting process, it usually loses any weight it might have had in a court case," then that might be a problem. However, I can't understand how patent holders of a variation on an OSDL-tagged thingamabob could (a) claim their idea is patentable because of some variation, and still (b) go after the FOSS-derived works. Wouldn't the very granting of the patent in spite of the OSDL art be the basis for establishing non-infringement?

Stallman wants the very idea of ideas to be irrevocably tied to freedom. That's a beautiful vision, and God bless him if he can ever pull it off; I'm (sadly) not optimistic. Meanwhile, I'll settle for having as many of them as possible stay clean from proprietary claims. Failing both, anonymous/pseudonymous coding & releasing might be our only refuge.

You can (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157355)

Patent Software, WOW!!!!!!!!!!

Stallman... half right (3, Insightful)

xtaski (457801) | about 8 years ago | (#16157365)

Have to disagree. For those without $1M of FSF funds to run around fighting granted, bad patents, it's much more difficult to fight in a come-from-behind position when XYZ Patent Troll Inc. already has a patent granted. Litigating patents is expensive. It's cheaper to lop off the 10% that are obvious "spam patents" before they're ever granted than to let all 10% (that would be like 4,000 these days) go through and clean up later...

Re:Stallman... half right (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157640)

The GNU/Stallman diaries. Issue 3.

Greetings Comrades! Welcome to issue 3 of the GNU/Stallman diaries!

Last time on the GNU/Stallman diaries: Myself and my best friend Eric decided to visit the local Zoo to see the butterflies (which I like, as you know). Eric had just visited the toilets and we were about to move on...

After what seemed like hours we finally made it to the butterfly enclosure. You see, poor Eric has Downs syndrome which has caused (amongst other ailments) dwarfism so he walks kinda slow and lopsided. But finally we were here!

Millions and millions of butterflies!! They were dancing in the air around us! I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I whipped out my bone flute and started playing on it right then and there! I started to do a little jig and dance around the enclosure deftly fingering my bone flute. Even Eric started to jig, but it was all lopsided and funny looking - like a dancing Quasimodo! ROFL!

It was at about that exact moment that the Zoo Keeper tapped me on the shoulder.

"Excuse me Sir," he said. "You're going to have to stop that."

"Pardon me?," I replied

"Put your damn clothes back on and get the hell out of here!," he screamed at me.

Well! I must say I was not impressed with the Keepers right-wing neo-fascist Nazi attitude so we left and went to the bar for some Cheap Asian Beer!

THE END.

(Note to self: Take Eric's bib next time we go to the bar - the drooling left a right mess!)

That's all for Issue 3! See you next ti
Syntax error in GNUHurd.bas line 34760.
Ready

Re:Stallman... half right (3, Insightful)

cswiger2005 (905744) | about 8 years ago | (#16157664)

It's better to lop off as many software patents as we can, agreed. Litigating patents is usually expensive, but then, having to pay a patent troll royalties for a bogus claim usually becomes expensive, too. Having prior art available to refute a patent troll's claim makes litigating bogus patents a lot easier and a lot cheaper.

I don't believe anything which could be described as an algorithm should be patentable. I also don't believe that you should patent public API's, as such "programming interfaces" are by definition intended for use by other programs; public APIs normally are widely distributed in documentation, which at least prevents others from patenting the APIs which you might release (as your release will obviously constitute prior art). I suppose that if you implement computer software which is sufficiently original, not completely obvious after 5 minutes of thought, and is not representable as a mathematical algorithm, that might deserve the protection of a patent, but for the most part, simple copyright ought to provide enough protection....

If your kitchen counter was on fire... (3, Insightful)

xtaski (457801) | about 8 years ago | (#16157372)

Would you wait for the rest of the house to burn down and rebuild the entire house from scratch... or put out the fire on the counter and replace the counter...?

Bad Analogies aplenty in this thread (2, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | about 8 years ago | (#16157409)

If a bunch of people or organizations were doing reckless things, and semi-advertently causing a bunch of fires, would you pour research money into new fireproofing techniques or shut the bastards down?

