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Richard Stallman Calls for Amazon Boycott 572

Posted by Roblimo
from the take-to-the-virtual-streets! dept.
Ian Lance Taylor writes "Linux Today is reporting that Richard Stallman is calling for a boycott of Amazon because they are suing based on a software patent." RMS also says, "Amazon is not alone at fault in what is happening. The US Patent Office is to blame for having very low standards, and US courts are to blame for endorsing them."
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Richard Stallman Calls for Amazon Boycott

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  • I applaud Stallman for trying to start a boycott, and for not investing in VA. Although I have no problems with ESR become a millionaire, I think it is also important to have someone like Stallman who will spend every waking minute insuring that software is free and reliable.
  • Sounds good to me. The best thing that could come out of this though is some serious patent standards reform. You can only blame Amazon, Yahoo, or IBM so much for taking advantage of a system that is just asking for it.
  • okay, i'll admit, the basic premise of the boycott is somewhat understandable. they are suing over a software patent that should and will be a staple of ecommerce.

    but amazon.com also helps many smaller linux and open source sites generate some revenue with their affiliate program. the program may not be the best in the world, but it gives a little back to these often-overlooked and underpaid contributers.
  • by Sylvestre (45097) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:00PM (#1467633) Homepage
    I hate software patents as much as the next person, but isn't RMS kinda on a rampage here? It's like anyone who makes money incurs the wrath of RMS these days.

    This isn't to mention the squashing of software innovation that comes from RMS' activity. If I have an idea for some small software program that might make enough money to support me and a few other programs, if it's any good RMS will swoop in an destroy my company. Thanks, RMS.
  • by Nimmy (5552) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:02PM (#1467635) Homepage
    RMS calls for boycott against Amazon -- Slashdot

    ESR calls Fatwah against Mindcraft -- Suck Parody of Slashdot

    I, for one, am amused!

    --Nick
  • by waldoj (8229) <waldo@nosPaM.jaquith.org> on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:05PM (#1467638) Homepage Journal
    I think that RMS is really just making this official, more or less. I e-mailed Amazon about this one-click nonsense shortly after I heard it, and received, as I'd expected, nothing more than a form letter regarding my stated boycott.

    I have not, of course, purchased anything from them since, and I actively encourage others to do the same. I know many of my fellow geeks are also boycotting Amazon.com, but I don't think that Amazon.com is really aware of how many people really are frustrated over this. Perhaps an 'official' boycott is what it will take.
  • by ja (14684) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:06PM (#1467639) Homepage
    Hi!

    I am european, and I have often been amazed by the claims of american patents. There is no way that any of these claims will ever hold up in court! All you guys are doing is making a laugh of your selves in front of the global community.

    Please put an end to this abuse of the US patent system

    mvh // Jens M Andreasen
  • by Pentagram (40862) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:08PM (#1467640) Homepage
    Certainly can't argue about that. Why don't we ever have official, Slashdot-endorsed boycotts that we can all get behind? We always talk about it, but noone ever does anything *official*. There ought to be a proper /. petition, so we can send them about a gazillion emails showing them who's not going to be buying their books over Christmas.
  • I immediately started buying any books from places like Barnes & Noble, and making sure any DVD's I buy are from 800.com or anybody else. More importantly, I emailed them to voice my complaint, and immediately got a personalized response (so yes, they are worried!).
  • by trickfx (99466) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:09PM (#1467642)
    I applaud the effort, but will it make any sort of difference whatsoever? Realistically, only geeks would participate in a boycott called by RMS. Sure, our books are, in general, more expensive than the regular crop. It would have to hurt Amazon pretty badly to get them to even consider changing their policy, as the patent has to do with their 'one click' buying, and they must be making money hand over fist from impulse buyers. The patent office is to blame, as someone pointed out earlier, and they won't feel a thing. How far reaching is the 'one click' patent, does anyone know, does it cover more than just books. (especially as Amazon itself is not so limited)
  • I agree with most people here that patents are becoming overly silly. But, I don't think a boycott is going to be effective at all, except as a PR tool.

    Even if the subject matter sought to be patented is not exactly shown by the prior art, and involves one or more differences over the most nearly similar thing already known, a patent may still be refused if the differences would be obvious. The subject matter sought to be patented must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before that it may be said to be nonobvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention. - US PTO

    All it's going to take is one decent lawsuit to get this patent revoked. Not only would this be considered 'obvious', I'm certain if we all tried we could find a mountain of prior art. (If it can be proven that this was done before, their patent is no good)

    I really see nothing in their patent that's even remotely unique or novel. Take a look yourself here [164.195.100.11]

    Calling for a boycott isn't going to affect Amazon's bottom line a bit. However, it may get some attention to how silly they're acting. This isn't going to change a single thing until a business or some kind of Web-Business-Association or someone actually tries to get this patent revoked.

    Thoughts?
  • by poink (7454) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:09PM (#1467646)
    This just minutes after I spend a couple hundred dollars at Amazon. Whoops.
  • by defenestrators (52630) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:10PM (#1467647) Homepage
    I encourage everyone to vote with their dollar for the business that offends the least. It isn't difficult.

    With Amazon, if you buy from them and select "Do not spam me", they will anyway. I boycotted them when they started sending me 'important information'.

    So then I use Barnes&Noble, where I again clicked "Do not spam me". They recently sent me a 'holiday gift' for $5. So now I don't use BN. Merry Christmas.

    I'm using FatBrain now, hopefully they won't screw up either.

    Your dollar holds real power in the eyes of the suits. Use it, and if you convince a few people to join you, you lend your messages (email comments usually) real power.

    And it's a no-brain and no-effort task with today's competition.

    -tpr



  • There are other better affiliate programs out there. As I recall, A1Books.com [a1books.com] had
    a pretty good deal. And the computer books were often a better price then AMZN.
  • by luge (4808) <slashdot@tieguy. o r g> on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:13PM (#1467650) Homepage
    Umm, only if it's not GPL. If you are purely GPL, and distribute only GPL software, then he is all in your favor. It's not about money- it's about code freedom. I know that is hard for some people to grasp, but it's really not that difficult- money and code are completely separate in his eyes, and as long as you do the right thing in the one sphere you can do whatever in the other.
    ~luge
  • Etoys is apparently taking a beating over their browbeating of etoy.com. Hopefully likewise, Amazon.
  • by Pentagram (40862) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:14PM (#1467655) Homepage
    I have to admit, there's some practices that Amazon engage in which I entirely support. They actively encourage deep linking (unlike a few companies we've been debating) and they've really embraced the idea of getting people to help them sell books in return for a share in the cash. And they give out some groovy free gifts (my post-it notes are even now proudly displayed on my desk :)

    On the other hand, they spam, and they sue over damn stupid patents. What a schizophrenic company.

    Come on Slashdotters, boycott them!

  • by miracle69 (34841) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:14PM (#1467656)
    When I first saw the article on /. that Amazon was suing B&N, I decided I would not purchase anything from them, and since then, I have visited B&N several times. I had never visited B&N prior to the lawsuit.

    Now, I agree that this is patent abuse wholeheartedly. However, it does bring up a problem that we are likely to see more of - corporations grabbing commonly used techniques and "patenting" them. Would a way to prevent this be to defeat them at their own game?

