Software Patents – Kathy Sinnott Will Oppose

I got CC’d a reply to an e-mail from Ms Kathy Sinnott MEP today which asserts her strong opposition to EU Directive COD/2002/0047 which includes the issue of software patentability. Even in one small paragraph she shows a good understanding of the issue and I am delighted that such a hard working and articulate MEP is on board.

In her own words:

I am most certainly not [undecided on this issue]. In response to your concerns about software patentability, I would like to reassure you that I am wholeheartedly opposed to this legislation. It will stifle innovation and prevent SME’s and individuals from having the chance to compete equally with the Microsoft’s of this world. You may rest assured that we will be fighting this directive (again).

As it currently stands, we now have eight of our sixteen (inc. Northern Ireland) MEPs committed to opposing* software patentability with five yet to inform us of their position and three taking the matter under consideration. Optimistically, the final count could be as good as twelve or thirteen opposing this.

The next big task will be to ensure that all those opposing software patentability will actually turn up in parliament as an absolute majority will be required to defeat or amend the directive; this essentially means that any MEP who does not show up in parliament to vote will be effectively casting their vote in favour of the directive. What a wonderful democracy we have.

More information on the Irish campaign can be found at KDE.ie and at the Irish Free Software Organisation. The current status of the sixteen Irish MEPs is also available at KDE.ie and with more detail here.

* by oppose I refer to an MEP being against the patentability of software ideas and business methods; this does not reflect whether an MEP is against the directive itself or would prefer to see it amended.

Easy Listening – KRadio

I often listen to the radio in the background while working/coding and in particular I’m a bit of a news talk junky. Generally I use my TV/radio tuner card with KRadio so I can control the channel and volumes with a few simple keystrokes. Of course there’s no explaining why someone always rings during a good Matt Cooper interview or while Vincent Browne is berating yet another politician for giving an answer that’s at a right-angle to the simple question asked – but now there’s a solution on the horizon:

Ernst Martin Witte has just released KRadio 1.0 beta with a new feature that looks very promising – the ability to pause radio playback and continue it later. This is still a beta version which may explain why I’m having some difficulty getting it to work properly. While I eagerly await the final release, the good news is that the normal recording function works perfectly so I won’t miss those interviews; and it supports both Ogg/Vorbis and MP3.

KDE frontend for o2sms

o2sms is an excellent Perl script for sending SMS’s (or text messages) via the UNIX command line without the bother of logging in through the provider’s webpages (which are often slow, clumsy and non-standards compliant). Despite its name, it supports Vodafone (Ireland) and Meteor as well as o2 (Ireland) users.

I have been using this script for years and have installed it for many others. Despite its ease of use and obvious advantages, I still see those around me reaching for their phones to send a text which they will then have to pay for! ko2smsapplet is a simple front-end to this script for KDE users. It sits on the taskbar and you simply click on it to send an SMS.


[Snapshot of KO2smsApplet in Kicker]

This applet was born out of the need to take a break from research/thesis writing one evening during the week. It is simple but functional. It can be downloaded with installation instructions from:

http://www.barryodonovan.com/development/kde/ko2smsapplet/

Software Patents – 48 Days Left

There are now only 48 days left before EU Directive COD/2002/0047 which incorporates software patentability gets its second reading in the European Parliament. KDE.ie is keeping a record of how our MEPs are planning to vote at http://www.kde.ie/patents/mep-status.php and Ciarán O’Riordan has duplicated that list with references on the IFSO’s wiki at http://www.ifso.ie/cgi-bin/wiki.cgi/SwpatMepPositions – it’s time anyone who has yet to e-mail their local MEPs got off their arse and did it.

If they are voting against sotware patentability, thank them for their support. If they are voting in favour of software patentability then politely exppress your concerns and implore them to reconsider. If they are undecided then also exppress your concerns and ask them to apprise you (and pass that information onto me also please) of their eventual decision.

The reason that I emphasise local MEP is that your MEPs are required to answer all correspondence that they receive.

Justin Mason published an excellent quote on his weblog ( http://taint.org/ ) which I think is worthy of repetition here:

Mr. Justice Bradley, discussing US patent law in 1882:

The design of the patent laws is to reward those who make some substantial discovery or invention, which adds to our knowledge and makes a step in advance in the useful arts. Such inventors are worthy of all favour. It was never the object of those laws to grant a monopoly for every trifling device, every shadow of a shade of an idea, which would naturally and spontaneously occur to any skilled mechanic or operator in the ordinary progress of manufactures.

Such an indiscriminate creation of exclusive privileges tends rather to obstruct than to stimulate invention. It creates a class of speculative schemers who make it their business to watch the advancing wave of improvement, and gather its foam in the form of patented monopolies, which enable them to lay a heavy tax upon the industry of the country, without contributing anything to the real advancement of the arts. It embarrasses the honest pursuit of business with fears and apprehensions of concealed liens and unknown liabilities to lawsuits and vexatious accountings for profits made in good faith.