Ooh! Let me try! (4, Funny)

s20451 (410424) | about 8 years ago | (#16157572)

If an emu defecates on your azaleas, do you run for President, or do you weep for all humanity?

Re:Ooh! Let me try! (1)

Linux Ate My Dog! (224079) | about 8 years ago | (#16157644)

Australian or European Emu?

Re:Ooh! Let me try! (1)

Afecks (899057) | about 8 years ago | (#16157649)

Fish.

Re:Ooh! Let me try! (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 years ago | (#16157817)

run for president and then watch all the people weep for humanity! MUAHAhahahahaaaa...haha

Re:Ooh! Let me try! (2, Funny)

BeeBeard (999187) | about 8 years ago | (#16158075)

I split the difference and weep for the Presidency.

Re:Bad Analogies aplenty in this thread (2, Funny)

illuminatedwax (537131) | about 8 years ago | (#16158006)

So, let's get the analogies straight: it's like if someone started a fire inside my computer, would I rather pour water on it or strengthen the fireproof sprinklers inside the computer?
Or is it more like starting a fire in my house without locks on the doors or windows?
Or, wait, maybe it's like setting my lock on fire and waiting for a bunch of people or organizations to pour water into new fireproofing techniques?
Or maybe it's more like a car where the hood is welded shut and a fire starts inside it and you have the Jaws of Life but no one is inside the car?
Or maybe it's like Blockbuster video but instead of renting things you set them on fire and the drama section is like Linux and the horror section is like Microsoft and the movie candy and paraphernalia at the counter are like prior art and your Blockbuster card is like software patents?
Oh! Maybe it's like a store where you set the merchandise on fire, but then you can rent it but still not own it, but if you buy the merchandise on fire, you can keep a man warm for his whole life?

I'm confused...

Re:If your kitchen counter was on fire... (3, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 8 years ago | (#16157414)

Relevant how? This is like setting fire to the curtains and saying "How do you like that, kitchen counter?"

Re:If your kitchen counter was on fire... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157427)

I'd wait for someone else to replace the counter, and then I'd stick the GNU label on it.

Executive Summary (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157411)

Stallman unhappy

He wants the project to be named GNU/OSDL Patent Project

Vows to never take a bath again until it happens. News at 11.

Sometimes I Wonder... (-1, Troll)

susano_otter (123650) | about 8 years ago | (#16157428)

... maybe Richard Stallman is "worse than nothing" and "a laborious half measure".

Playing the odds (4, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 8 years ago | (#16157431)

I'd bet on RMS, smelly hippy though he is, being right in the mid to long term, if for no other reason than he hasn't (to the best of my knowledge) been wrong yet. In any prediction. Ever.

In purely practical terms, the OSDL patent project is like trying to put out a burning forest by standing close enough to sweat on it.

Re:Playing the odds (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157472)

if for no other reason than he hasn't (to the best of my knowledge) been wrong yet. In any prediction. Ever.

"640K is more memory than anyone will ever need" - Richard Stallman, 9/14/1988

Re:Playing the odds (5, Funny)

andrewdski (797069) | about 8 years ago | (#16157507)

"640K is more memory than anyone will ever need" - Richard Stallman, 9/14/1988
He can't have said that. GNU Emacs never fit in 640K.

Re:Playing the odds (1)

kcbrown (7426) | about 8 years ago | (#16157647)

He can't have said that. GNU Emacs never fit in 640K.

Right. Instead, I think he said "$640K is more money than anyone will ever need" in response to Bill Gates saying "640K is more memory than anyone will ever need".

Or something like that...

;-)

Re:Playing the odds (1)

VENONA (902751) | about 8 years ago | (#16157529)

Giving a specific date, eight years ago, for something that suspect (systems with that much memory were already widely available), without a citation, has me thinking, "Troll!"

Re:Playing the odds (2, Insightful)

jbrader (697703) | about 8 years ago | (#16157545)

1988 was 18 years ago.

Re:Playing the odds (2, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | about 8 years ago | (#16158046)

Apparently 640K wasn't enough memory for the calculation to finish correctly.