    What if something like the FSF existed that patented all software innovations and then released them under some sort of Public Patent License (PPL)? Could we beat the corporations at their own game?

    Think about it. John Q. Programmer, Extrordanaire, makes a program called "ComputerWidgets" which, for purposes of this discussion, is GPLed. He then sends off to the PPL and informs them that he would like to patent this idea and release it to the public.

    The same could be done with web-site setups and whatnot. After all, what is to stop another company from patenting dynamically served pages created in Perl? As ludicrous as this sounds, it's basically what Amazon has done with cookies.
  • by kurowski (11243) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:16PM (#1467659) Homepage
    I don't think that RMS targets anyone who makes money. After all, he's asking people to boycott Amazon because of their stupid patent. RMS isn't saying "boycott amazon because they make money."

    Not that I wouldn't understand if the man did go on a rampage. The last few weeks have seen more pimping of Free Software than ever before. The efforts of RMS have spawned a great model of software development, but dotcom overspeculation has touched that model in an ugly way.

    Yeah, I'm happy to see the redhat people and the va linux people and andover.net and all those folks making a ton of money off their efforts. I like seeing people I respect being rewarded. But right now is when open source software and the business world are really getting to know each other, and this relationship is really starting off on the wrong foot.

    I'd have preferred to see open source really take off after the market crashes. I'm in no rush for corporate america to adopt my favorite operating system. I don't really care who uses linux as long as I get to use it. I just hate to see free software become prematurely adopted by people who shouldn't be using it yet, and then seeing them left with a sour taste in their mouth.

    OK, that's enough ranting and raving for me for now, I guess.
  • by Mycroft-X (11435) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:16PM (#1467660)
    Now if this isn't a story that begs for that jihad-penguin icon I don't know what is...



    I can picture RMS, sitting on his "Throne of Righteous Indignation" thinking..."Hmm...haven't done something wild and radical recently...let's boycott something for not being open source or using a proprietary idea!"



    This article was written today. The amazon patent story ran about a month ago. It just seems like RMS is going from "GNU-Linux! GNU-Linux!" to "Ban all GIFs!" to "Boycott Amazon". Is this really an effective argument, or is he just an extreme platform junkie?



    Mycroft-X
  • by jflynn (61543) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:18PM (#1467669)
    A handy list of alternatives to Amazon can be found here [noamazon.com]. There is an article on technocrat.net discussing this, but it's down right now.

    I do not have a credit card, so I wouldn't purchase from them anyway, but I do use them to decide if it's time to pile in a bus and visit my bookstore. I suppose taking page impressions away is part of the deal, so I'll try elsewhere for now at least, been meaning to check out the others anyway.

    I think the patent is quite silly, but I still wonder if a boycott action is useful here. How may other silly patents are being muscled right now, and should we boycott all products from any such company? Is Amazon the most evil company deserving our attention? If we take multinational corporate ties into account, that could get to be a *long* list of products.

    Most telling, I wonder if Amazon would or could drop their suit as a result. If the result is a suit by the shareholders for negligence w.r. to their intellectual property they haven't gained much.

    Perhaps our lobbying and action should directed be towards those making patent law, and overseeing the patent office instead. If a corporation has a legal means to expand its marketshare or create licensing profit it is almost required by current law to exploit it. Just reducing the length of software patents from decades to years would greatly improve the situation and it's mildly realistic to hope it could be done.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:19PM (#1467678)
    Could someone explain *WHY* everyone so worked up about this?

    I've read the patent in question. It is more than a simple database credit-card lookup. Read it for yourself without spoutting out the usual mantra.

    Secondly, Amazon is actually sueing someone here. This is DISTINCTLY different than playing bully demanding money for the patent rights (eg, LZW/GIF debate). If the courts determine that Amazon's patent is prior art or vague - then they lost the patent.

    Thirdly, patents *DO* have a place. People need to make money off their inventions. You can't make a living by spending years perfecting some hardware or software, then have your next door neighbor look at it and say, "Dang, thats obvious - i guess i'll rip off that idea and make millions without worrying about recouping the development expense. Thanks neighbor!"

    Now, if you disagree with the *LAW* of patents (duration of coverage, scope, etc) Then don't complain/boycott Amazon. Write your congressperson and explain, in a calm manner, the problems you perceive with patents in a rapidly advancing industry!

    Tom
  • by kurowski (11243) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:21PM (#1467683) Homepage
    RMS suggests: If you are the author of a book sold by Amazon, you can provide powerful help to this campaign by putting this text into the "author comment" about your book, on Amazon's web site.

    But if you visit amazon and browse through books with his name on them, it seems that he hasn't done this himself. I'd respect his wishes here a bit more if he'd at least follow through on his own requests.

  • I gotta wonder just what Amazon is supposed to do. I don't like their inane patent either but if they didn't take it out then they'd just be held hostage by the next devious guy in line who didn't have enough scuples to say no. It's a cut-throat world out there this Xmas (and I leave Christ out purposely there) for all the .coms and alot of them aren't going to make it. Amazon saw that their business model could be patented. If they don't defend that patent then they lose it.

    Unfortunately for Amazon, RMS is right too. Shopping there leaves a bad taste in my mouth now. so I'll be looking for a more astheticly pleasing place for my business. It's a shame though since it really is the fault of a screwed up patent system that encourages the behavior.

  • by Robert S Gormley (24559) <robert@seabreeze.asn.au> on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:24PM (#1467688) Homepage
    "have been doing similar things" does not cut it in the world of patent law. I apply for a patent on something, I get a patent on that and that alone. The existense of credit cards does not invalidate Amazon's patent (other prior art may well do though).

    This seems very vitriolic. Making inaccurate comparisons to try to back your argument is not a good idea generally.

    I think too many people (not RMS alone) get caught up in spewing forth invective on the subject of intellectual property. "Information wants to be free" - said who? The information? (sorry, couldn't resist that one)

    Sorry, but I refuse to boycott a company (or anyone) defending their investment, be it this or something else (assuming it's "valid"), by any means possible.

    Read no further if you dislike flamebait: the same people who scream bloody murder (bad pun) about attempts to infringe upon their freedoms when someone is attacking their property (the supposed right to blow them into their next life) also seem to be ones screaming about companies retaliating against attacks against their property.

    note: this isn't to say I agree with the patent Amazon has. It's dicy. If it's dicy, it'll hopefully lose. Valid patents and IP should be defended. Who appointed us judge and jury?

  • If this patent truly is not novel, and not going to stand up in court, why are they suing Barnes & Noble over it?

    I agree that they look like they are bound to lose, but lawyers aren't stupid (well...) so there must be some advantage they are getting out of it.

    For all you legal people: What adavantage do Amazon get out of this case if they lose?

  • by itp (6424) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:26PM (#1467691)
    You make a number of good points, but I guess I disagree with you in principle. You're right, we probably won't have a significant effect on Amazon's bottom line. Large as we joke about the /. effect being, Amazon's client base dwarfs us. I don't think we should ignore the potential PR effect this could have, but I'm not counting on that, either.

