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27 January 2009
There is a new petition online at http://stopsoftwarepatents.eu. Software patents are a threat to all free and commercial software. The reason for this is that thousands of patents can be created that apply to a single program or even a website. Tracking these to prevent violation is almost impossible and even if it was possible could prevent any competing software from being created destroying the market that patents are supposed to protect.
The software patents website shows a typical website that has 20 different aspects thare covered by software patents. These patents take away our freedom of expression and make websites and programming a legal mine field.
Software patents benefit few, but penalize many.
The individual with a patentable idea is unable to benefit as they will almost certainly be breaking many more patents owned by large corporations.
Even large corporations will find that they impinge on other companies patents.
The losers are clearly the individual programmer, or those involved in free open source software.
Also anyone responsible for a website.
As a result the general public due to the lack of free or independently written software or restrictions on what you can do (playing MP3s in open source software).
Some companies have already shown that they are willing or threatened to use these techniques to squeeze out the competition, including Microsoft (despite being already found guilty of anti-competition practices) and SCO (where it looks like the law suite may well have killed the company).
Software is still protected under copyright law which I agree is necessary, but software patents are a threat to all our freedoms.