Re:Playing the odds (1)

Who235 (959706) | about 8 years ago | (#16157536)

"640K is more memory than anyone will ever need" -Bill Gates

Neither Stallman nor Gates (1)

Daath (225404) | about 8 years ago | (#16157614)

I've heard it as "640K ought to be enough for anybody." and he denies having said anything like that [google.com] ;)

Re:Neither Stallman nor Gates (2, Funny)

cp.tar (871488) | about 8 years ago | (#16157969)

he denies having said anything like that

So would I.

Re:Neither Stallman nor Gates (1)

nuzak (959558) | about 8 years ago | (#16158082)

Given that the 640K limit came from the hardware design of the PC, which was created before they even slapped an OS onto it, I suspect the phrase would have come from Big Blue. More likely a sarcastic comment from an anonymous third party, however.

Re:Playing the odds (1)

rkanodia (211354) | about 8 years ago | (#16157624)

"We're gonna build this thing called HURD, and it's gonna be just like Unix, only it'll be GNU, and it's gonna run great and there will be developers and users and all that other stuff that real operating systems have." - Richard Stallman

Re:Playing the odds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157656)

We're gonna build this thing called HURD, and it's gonna be just like Unix

I don't believe he'd ever compare HURD to Unix like that. HURD has only ever been intended to replace the kernel. GNU is the Unix replacemet; HURD is just (intended to be) a part of it.

Re:Playing the odds (1)

Epsillon (608775) | about 8 years ago | (#16157758)

"We're gonna build this thing called HURD, and it's gonna be just like Unix, only it'll be GNU, and it's gonna run great and there will be developers and users and all that other stuff that real operating systems have." - Richard Stallman

...but with blackjack? And hookers?

Re:Playing the odds (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157874)

"We're gonna build this thing called HURD, and it's gonna be just like Unix, only it'll be GNU, and it's gonna run great and there will be developers and users and all that other stuff that real operating systems have." - Richard Stallman

...but with blackjack? And hookers?

Yeah, that's when Stallman said "In fact, forget the kernel!" and so we all had to use Linux instead.

Re:Playing the odds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16158048)

How about this one from the GNU Manifesto:

In the long run, making programs free is a step toward the post-scarcity world, where nobody will have to work very hard just to make a living. People will be free to devote themselves to activities that are fun, such as programming, after spending the necessary ten hours a week on required tasks such as legislation, family counseling, robot repair and asteroid prospecting. There will be no need to be able to make a living from programming.


Re:Playing the odds (1)

dingbatdr (702519) | about 8 years ago | (#16157769)

Your ad hominum attack is silly. His appearance has no bearing on the absolute fact that he is one of the most important computer scientists of his generation. I use tools he wrote every work day of my life. What have you done?

Re:Playing the odds (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 8 years ago | (#16158033)

Your ad hominum attack is silly.

Your over-sensitivity is silly. I'm an RMS fanboy; I've traded emails with him on numerous occasions, and he even congratulated me on writing my daughter's birth announcement in C and GPLing it. Still, RMS is the archetype of the smelly hippie hacker. That's a factual observation and not some random insult.

No, RMS couldn't be more wrong. (0, Troll)

BeeBeard (999187) | about 8 years ago | (#16157978)

Disclaimer: IAAL, but not a patent lawyer.

No, RMS is right about this only if you have no interest in profiting from the things you create, ever, or in benefiting from technological innovations in general.

The one thing RMS does--his one useful function--is to appropriate good legal arguments and twist them into idealized rhetoric commensurate with his own agenda. In that respect, he's an ideal advocate and leader. But look what just happened here. Look beyond the years of ./ zombie mind control that have taught you to accept what this walking beard-and-glasses says without question. Read the article carefully and look what RMS just did: He was on a roll, pointing out that OSDL can undermine a future prior art-based legal defense to patent infringement. He gives some great reasons why, chief among them that judges tend to be dismissive of prior art that was already considered when a patent was granted. Worse, when the patent is granted, prior art is interpreted weakly. So far, so good!

But then he goes on to decry efforts to actually make free software that already infringes upon good, valid patents more compliant. Say what? Let's not forget here that idealism is not a legal argument, and that certain free software projects of dubious legality are already in danger of having the rug pulled out from under them by legitimate patent holders. Should that happen, it would irreparably harm Stallman's movement.