    I am proud, however, to say that I do things not because I think I will be in the majority, or because I think I will always win, but because I think they are right. I have personally been boycotting Amazon from the moment I heard about this. I'm just one man, and I'm sure Amazon doesn't even miss me, but none of that will make me change my mind. I believe what they are doing is wrong, and I am doing my part to make sure they know that.

    Ben Franklin said "They that can give up liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." The words may not fit exactly, but I think the sentiment is right.

    --
    Ian Peters
    itp at gnu dot org
  • This is the time when we as community can use the power of slashdot and our collective voices.


    Everyone who agrees with RMS (To some degree) should send a nice, well thought out, letter to Amazon explaining your problems with there recent actions. Lets face it, the slashdot affect is really powerful. A few people here and there complained to fox when the blocked non-windows people, but fox actually did something when all of us wrote letters all at once.


    Keep in mind, these letters CAN NOT BE FLAMES! That would only make things worst. Instead they must be claim, polite and well thought out. If you could not tell, I strongly agree with RMS on this one. We can't let silly patents like this ruin everything people on the internet have enjoyed for so many years.

    Sig free since 93'...


  • but amazon.com also helps many smaller linux and open source sites generate some revenue with their affiliate program.

    Correction: Amazon.com helps Amazon.com generate some revenue with their affiliate programs. The programs are essentially advertising for Amazon. If Amazon really were altruistic, it would give money to smaller Linux and open source sites rather than pay them for advertising space.


    Regards,

  • by ratsdliw (125847) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:28PM (#1467697)
    We should not just boycott www.amazon.com but also boycott everything that amazon has invested in. That includes

    Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com)

    LiveBid.com (http://amazon.livebid.com)

    PlanetAll.com (http://www.planetall.com)

    And also boycott other business they are involved in.

    drugstore.com (http://www.drugstore.com)

    Gear.com (http://www.gear.com)

    HomeGrocer.com (http://www.homegrocer.com)

    Pets.com (http://www.pets.com)

    I don't know about you but some of these I can't live without. (I.e. Imdb)

    Happy boycotting.

  • by sinator (7980) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:29PM (#1467700)
    Not ten minutes into the article's posting and I already see Stallman bashers calling the man crazy and/or outdated and/or stubborn for his Free Software crusade and actions.

    Rather than rehash the old pro-Stallman arguments, which are basically naming his many accomplishments without justifying his beliefs, I'm going to pose his beliefs in the form of an ethical dilemma: Would you act differently than Stallman, given this dilemma?

    Stallman acts on the belief that it is morally wrong to hold back information that was freely given to you. Namely, no idea is formed in a vacuum. Consciously, subconsciously, intentionally, unintentionally, the society around you bombards you with ideas to draw upon. Software engineers, for example, draw upon the ideas of friends, families, former educators, and in some cases mathematical concepts that have been in the idea pot since the Ancient Greeks.

    It's patently (no pun intended) absurd to consider paying royalties to the Archimedes estate -- the idea just wouldn't hold water. (pun quite intended)

    In other words, ideas aren't something which we have 100% control over. You can't will a good idea. Focus groups have proven this. You can will money and time into makeing a better environment for ideas to hit you, but the key here is that ideas come from the world around you.

    If Microsoft were to acknowledge this, they would either have to pay The World a hefty royalty, or sue The World for patent infringement. And if we're all in jail, who will buy Microsoft products?

    To all the Stallman bashers out there, consider this: do you consider your ideas to be truly, 100% yours? Every idea anyone has ever had has a basis either in another idea, or a social concept, or a form evident in nature. Now let's narrow the field down from the abstract of 'ideas' to 'software'. Most software performs a certain goal. The 'idea overlap' here is much greater in the world of software, because of common goals et al. It's not surprising that the originality of software comes not from the mind of the original but the sharing of information among many -- both because there are no truly original ideas and because the sharing is an extension of the above. That's why Open Source works. You hear something, you see something, and blend it in together with another random idea that hits you, and voila, instant 'idea'. Aren't you glad you don't have to pay royalties to everyone who helped you with the idea?

    In economic terms, you can put it thusly: There is a scarcity of everything except desires. I guess you can consider an idea as a form of desire, namely a desire to make a thought tangible. That's great, thoughts are free and infinite, because ideas are born of ideas and interact with each other to make more ideas. Materials, however, are scarce. Here, then, is Stallman's consolation to the 'free idea' manifesto: ideas are free because they are infinite, and not sprung of one source; but implementations may be sold and owned by virtue of the fact that they are scarce.

    In other words, you can't 'patent' selling CD's of Linux on it as original, because others do it or have the capability to do it. You can, however, charge money because not everyone can afford a CD press machine, or the time to burn all those CD's: that's scarcity in action.

    But do the Stallman bashers feel ethically alright with charging money or defending ownership of something free and unlimited that comes not from one person, but from the interactions of an infinite number of outside and internal stimuli?

    I'm rambling, so I better quit. Personally, I'm playing Devil's advocate; I feel you should be able to patent software *implementations* (i.e, actual binary form) because the TIME spent in R&D and the TIME spent coding is in itself scarce. But, the idea of software, i.e, specifications for software, or protocol types, or source, patenting compression algorithms etc, is free and the result of other ideas in an educational chain that spans the ages, and to sever the chain and claim it all came from your own mindspring is both hubris and ethically questionable.

  • I was already boycotting them for this reason, but now I at least know I'm not alone in this. Yes, RMS is known for being a little, and cometimes more than a little, extreme. But in this case I think he's justified. Mainly because I can't think of anything else constructive that'll even have a chance of solving this problem.
  • I did some digging and found this url:

    [trudelgroup.com]
    http://www.trudelgroup.com/pwars.htm


    Now normally I am a bit suspicious about people who advocate conspiracy theories and the like, but in this case the point of view advocated at the above site - namely that the patent office is under attack by legislation by congress - might be interesting to us geeks, specifically because if "they" are right, congress has actually passed a bill through the house which would get rid of some of our headaches over patents.

    These guys don't want that, but we do, at least to some extent perhaps. Maybe this is worth looking into and supporting (instead of resisting, as the page at the URL suggests).
  • We should not boycott Amazon, but instead be lobbying to have improvements made in the way in which patents are issued. Amazon never should have been allowed to get a patent for such an obvious idea in the first place. If the law is on their side (and it appears to be), then I really can't blame them. Note that this is different from less clear cut cases, where the company that is suing is not necessarily in the right (legally speaking), such as the eToys lawsuit (http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=99/12/01/21562 08&mode=thread).
  • It would be nice to have a Lawyer's advise on this. Patents are expensive, but what if you simply file a patent and drop it when it's accepted? I don't think any later patent for this idea would be accepted, so it would we the equivalent of the PPL. The other good point is that you only pay the fee for filing for a patent, not the other fees.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    All you guys are doing is making a laugh of your selves in front of the global community.

