2004-07-21 LT Speeches of Richard Stallman et al in Lithuanian Parliament

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Invitation - Lithuanian Parliament, 1st building, Constitution hall (III floor). Gedimino pr. 53, 01109 Vilnius-2

On their Baltic tour, Richard Stallman (FSF), Christian Engström (FFII Sweden) and Marco Schulze (FFII Germany) presented views on the software patent issue in the Lithuanian Parliament. The audience included the Chairman of the Technology Committee Gintautas Babravicius and several MPs.

1st speech - Christian Engström: What has happened in the EU about this so far

Christian Engström began a layout of the directive, that albeit it "looks incredible boring" directly affects both free and commercial software. "It was quite successful to just talk about it" in the European Parliament, this "did make the directive come to line with its stated objectives". But during the Irish Presidency, the pendulum swung back, and the text from the vote in the Council of the European Union was would make software patentable.

However, "It appears ... some of the delegates thought they were voting for one thing, but in fact voted for another", he considers it possible that the council still change votes. Later there will be another reading in the Parliament.

2nd Speech - Richard Stallman: The danger of software patents

The talk Richard gave was based on a he presented talk on May 25 at the University of Dublin in the Trinity College, which in turn was based on a speech called "Software patents: Obstacles to Software patents" which he gave a University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory from 2002. Some of the ideas are also found in a publication from Eben Moglen from 2000.

Richard Stallman explained the ridicolousness of talking about IPR pointing the difference between patents and copyright, different laws that have little in common: "Suppose somebody developing a fluid policy, encompassing say blood, milk, water, mercury... This is ridiculous. But the term 'intellectual property' is a similar common minglement of totally different things. Copyright on a mathematics books does not hinder others from writing mathematics books. Patents however are "absolute monopolies on the idea". The "patent system has become a time-consuming lottery - I'm quoting the 'Economist'".

The publicity for the patent systems comes from people with a vested interest in the system, such as a lottery - the advertisement is the same (people employed by the patent system). But from the victims perspective, it is difficult to avoid patent infringement. E.g. "The compress program was released in 1984, at that time no patent in the US, the author read about the alogorithm in an article", a patent was granted in 1985 and only after several years Unisys tried to enforce. It was doable to substitute compress with gzip but it has been impossible with GIF because the user base had accustomed to GIF like "a language they learned". Same story nowadays with JPEG and MP3.

This speech is not completely identical to the transcription linked above, he added some meanwhile:

The MPEG standard video is covered by 39 patents. It's very hard to avoid patents.

30000 software patents in Europe are not labeled as such, because the treaty (EPC) forbids the patenting of software.

3rd speech - Marco Schulze: Economic Effects of Software Patents

Marco Schulze showed in his presentation, that there are much worse effects by software patents onto the economy as one may think on the first view. Many people still think, they are not affected by the directive about "computer implemented inventions", because they don't use software. Mr. Schulze made clear, that they have to pay for it anyway:

Software patents cause not only an expensive overhead of patent attorneys, but endanger even the existence of many SMEs. This is because of the high costs of law suits and the unevitable risk of unintended patent infringement. Many of these and other swpat-related factors lead to higher software prices which affect every company in our modern computerized society. These additional costs follow the business chain until the end customer has to pay the sum of all - whether he has a computer or not is irrelevant.

Audio recording

An audio recording with all these speaches is available here:

These audio recordings also contain the full question and answer sessions after the speeches, you normally don't get these from the speech transcriptions, therefore it can be of benefit to listen to them.

During the next days, Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki are on the schedule.

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