I'm just baffled. Why would helping to ensure a future for free software as a legal product be all that bad, unless you really believe deep down that it's impossible to have good, free software out there that doesn't steal from others?

Then Stallman drops the bombshell: he doesn't believe a software developer should have any right to protect its intellectual property in the first place. Whoops! And with one fell statement, Stallman alienates those he is trying to appeal to. He polarizes. The IBM's, the Microsofts of the world see that it's not that Stallman wants to help them realize a tenable software patent system that works for everyone. No, he would rather no system existed at all--even though some random guy who creates an innovative way of searching XML files has just as much a right to patent his idea as Edison did the light bulb. Is this reaching across the aisle? RMS has just told us all in no uncertain terms that he doesn't believe in compromise. And we will all suffer him for it.

patent GPL? (4, Interesting)

delirium of disorder (701392) | about 8 years ago | (#16157435)

I actually agree with rms for the most part, but will play devil's advocate for a bit here. Stallman never liked conventional software licenses. He wanted to create and use free software but licenses got in the way. He could have fought all licenses and even all copyrights, and demanded that all information be free. Instead he built a license upon established copyright law, and the GNU GPL was born. Now he has a problem with software patents. Instead of supporting the free and open use of patents, he is saying that all software patents are unjust. Why does Stallman consider the OSDL patent initiative so bad? If it is unfair because it uses the same legal protections as the corporate trolls, then doesn't the GPL legitimate the unjust system of software licenses in the same way?

Re:patent GPL? (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 8 years ago | (#16157595)

But this is *different*

Actually I think you are right (and I think the OSDL is doing the right thing), problem is there is no other way. If there was a way seperate from what the OSDL is doing then great. I don't think there is. I don't think that the establishment will allow change as massive as abolishing SW patents. Next best thing is a Db that demonstrates that everything is enough a deritive of prior art as to not be patentable.

-nB

Re:patent GPL? (2, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | about 8 years ago | (#16157681)

One kinda important difference is that copyright automatically attaches to any software that is written. Patents do not. So getting a patent on software would be an active (evil) step to take, but getting copyright on software is totally inadvertent. And rms correctly realized that putting software into the public domain was -- well, not evil -- but not as good as it could be.

Re:patent GPL? (4, Insightful)

illuminatedwax (537131) | about 8 years ago | (#16157691)

Because if someone patents something, you can't make a free version of it yourself. A software patent closes off all versions and iterations of that software completely.

Stallman's issue isn't with copyright - his issue is with people not voluntarily giving up their code to the community. He is all for copyright and ownership of code. His problem is that software is not something you should be able to patent, and that the OSDL initiative distracts from this point.

Re:patent GPL? (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | about 8 years ago | (#16157792)

Patent law and copyright law are totally different. That is why RMS insists on not using the term "Intellectual property". Use of that term throws totally different things together and causes confusion.

Suggesting that RMS should deal with patent laws the same way he dealt with copyright laws is like suggesting he use a plunger to extinguish a kitchen fire since clogged drains and kitchen fires are both "household problems".

The GPL allows software authors to publish and distribute their software in a way that keeps it free and passes on the "four freedoms" to all recipients of that software. That software cannot suddenly become non-free due to copyright law (assuming, of course the original authors GPL'ed it). If the authors created the software themselves and didn't copy it from someone else then they are free and clear with regard to copyright law.

There are many problems with software patents (or benefits, perhaps, from the perspective of large corporations). It is not practical for FOSS developers to patent the software they develop. Back in the 1980's it cost $10,000 -- $15,000 to get just one patent. Worse, even if you developed a code base from scratch, and can prove it, that does not protect you from violating software patents. It is almost impossible to unwittingly violate copyright laws but it could well be that most patent violators are totally unaware they are doing anything wrong.

If you've been paying attention to patents in the news, you would realize that it is non-trivial and expensive, even for a large corporation, to defend against charges of patent infringement, even if the patents are eventually shown to be totally bogus.