    Yea, but were making a fool of ourselves while having straight teeth...
    bwhahaha
  • I believe that companies should defend their investments as well, but I also believe that if a company is doing something ridiculous that will inevitably hurt me, I should vote with my dollar and not give it to them. Amazon's patent is a joke! Part of the product I buy from amazon is the feeling I get from doing a transaction with them. If I feel negatively because of this ridiculous lawsuit, than I am getting less for my money. Further more, in situations like this, we were appointed judge and jury when we entered the book buying market with a fistful of dollars. Personally, I feel that we were all made judge and jury in computer technology patent issues after IBM set a team of lawyers, not scientists, working around the clock to simply gain patents to use in lawsuits against smaller companies and the patent office went along with it. They were granted thousands of patents on obvious, old technologies that they only brought up when threatened by smaller companies whose products depended on, say, the indent function. This technique was also adopted by Microsoft after IBM used it against them. When the patent office became unable to protect us from this nonsense on that fateful day, we became judge and jury. Who else is there? jeb.
  • by vitaflo (20507) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:36PM (#1467712) Homepage
    Can I officially call a boycott of eToys as well? While I am totally against Amazon on their whole patent dispute, and have made my voice heard over there, I am even more outraged at eToys using their marketing muscle against etoy.com. As the owner of an independent design website, this could have been me (or anyone else). I think with ecommerce, its the first time in history that we can actually speak out against such corporate malpractice and finally DO something about it!
  • I just checked, and it looks like Slashdot will still put up links to Amazon.

    Is Slashdot going to participate in the boycott by removing those links? Why or why not?

    Not that I'm encouraging hasty action. Perhaps Amazon will back down on this, as they backed down (somewhat) on their hidden advertising.
  • Well, nobody was doing it, and their approach is novel. I have issues with software patents, but this one sounds legit. I mean, every other site had you fill out forms again each time, and their "one-click technology" was a real time-saver. Since then, everyone has copied it. I think that it was a new approach that they developed, and they are entitled to the patent royalties.

    This isn't a patent on cookies. It is a patent on storing just enough information to find you in a database. While not technically novel, the combination of the database query and people's personal information is a new and novel approach.

    I respect RMS for what he has done, but I don't share his views on intellectual property. People are free to give their work away. People are also free to profit from their ideas. The patent system rewards inventors. Amazon.com invented a way to bring convenience, and the patent is, in my opinion, legit.

    Alex
  • by GeorgeH (5469)
    Amazon recieved a preliminary injunction against Barnes & Noble (see previous article [slashdot.org]). What this means is that they can't use "one-click shopping" until Amazon loses the suit. Right now is the busiest shopping time of the year, so if Amazon can cut into B&N's profits, then Amazon wins, regardless of who wins the suit.

    The question is, do we want our money paying the paychecks of people who feel this is the best way to do business? Vote with your dollars.
    --
  • by Khalid (31037) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:42PM (#1467722) Homepage
    I have already posted this in an other thread, but it's deeply netsted, Maybe it will go unoticed, so I dare to repost it.

    Here is the trick just search for the books you want to buy in Amazon (I admit they they a damn nice service, and readers review) pick up the ISBN and then go buy search for the best deal in www.bestbookbuys.com with the ISBN. You will see that Amazon are far from beeing the best deal.
  • There are people who won't do busness with Amazon for diffrent reasons but it dosn't seem to phase Amazon.
    A boycott dosn't effect a busness who isn't affrade of losing costummers.
    the real problem isn't Amazons defending a software patent it is they were issued one in the first place.
    Instead of protesting against Amazon the target should be the us patent office. Contact ellected officals and point out the patent office has been issuing a lot of strange patents lately including blantely patenting prior art and software patents.

    Instead we should be asking congress to put a hold on all Internet patents and review the value of patenting things related to the Internet.
  • by waldoj (8229) <waldo@nosPaM.jaquith.org> on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:49PM (#1467730) Homepage Journal
    Sure, here ya' go. I won't make any jokes about this, it's just too easy:

    -------------------------

    Dear Waldo,

    Thank you for writing to us at Amazon.com.

    As you know, Amazon.com has filed suit against barnesandnoble.com,
    saying it has illegally copied Amazon.com's patented 1-Click
    technology.

    The 1-Click feature securely stores billing and shipping information
    so that returning customers need only click their mouse once to buy a
    selected item. In recognition of the innovative and unique nature of
    the 1-Click technology, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Patent
    No. 5,960,411 to Amazon.com on September 28, 1999.

    Amazon.com spent thousands of hours to develop the 1-Click process.
    As our founder, Jeff Bezos, has said, "The reason we have a patent
    system in this country is to encourage people to take these kinds of
    risks and make these kinds of investments for customers."

    I hope you'll understand that we are unable to discuss this case any
    further as we are currently in litigation. Thank you for taking the
    time to share your views with us.


    Best regards,

    Titus G.
    Amazon.com
    http://www.amazon.com/
    Earth's Biggest Selection
  • I'm pretty sure this is pertaining to the whole 1-Click fiasco, which, believe or not, was actually upheld by a judge as a legitimate patent. I shit you not. I guess Amazon could go ahead and patent the concept of ease-of-use while they're at it. That oughta net them a nice chunk of change.
    Personally, I agree with Stallman here. Software patents are a joke, and this is one of the more horrendous ones ever granted. It really bothers me that Amazon's profts will again swell this holiday season while other etailers suffer from the 50+% attrition rate from shopping cart item to final purchase. I don't think anyone on Slashdot needs to be reminded of the volatility of the tech sector, and, let's face it, many startup sites won't be around next Christmas. Amazon's ridiculous patent on storing cookies for one-click sure doesn't help the situation. To cop a little Microsoft terminology, they've created a market barrier to entry - Amazon's One Click is damn easy and really, really popular. I could easily see many consumers flocking there instead of another bookstore just becuase they don't want to be hassled with shipping and billing info.
    I would know because I've succumbed to the insidious "one-click" button many a time. I know own 20 or so ORA books, 10 of which I regretted One Clicking even before they arrived. And people wonder why their market cap is $6 billion :)

    --
  • AMAZON.COM CALLS FOR RICHARD STALLMAN BOYCOTT
    gcc, emacs, Other Free Software "No Longer Allowed" At Online Bookseller


    SHINOLA, PA (UPI) - In response to a plea by free-software pioneer Richard Stallman to boycott Amazon.com, the world's largest and most successful online retailer is calling for a general boycott of free software released under the GNU Public License (GPL). To demonstrate that it is serious about its boycott, Amazon.com is announcing that it will no longer use such free software to support its highly-successful electronic commerce site. The company is encouraging other Internet retailers to follow suit in protest of the boycott announced by Stallman.

    "Such software is no longer allowed," stated Amazon spokeswoman Amanda Dickenson.

    As part of Amazon's protest, the open-source Apache web servers that serve up millions of pages per day will be replaced with Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) running on that company's Windows 2000 operating system. In addition, Amazon's developers will no longer use the emacs text editor to write code. Instead, they will use a different editor targeted towards the Windows environment.

    "We found a neat program called CuteWrite on www.winfiles.com [winfiles.com]," explained Dickenson. "It's really nifty. It has colored menus and everything." Dickenson demoed the program to a select group of reporters at the news conference. "We can use this program for thirty days, after which we must send in a $29.95 registration fee," said Dickenson. However, Dickenson reassured Amazon stockholders who might have an "if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it" attitude. "We also get a printed manual when we register," she explained. In addition, Amazon developers will get a short e-mail every time a new version of CuteWrite is released.