It is true that many large corporations have extensive collections of patents and have agreements with each other to not sue each other over patents. A sort of patent mutually assured destruction strategy. Unfortunately, this is not a winning strategy for FOSS developers.

To sum up. Patent laws and copyright laws are totally different. They make software non-free in totally different ways therefore the best strategies for battling them are totally different.

Re:patent GPL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16158028)

Software patents protect algorighms and copyright protects the lines of code. Stallman's GNU system is all other people's existing algorithms implemented in new code. What a co-incidence.

Publically reject 'patent pledges' too. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157441)

I don't want to be granted use of some companies software patents, I don't want software patents to exist at all!

Re:Publically reject 'patent pledges' too. (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | about 8 years ago | (#16157680)

Ditto.

The part that really sucks is that I have to file these damned things, simply because our system allows them. I'm trying to think of just ONE software patent that made a creative invetor some money...

Re:Publically reject 'patent pledges' too. (1)

winkydink (650484) | about 8 years ago | (#16157746)

The purpose of a patent isn't to make you money. It's to give you some measure of exclusivity on your method for a period of time. Whether or not you actually make money on it is up to you and how well you take your method to market.

You're not seriously saying that no piece of patented software has made money are you?

Re:Publically reject 'patent pledges' too. (1)

aurelianito (684162) | about 8 years ago | (#16157770)

The part that really sucks is that I have to file these damned things, simply because our system allows them. I'm trying to think of just ONE software patent that made a creative inventor some money...
How about RSA? AFAIK, the three guys that invented it became rich with it. And it's an algorithm. This pattent thing is quite complicated, it's a mecanism that was originally great that has been subverted by big corporations. Maybe, only people and not corporations should be able to pattent something and charge for it.

Re:Publically reject 'patent pledges' too. (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | about 8 years ago | (#16158010)

Ok, I stand corrected. RSA made money for the inventors, and it's clearly a software patent. Of course, they used it to sue the author of PGP, but that's another matter.

Overall, software patents hamper creativity in America. Worse, it gives all the competing nations a huge boost, since they do not recognise our software patents. I know darned well my life at a tiny startup would be easier without software patents. These beasts cost us $10K-$20K each (which small companies can't afford), and all they do is hopefully allow us to exist.

A silly question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157444)

One has to wonder why in the world OSS software developers don't band together and start their own collaborative patenting efforts? There would have to be the stipulation that all OSS software be givena free license to use any patents issued, of course. Particularly in the case of attacks by patent trolls.

It really seems to be the only possible defense with the current system in the U.S..

I can imagine a huge collection of such patents could be easily produced. And would be a superb way of defending against patent trolls.

Re:A silly question (2, Informative)

westlake (615356) | about 8 years ago | (#16157798)

One has to wonder why in the world OSS software developers don't band together and start their own collaborative patenting efforts?

I can see it now.

You can't use patent X unless you agree to license Y. No application that enforces DRM. No use by the military. Insert your favorite political cause here.

Software patents aren't going anywhere (2, Insightful)

RLiegh (247921) | about 8 years ago | (#16157450)

at least, not any time soon. Stallman is a great thinker, but he seems to have a reality distortion field that Steve Jobs would envy. I agree that the fact patents exist at all is a problem -but it's one which is not going to change, period. So the OSDL Patent project really is the only practical way of coping with the situation.

Re:Software patents aren't going anywhere (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157520)

What is it with this defeatist attitude?

Software patents are going somewhere, they are going to the bit-bucket in the sky. Do you know who's going to send them there?

We are!

I'm not saying it's going to be easy but you make the outcome sound inevitable, it isn't.

Re:Software patents aren't going anywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157616)

Heh someone needs to wake up and realize how the world operates.

Patents are about money, as are corporations. Patents, both new and existing, will stick around until they no longer have monetary value.

If you can explain how to achieve that, I'm sure more attention will be paid to your idealistic views.

Re:Software patents aren't going anywhere (1)

kcbrown (7426) | about 8 years ago | (#16157721)

Software patents are going somewhere, they are going to the bit-bucket in the sky. Do you know who's going to send them there?

We are!

Yeah, right.

Just like we were able to defeat absurdly long copyright. Just like we were able to put the smackdown on Congress to keep them from extending copyright. Just like we managed to defeat the DMCA. Just like we we've been able to prevent warantless wiretapping, the incarceration of individuals without trial or even access to legal representation, the use of voting machines that leave no independently-verifiable audit trail, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

Wanna know what our score is versus the evils of the world? ZERO . We've won nothing. The only thing we've ever been able to do is keep evil from winning once in a while, and that's it.

So go on believing that we can and will make a permanent, significant difference. Everyone is allowed to dream, after all.

But don't be surprised, when you wake up, to find that the world is an oppressive, choking, hostile place, because that's exactly where we're headed and there's nothing anywhere in the world that looks like it can stop this headlong rush towards madness.

Re:Software patents aren't going anywhere (1)

radarsat1 (786772) | about 8 years ago | (#16158027)

Wow. Now THAT was depressing.
I'm going to go stare at the corner for a while.

How is this a bad thing? (0)

Tod DeBie (522956) | about 8 years ago | (#16157459)

The OSDL project will create more documentation on prior art, thereby in theory reducing the number of truly bad patents that are issued when prior art exists. Had the OSDL project been in place already, it may have stopped the Eolas and other patents before they were ever granted. How is that bad? Stallman is sticking his head in the sand and wishing that software patents would go away. The OSDL project is trying to improve software patents by making sure that only truly novel patents get issued. Software patents are here to stay and the OSDL project is important to help improve the quality of these patents.

Patents need to be fought on multiple fronts (1)

kcbrown (7426) | about 8 years ago | (#16157503)

...but it probably won't make any difference in the long run...

I'm not convinced that the effort of making it easy to present free software code as prior art during USPTO examination would somehow diminish the efforts of fighting software patents in general. It's possible, but I'm not convinced of it.

No, I think the biggest problem here is that the USPTO does not take its role of patent gatekeeper seriously. It wantonly ignores prior art and grants patents on things which are obvious even to the average person. If I'm not mistaken, it has even granted patents on things for which an expired patent already existed! It completely ignores the tests the law requires it to perform and instead defers such judgement to the courts. And anyone who believes that it does so out of mere incompetence or simply by accident is a fool.

With a patent office that does nothing but rubber-stamp patents, of what use can the OSDL effort possibly be? The OSDL effort won't help, either, if the judge ignores prior art, as some have been known to do.

No, I think this, like so many other "IP" schemes, is controlled primarily by those who have big piles of cash, because it can only be changed from the top. As with the war against civil liberties, the encroaching fascism, etc., there's really no way to win, because the people who have the ability to change it want things to remain just the way they are.

RMS is against higher quality patents? (1)

Brett Glass (98525) | about 8 years ago | (#16157548)

So, let me get this straight: RMS has come out against measures which would ensure that inventions which people patented were truly new and not copies of prior art. In other words, if he has his way, it will be more likely that patents which will be issued which don't represent truly novel inventions. This is a good thing?

Re:RMS is against higher quality patents? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 years ago | (#16157783)

Wow, did you twist what he said that much on purpose?

Re:RMS is against higher quality patents? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 8 years ago | (#16157863)

Did you learn anything from the failure of bounty quest [bountyquest.com] ?

Horns Of A Dilemna (4, Insightful)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | about 8 years ago | (#16157573)

On Stallman's (probably long) list of things he doesn't like, the following rank at or near the top:
  • Software patents.
  • Proprietary (that is, closed) software.
Here's the thing: Probably the best defense against having to deal with software patents is to keep the software closed. Don't make the code public and don't tell how it works. If people don't know you've violated their patent, they are not likely to sue you, and their software patent won't be worth very much.


Such a strategy is not dishonest - even when behaving with the highest integrity, inadvertent patent violation is not only possible, but likely. You should not knowingly violate patents, but you aren't required to help the patent holders identify offenders either.

By hating both simultaneously, RMS has given himself a very tough row to hoe. Open software is highly vulnerable to patent litigation.

Re:Horns Of A Dilemna (0, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 years ago | (#16157793)

Software should have copyrights, not patent.