    Reaction to the Amazon announcement was mixed. While Microsoft president Steve Ballmer hailed it as the "last nail in the coffin for the pinko commie free software movement", regular Amazon customers were unsure about the company's changes. "I've been trying to get into Amazon for the past three hours," explained dental hygenist Richard Abernathy. "To be quite honest, I'm getting a bit sick of this fucking 'Site Too Busy' error message. I just want to buy some books."

    Amazon stock was off 39-1/2 points in midday trading.

    Family PC Magazine contributed to this story.
  • by Bob-K (29692) on Monday December 13, 1999 @07:59PM (#1467742)
    This always happens. I mean, I'm a fan of Stallman, he's brilliant, he's the original Guy Who Got It Done, I agree that software patents are generally not good. But a boycott such as this is sooooo petty, so naive, and he's always sounding off about soemthing.

    Ya just gotta love somebody who's that sincere.
  • by James Ensor (28950) on Monday December 13, 1999 @08:04PM (#1467747) Homepage
    Here's the e-mail I put together, use if it you like. Hey, I ripped part of it from RMS myself. :)


    It has come to my attention that Amazon has obtained a US patent (5,960,411)
    on an important and obvious idea for E-commerce: the idea that your command
    in a web browser to buy a certain item can carry along information about your
    identity. This alone would be simply an annoyance; the U.S. Patent office
    is regularly misled into granting obvious patents. But Amazon has used the
    patent aggressively, to damage a competitor's business. This is unacceptable.

    I was planning to do some of my Christmas shopping on Amazon.com. I also run a
    fairly high-traffic web site, and was hoping to make a little extra money for
    band by joining the Associates Program.

    Instead, as of today, I am boycotting amazon.com. My boycott will continue
    until (A) the patent gets declared invalid in court, (B) Amazon drops the patent
    itself (C) Amazon goes out of business. (B) is clearly the most honorable
    course to take. If it takes the court system to show Amazon that its actions
    are wrong, I will have serious reservations about shopping there in the future.



  • Sure, you're right about the lack of any kind of legal validity to Amazon's position. This is like the old "look-and-feel" lawsuits, except on one tiny element (obviously an important one) of the look-and-feel. (Imagine if Apple had sued MS over using mouse-clicks in Windows. They would have been laughed out of court.)

    The real damage Amazon is doing is threatening to slow down the growth of the industry whose growth they need more than anyone else.

    Those of us who have supported the Internet from the beginning know that we have always been a core of Amazon's business. When they needed the business, we gave them all our business. Because we believed in the web. Not because we believed in Amazon, except to the extent that they seemed the best hope for the web.

    Now, they are proving they can act against the best interests of the web. And we have to recognize that the same motivations which once led us to support them now demand that we shop elsewhere.

    I'm betting everyone will be surprised how much this boycott hurts Amazon even without organization. People who support the Internet just will not have anything to do with any company who so blatantly puts their own interests before the 'Net.
  • Calling for a boycott isn't going to affect Amazon's bottom line a bit.
    Of course it won't affect their bottom line -- they have none. They don't make any money, and it doesn't really seem to matter how much money they lose.

    Amazon is built on mindshare, not economics. So maybe a boycott can actually affect them, because it doesn't have to attack them economically, it only has to make them look bad. Amazon is the best and brightest son of the Internet in the minds of the stock brokers -- the first, the biggest, with the biggest eCommerce ambitions. It might be meaningful if the Next Big Thing on the Internet (Open Source) attacks it. Or it might not -- that's yet to be seen.

    Anyway, I can't really boycott in any meaningful way -- I only bought from Amazon once, won't do it again. I like low-profile Internet businesses, ones that are honest and humble. Amazon is neither. They do what they do well -- they're very seductive -- but they also have a vision for the Internet that I don't share and can't support.

  • by sinator (7980) on Monday December 13, 1999 @08:28PM (#1467763)
    I saw myself beginning to ramble. bear in mind i've gone a few days with little sleep and the finals beckon.

    perhaps here is a truncated 'point' :)

    given the dilemma as to whether ideas in and of themselves should be free, can you blame richard stallman for being so pro-free-software?

    uh, yeah, that's it :-)
    im going to sleep now ...
  • by QuasEye (98125) <prussbwNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday December 13, 1999 @08:33PM (#1467766) Homepage
    This is a very interesting viewpoint on this subject, and I must admit I've never heard it stated so clearly before. I must, however, disagree with your viewpoint. You are correct in that ideas cannot happen in a vacuum, however, I must also point out that ideas also cannot spontaneously appear even in the best of environments. Bringing an idea to fruition takes work and pondering, and it's not just anyone who can do it. Intellectual property protection exists to reward those who can use their environment to create a new idea, and who are willing to use their talents and education to further it, hopefully for the common good.

    I know it's cliched, but remember what Thomas Edison said: "Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration"

    Comments welcome!

    bp

  • I can't answer your question but I wanted to mention (for those that missed it before) that one of the items the WTO planned to discuss at the recent Seattle meeting was software patents. The corporatists want to expand patent protection worldwide. They also want to patent genetic code as well, and make sure that people in poorer countries have to pay up for the pharmaceutical research done in richer countries (much of it at public expense).
    Here [zmag.org]is an informative article about the WTO from ZNet, which has a whole subsite [zmag.org] dedicated to the (worldwide) WTO protests and the issues involved, covered from a populist point of view.
    For what it's worth, I've also emailed Amazon announcing my boycott.
    P.S. Anyone have a better word than corporatists?
  • by trance9 (10504) on Monday December 13, 1999 @08:37PM (#1467770) Homepage Journal

    Don't understimate our effect. If we can demonstrate the need for this boycott clearly and concisely we can have a very large effect. You have to understand who I mean by "we".

    I don't just mean slashdot, I mean a huge, loose, globally connected network of people and groups. Slashdot is an important node in this network, a clearing house which reaches thousands of people. Many of those thousands of people hear about interesting things on Slashdot and turn around and tell their friends about it--with just one level of indirection the number of people involved becomes absolutely enormous.

    This is how organizing social action on the Internet works. It's not some single website that co-ordinates action against some adversary; nor is it even a single person. Richard Stallman may start the ball rolling, but MANY people care about the abuse of the patent system.

    Protest actions organized over the net have the potential to grow exponentially, and reach a huge number of people in a short amount of time. The effect of such an action has been described by the Rand Corporation as an "overwhelming pulse" or a "swarm attack" on the target. A huge number of loosely connected people, groups, organizations, politicians, mailing lists, individuals, etc., all descend on the target all at once, overwhelming it with a short, massive burst of action.

    So Slashdot by itself may not be able to succeed in pressuring Amazon--but we can play an important role in generating a huge internet-style swarm all over these morons, overwhelming them before they really figure out what's going on.

    Read it on slashdot, then tell your friends, families, co-workers, etc.

    Hierarchies and business have not yet really figured out an effective way to respond to this kind of action.
  • I wrote a nifty program about three years ago, and I thought it would be a good idea to patent it. So, I asked the Canadian government for a patent kit. I got everything in the mail about a week later. At the top of one of the booklets was something that said very blatantly, "Computer software cannot be patented. It's like trying to patent Newton's Method for solving equations."

    So, I guess one government has the right idea. You Canuck-bashing yanks have a thing or three to learn from us Canadians.
  • and plaster it all over the Internet. Other people can also tell when freedom is being taken away. They can be made to understand that the future of innovation (did I really just say that word?) and competition on the Internet is at stake.
  • Yeah, and I can get a lot more worked up about what RMS says than what Amazon sells. If RMS doesn't want me to shop there, well I've got the rest of the net to shop. Count me in. It's the least I can do to humor the crazy old guy. After Amazon's customer profiling and then this suit, RMS's word is just the third strike against them. I'm kind of surprised but I care more about him than any .com.



    Plus in the back of my mind is a weird thing from "Dune." The power to destroy the spice is the power over the spice. If we can destroy only one .com, we will have manifested some kind of power. My motives are petty and so naive, but it would be so cool to frag amazon.com.
  • I'm with you on this one.. If the report was that amazon was eating its babies, yeah i'd probably boycott it. But you don't go from user-friendly-large-site to evil-monopolistic-microsoft-type-company overnight. Along with that, there's no black and white in the industry, just many shades of gray..

    I think a letter writing campaign (it's sooo much easier when it's email :-) would be more effective in announcing to amazon that we think they're being really dumb. I think they are concerned enough about their image with the techie crowd that they *might* listen.
  • Check out http://www.tbtf.com/blog/1999-12-05.html#5
  • There is already something being done about the etoy/eToys suit. Here's the URL:

    http://rtmark.com/fundetoy.html [rtmark.com]

    --

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Of course, I was already Boycotting them after they recently sent me email of the form:

    ``Hi. Since you bought this CD [which I bought about 1 YEAR ago!] we thought you might like this other CD that is coming out in December.''

    Our school library is only allowed to keep on record the very last person who checked out a book (and that is stored in the record for the book, not the person), video rental places here (Las Vegas, NV) are not allowed to keep a record of which tapes you have rented, but Amazon.com keeps a list of everything I've bought from them and uses it to send spam. Oh just beg for a boycott why don't you.
  • To: feedback@amazon.com

    Dear Sir,

    Due to you US patent (5,960,411), I have decided to join the current boycott of
    Amazon that Richard Stallman ( http://linuxtoday.com/stories/13652.html )
    encoraged. Untill such time as this patent is revoked, I would not buy any product
    from your site, neither would I encorage anyone to purchace anything from there.

    Thank you.


    --
    /., please be polite in your mail to feedback.
    --
  • I once read a primer on patents. I remember it saying, that you cannot obtain a patent for a technology that has already been published. It also stated that there is a difference between europe and the u.s.

    The text suggested that a way to prevent competitors from patenting technologies crucial to you is to publish them in journals - that way the technology can never be patented and you don't have to spend huge amounts of money.

    But if the patent is obtained, someone still has to challenge it....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 13, 1999 @09:51PM (#1467816)
    One thing you can say about RMS--he does not "go"
    from issue to issue...I recall back in '89 or so, a friend of mine in college was really into the GNU manifesto, and showed me a copy of it in the yellow emacs book.
    I thought the manifesto was totally crazy, an idiotic idea...programmers working for free? Free software? What's that?
    But after these 10 years have gone by, I have to admit RMS was right...
    and the manifesto today (I pulled out my old emacs copy) doesn't seem crazy at all
    So the point is, RMS does not lightly change--few others could have stuck with principles this long...
    Now that I have Linux, and must use Windblows at work, I fully appreciate RMS and what he's done...
  • by copito (1846) on Monday December 13, 1999 @09:56PM (#1467820)
    No less a political philosopher than Thomas Jefferson had serious questions about patents and copyrights.
    It would be curious...if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, received instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

    From a commentary [asu.edu] by Tim Phillips on the unconstitionality of the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act. This commentary, and the entire site at http://www.public.asu.edu/~dkarjala/ [asu.edu] are well worth reading.

    Jefferson did not oppose patents and copyrights altogether, but viewed them as a means to provide incentive to invent such that society benefits. It seems that recent political rhetoric has leaned the other way, viewing intellectual property protection as the natural right of the corporate author rather than a temporary priviledge bestowed by society. This is particularily true in copyright law where at the current pace of copyright extension seems designed to prevent Mickey Mouse from ever entering the public domain.


    --
  • An open-source email? (Feel free to cut-and-paste, but change it so that it actually reflects reality.)

    --cut here--

    To: feedback@amazon.com
    From: [email account registered with Amazon]

    Subject: A notice related to the recent events involving your company.

    Hello,

    I will begin by saying that I have ordered plenty of merchandise, including books and toys. I love your web site, as it is very convenient. I have always received my orders quickly, and the service which finds used out-of-print books was a life saver. Currently, my wish list contains items for a total of over $200, and I was planning to purchase some of these items within the next 30 days, in time for the holiday season.

    To say that I am satisfied with your site would be a great understatement.

    It is with great sadness that I am writing to you to notify you that I will be taking my business elsewhere, as a result of your ignorant 1-Click patent and lawsuit. I also will be urging everyone I know to do the same. I think that enough arguments have been provided about your actions that I need not waste my time with any, as they will most likely be repeats. I am keeping my account active for now, in hope that you will change your mind about this matter.

    Sincerely,
    [My name]

    --cut here--

    --

  • by SurfsUp (11523)
    This is a "me too" post and I'm not ashamed of it.

    This is a stupid, obvious thing that Amazon has wrongly patented and is even more wrongly trying to enforce. We have to show them the "un-Slashdot effect", that is, the effect of thousands of geeks switching their business to Barns&Noble and Fatbrain.

    Patents are not inherently wrong; software patents are not inherently wrong; this kind of patent that relies on technically-clueless patent examiners and an even more technically-clueless court system is wrong and must be stopped. Otherwise, you'll soon find that you can't program anything without paying licences.
  • by Nafai7 (53671)
    Could someone explain *WHY* everyone so worked up about this? I've read the patent in question. It is more than a simple database credit-card lookup. Read it for yourself without spoutting out the usual mantra.

    But from a technical standpoint, no matter WHAT data you obtain, it's still a simple matter of looking up customer information based on a single key. I don't care if you store the customers family history, credit card num, employment info, retina scan, penis size or whatever else. It all links back to a customer code stored at amazon.com. This is so damn obvious it makes me sick.

    Secondly, Amazon is actually sueing someone here. This is DISTINCTLY different than playing bully demanding money for the patent rights (eg, LZW/GIF debate). If the courts determine that Amazon's patent is prior art or vague - then they lost the patent.

    Thirdly, patents *DO* have a place. People need to make money off their inventions. You can't make a living by spending years perfecting some hardware or software, then have your next door neighbor look at it and say, "Dang, thats obvious - i guess i'll rip off that idea and make millions without worrying about recouping the development expense. Thanks neighbor!"

    This is exactly what RMS is addressing. Do you not find it ironic that one of the richest internet companies owns the idea for something so obvious? We are discussing the very assertion that THIS IDEA IS AMAZON'S TO OWN.

    Now, if you disagree with the *LAW* of patents (duration of coverage, scope, etc) Then don't complain/boycott Amazon. Write your congressperson and explain, in a calm manner, the problems you perceive with patents in a rapidly advancing industry!