Having open software makes it easy to see if your copyrights have been violated.

Re:Horns Of A Dilemna (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | about 8 years ago | (#16157870)

Probably the best defense against having to deal with software patents is to keep the software closed. Don't make the code public and don't tell how it works. If people don't know you've violated their patent, they are not likely to sue you, and their software patent won't be worth very much.

I hate to ask this, but if someone uses your code and uses it in their own... Isn't that a copyright violation?

I say this because just because you have the code doesn't make the process easy to copy. Unless of course you copy the code... Ergo... Copyright violation of the GPL.

No one can simply look at 50,000 lines of code and go... "OOOOH! I wish I had thought of that process!"

(well most of us anyways)

But chances are the programmers are going to by really tempted to use a copy and paste with their text utility before they can analyze the process and copy the end results.

That said, if you can simply copy the process by looking at the end results (and or code), chances are it wasn't worth patenting in the first place.

People shouldn't be paid for their ideas, but rather the implementation of them.

If I come up with an idea and use that to create a physical working device then I should patent the device... Not the idea of the device.

If I come with an idea and I write code then the code and the effort is copyrighted.

If I come up with an idea for a business... I should create the business and trademark it and not patent the idea to keep people from competing with my so called "idea".

The reasons behind patents and copyrights was to benefit society and give a carrot to the author or inventor.

The fact the author or inventor gets paid is a nice side effect of this part of our constitution, but it is not a god given right.

On occasion during the early history of our nation... Some patents were revoked for the beenfit of our society like the first non-hand wheat thresher because the PTO thought it too important.

Re:Horns Of A Dilemna (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | about 8 years ago | (#16157970)

I'm not exactly sure what your point is, but...

if you can simply copy the process by looking at the end results (and or code), chances are it wasn't worth patenting in the first place.
Many brilliant and inventive ideas can often be implemented in a few lines of code. The Fast Fourier Transform and Quick Sort are just two examples (although neither were patented).

If I come up with an idea and use that to create a physical working device then I should patent the device... Not the idea of the device.
I'm afraid the idea is exactly what is patentable, not the device. You can, for example, patent an algorithm where a software program plays a major role in its implementation, but you can't patent the software program itself. You can only copyright that (indeed copyright is automatic).

Re:Horns Of A Dilemna (1)

Tod DeBie (522956) | about 8 years ago | (#16158077)

Probably the best defense against having to deal with software patents is to keep the software closed. Don't make the code public and don't tell how it works. If people don't know you've violated their patent, they are not likely to sue you, and their software patent won't be worth very much.

This is not a very good defense. Most software patents I have seen, and most of the famous (or infamous) software patents make it easy to determine if a given competing software application infringes on it. The Eloas, Netflix, Amazon one click and MercExchange software patents do not require one to look at the source code of a competing app to determine if they infringe. Infringement can be easily determined by just getting a simple look at what the app does.

Software patents are here to stay and cannot be avoided. This proposal for more documentation on prior art is a good thing and will make software patents better be reducing the number of patents that are granted when prior art does exist.

Re:Horns Of A Dilemna (1)

illuminatedwax (537131) | about 8 years ago | (#16158121)

And bravo to Mr. Stallman for taking such a hard line for what he considers to be freedom.

Stallman reams ESR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157636)

Taco enjoys

Film at 11

Free as in Free (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16157930)

The irony is that GPL software really is free as in beer - you can download it and use it for nothing. But it is not free as in freedom - because you must promise to obey Richard Stallman's political ideology before you can use it.

The GPL version 3 is basically to get google (1)

Wikipedia (928774) | about 8 years ago | (#16158123)

The GPL version 3 is basically to get google to give out their changes; isn't that what stallman referred to when he talked about web services providers (eg google) using a customized Linux?

I wonder if we'll see a fork in linux because of this. It would be interesting.

We need a new linux, linux seems like it's getting stale.

Hopefully HURD will be a computing panacea.

Re:The GPL version 3 is basically to get google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16158151)

Who are not using a customized Linux? I thought that was one of the major points in using Linux, that you can customize it to fullfill your own needs. That's what I do myself (yes, also the kernel).
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