    Sorry, but the US Govt does not act in "internet time". By the time anything useful is determined (we are talking YEARS here), Amazon.com (or whatever ultra-rich internet meg-corp) would own all the "cool, unique ideas" available and everyone else would be under threats of lawsuits. It is a much better idea for us to protect ourselves, and a boycott is one of our best means for doing this.

    Think for yourself for once. Don't take RMS's word, think about it logically. This is just plain wrong.

  • The patent is invalid because it _is_ obvious. I don't understand how you can even know the context of the controversy if you are implying that amazon was the first to think of allowing a CC number to be stored in a cookie. Cookies had been used long before this patent, and the idiots in the patent office that let them slide this one accross need to be fired for incompetance.
    Barnes and Noble will win the lawsuit, but i think we can all let amazon know how we feel about it.
  • You hear something, you see something, and blend it in together with another random idea that hits you, and voila, instant 'idea'.

    Sometimes inventions are like that, a final brick in a wall composed of bricks provided by others. That helps explain why some inventions are independently invented by multiple people during a short period of time.

    I would argue that there are ideas and inventions that are so profound that the inventor deserves more than to be characterized as mental flypaper that reached critical mass. These are the ideas that require a special genius that can make a leap into new and undiscovered territory.

  • Well, we know that Amazon loses dollars on each book they sell. So they would lose less money.
  • No - the action of Amazon is extreme.

    For us in Europe they run a avery efficient service from England. I have used them regularly and have been impressed with their efficiency, but as soon as news of their action was published I wrote to them to explain why I had to stop doing business with them.

    It is just sad when a 'greedy' part of an otherwise good operation takes control.
    Carl Eriksson
  • The call for an Amazon boycott and the concomitant calls to end patenting "obvious" ideas or stopping "stupid patents" all betray fundamental misunderstandings of the nature of society and of human nature.

    Most people are interested in two things: themselves and their families. Under that is their friends, and then possibly society at large.

    Stallman has been arguing about patents for years, without any noticeable effect on burgeoning software patents. Here's why:

    Who controls whether a patent is awarded? The Patent Office.

    Is it in the best interest of a particular manager or bureaucrat there not to award a patent? No. The more patents awarded, the bigger and more important becomes that office. It is in the long-term financial best-interest of any particular USPTO employee to try and make sure as many patents are awarded as possible. (In fact, those who don't believe in software patents probably aren't working there anyway).

    So arguing or boycotting on slashdot won't affect USPTO decisions since it doesn't affect what really moves them - they are trying to feed their families and build a stable bureaucratic system.

    Once it's agreed that the patent office will award patents as much as they can, then we see it's in any company's best interest to apply for them. Once applied for, it's in their best interest to defend them. Similarly, as with any government entity, it's always in the best interest of that entity to expand, not to contract, its scope. So the whole legal apparatus - judges, lawyers, legislators - for all of these people, it's in their best interest to expand patents as much as possible without actually killing the entire net. It's true that such patents are not in the best interest of individual programmers not employed by large patent-hungry corporations in which they have equity. But this is irrelevant to the process of creating and upholding patents.

    In conclusion, the patent system, like any other government system that slashdot types like to rail against (drug control, gun control) will simply expand indefinitely. Occasional individual patents will get overturned, maybe the Amazon boycott will make a tiny difference, but there are thousands of such patents and in the long run it will make no difference.

    In conclusion, the patent system is a self-sustaining feedback system. No amount of slashdot posturing can change this. The patent system will continue to expand, and there is nothing slashdot or Stallman can do about it. Boycotting Amazon is like boycotting the ocean because floods kill people sometimes. Patents at this point are a natural force that cannot be stopped.

  • Some people are wondering what all the fuss is about, others are wondering why Amazon keeps getting singled out when there are other e-businesses out there with shifty practices.
    Amazon is generally considered THE model for doing business over the internet. (Whether Amazon actually deserves this reputation is irrelevant.) Other companies look at Amazon as the business leader. (This becomes obvious when you see market analysts using Amazon as a barometer for the Internet.) So when Amazon decides to abuse their privacy policy, sue over (internet) software patents, or other unethical behavior, it sends a message to other companies trying to figure out the e-commerce thing that "If Amazon can do it, so should we." Amazon is a corporate role-model, and elicits a sort of peer pressure on other companies. Yes, maybe stupid business policy, but it's an unfortunate fact that most web commerce sites are sheep trying to follow the herd.
  • by Robert Link (42853) on Monday December 13, 1999 @11:03PM (#1467866) Homepage
    I can see how granting patent privileges to inventors makes sense for inventions whose creation entails years of designing, building prototypes, blowing up prototypes, refining, rebuilding, testing, retesting, and going back to the drawing board many times before you finally get a workable invention. When the process involves a few weeks, or even a few months of coding I am a lot less sympathetic (and that is not to mention the more infamous software patents that seem to involve only a few minutes of coding). The investment that goes into such "inventions" simply isn't large enough to justify the patent privileges the "inventors" want to claim. Moreover, it isn't clear that what investment there is particularly needs to be "protected". Consider, unless you have released the source code to your software invention, your competitors will have to develop their own implementation from scratch. Unless their coders are substantially more talented than yours their investment is going to be at least as much as yours. Not only that, but they will be beginning their coding efforts while your invention is already in the market. It seems to me that the original inventor already has a huge advantage. Does he really need patent royalties on top of all that to ensure fair competition in the marketplace? Ask yourself, would Amazon have declined to develop "one-click" shopping if they didn't think they could patent it? I suspect they would have developed it just the same; the investment is small, and the return in the utility of the invention alone (that is, excluding any possibility of royalties) is more than worth it.


    And, make no mistake, you should be concerned (perhaps even "worked up") about the privileges being extended to these patent holders. What these people are doing is restricting the kinds of programs that you (yes, you) can write. They are saying that if you use "their" idea, then you (yes, you) have "stolen" that idea, even if you never saw or heard of their implementation when you wrote yours. They are claiming ownership not only over their own programs, but over broad classes of programs not yet written. In short, software patent holders collectively are doing their level best to ensure that nobody can write software except on their terms. When you think about it, these are powerful privileges indeed that we (that's right, us; ultimately the authority to grant patent privileges comes from none other) are granting patent holders, and in exchange we should expect some significant benefits. The truth is, that by and large we aren't benefiting from extending patents to software; in fact, it likely hurts the industry more than it helps it. It certainly favors established companies over new ones, as well as proprietary software over free (both of the "speech" and "beer" variety) software.


    So, if software patents are pernicious, then what is to be done? Writing to lawmakers, as you suggest is one possibility, but the legislative wheels turn slowly under the best of circumstances. Relying on the courts is no answer; they are too time-consuming and too expensive. You shouldn't have to go to court just to write software anyhow. Fortunately, we have another resource available. When we see a company behaving unethically we can and should refuse to do business with them. We can and should inform them (always politely, of course) of the reasons for our refusal to do business with them. This is the course that RMS is advocating, and everyone who cares about ending the abuses of the system would be well advised to follow it, in addition to any political action they might be planning.


    Of course, a boycott might not work. It may be that Amazon is to big, and we are too few. That is life; there are no guarantees. Nevertheless, pursuing the boycott costs us little: a few dollars more on our holiday shopping bills, if even that. It is a pittance, when you consider what is at stake. We cannot afford to let this pass unchallenged. We cannot afford not to stand up for ourselves.


    -r

  • by SamIIs (65268) <SamIAm&math,gatech,edu> on Monday December 13, 1999 @11:10PM (#1467868)
    Guys, don't just boycott a company. They might lose a little buisness, but they won't necessarily realize why. If you tell them you're boycotting, you can actually get your message across. Hell, I suppose you could just tell them that you're boycotting, and then keep buying, but that seems sleezy.

    I sent a message to info@amazon.com [mailto], feedback@amazon.com [mailto], and suggestions@amazon.com [mailto]

    Here's a copy. If you send a message (and I suggest that you should) PLEASE don't copy and paste my message. Paraphrase. Form-emails mean SO little. It's hard to get them to listen to email to begin with, without people copy-pasting.


    I'm sure you guys have heard about Richard Stallman's call for a ban on Amazon.com. If
    you haven't, I've taken the liberty of attaching the related web-page. Stallman is often
    outrageous and extreme, but I believe he's got a very good point here. The idea of even
    applying for that patent, much less having the nerve to try to enforce it, is absolutely absurd.
    Last year, my online book purchases totaled a little over $700. (One of the many wonders
    of ordering online is the ability to scan through my archives of old orders.) I think you guys run
    a nice page, and provide a good service. However, I think this boycott represents a legitimate
    cause, and there are too many alternatives for me to buy from a company I disagree with so
    strongly.
    I'm sorry to take my business to competitors, but your actions leave very little choice.
    Sam Greenberg

    http://linuxtoday.com/stories/13652.html

  • Someone here said everyone else had you filling out long forms and Amazon had "one click technology". This is basically Amazon's line as well.

    First, there is nothing very difficult about what Amazon is doing. Second, it's pretty damn obvious. Third, I don't believe Amazon was the first or only site to do this--I think they were just the first to *patent* it.

    The main reason why other sites don't do this, or didn't do this, was security concerns. Keeping that much information about you (all your financial data) in a cookie gives a lot of people the willies. If you were on some small web page and it was tracking your credit card, you might worry, and that might incline you not to supply the credit card.

    Amazon is just big enough that people trust them to have figured it all out and handled the security issues sensibly. I don't think this is deserving of a patent.

    Cookies were *designed* to track your identity between sessions. I don't see where Amazon should get a patent for something invented at Netscape.


  • Remember what Thomas Edison said: "Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration"

    Which is one of the best arguments I've heard for abandoning patents.

    If it takes 99% of the effort to replicate somebody's work than it does in the first place, that's the situation we want to be in. Without competition, capitalism fails. It costs their competitors virtually as much to join the club, yet Amazon has the critical first-mover advantage.

    Bryan
  • If you are thinking about buying from Barnes & Noble instead of Amazon, you might want to read this [word.com]. It is an interview with an Assistant Editor at the Monthly Review. There is an interesting section that describes how Barnes & Noble takes advantage of small publishers.

    The site [word.com] has many interesting interviews [word.com] with people in diverse occupations.

  • The current situation on trivial software patents is absurd. And I have great respect for Stallman and his work.

    However, I'm afraid I'm not going to boycott Amazon for this. They're just playing by the rules of the jungle - just like all the other hi-tech firms out there. Campaign to change the rules (please!) but Amazon aren't to blame here.

    I'm a Brit living in Switzerland and this year I've done most of my Xmas shopping with Amazon and they've done a darn good job. And my family have been generous enough to buy me a lot of the DVD titles I put on my Wish List (no doubt petent pending) at Amazon US. It all worked beautifully. I'm only sorry their UK branch doesn't (yet) stock the range that they have in the US. By comparison with Amazon the UK web efforts (www.pcworld.co.uk, www.jungle.com, etc.) are shambolic.

    I didn't mean this post to become an Amazon testimonial ... but, really, a boycott!? Better to boycott the firms that can't make a working web site, or "lose" orders, or rip off credit cards.

    As it happens, I have joined the eToys boycott - because I don't like how they handled eToy. (Compare and contrast the amicable settlement reached by Amazon with that bookshop). This has caused me some extra cost and inconvenience to me - even to the extent of me having to pick up a telephone and talk to someone. :-)

    Happy Holidays everyone. Stallman & Amazon included.

    Regards, Ralph.
  • To: info@amazon.com, feedback@amazon.com, suggestions@amazon.com,webmaster@amazon.com, webmaster@amazon.de
    Subject: Joining the boycott against Amazon
    Cc: amazon@gnu.org

    Dear Madam or Sir,

    As you probably know, Richard Stallman, the president of the Free Software Foundation, has called for a boycott against Amazon because of its patent claim on so-called "One-Click" technology and its lawsuits to enforce the claim.

    http://linuxtoday.com/stories/13652.html

    Although I have been a customer of Amazon in the past, I am joining the boycott. As a software engineer at an Internet service provider, I am fully aware of the lack of merit in Amazon's patent assertions -- and please don't insult me by claiming otherwise. The US Patent Office has done a dreadful disservice in granting almost every vacuous claim concerning software technology, but that does not excuse Amazon for this blatantly dishonest action.

    If you drop the patent claims, I will respond supportively by buying books from Amazon. But until then, I will do no business with you.


    Sincerely,
  • This page is really usefull, searches on lots of sites for the cheapest place to buy a book. Gives lots of alternatives to amazon:
    http://www.snmputils.com/booksearch/
  • I for one am _very_ curious to see whether his championing of the geek cause is just a pose of convenience. I don't believe for a second that Amazon is a substantial chunk of his income. Let's see him get some of that publicity he likes by publically repudiating Amazon and pulling his work off their shelves! Looking at it cynically, this could also be a very effective way to keep his name in the public view and spur interest in his writing.

    Well, Jon? We're waiting. What's it going to be?

    Personally, I just put my stuff online and allow people to read it. However, I'm more pleased than ever that I'm ordering books from a local bookstore as gifts this Xmas season.

    The guy who runs the bookstore (Mystery/Trek, in Brattleboro Vermont) is a good guy, smart, will talk your ear off for hours and knows his stuff and will order all sorts of things for you if he doesn't have them in. I've basically bought all the US pterrybooks from him.

    In talking with him I've learned about how he likes some distributors better than others- because some of them fund the big corporate bookstores and any money he gives them tends to go directly to stamping him and his little bookstore out through economic action and the 'network effects' we're so familiar with in the computer industry. I can't help but sympathise with this point of view, so it gives me particular pleasure to publically jump up and cry out GO BUY STUFF AT MYSTERY/TREK! Go forth and journey to the charming Mystery/Trek! Browse mystery, trek, gothic, thriller, science fiction and fantasy books both old and new, make a pilgrimage to... well anyway :)

    Seriously- if you have a local bookstore that doesn't totally suck, why not go there instead of to yet another random web site driven only by price? Go out and chat with a bookseller. A lot of them are book geeks and interesting people, and some are fascinating conversationalists like the guy at Mystery/Trek who can converse intelligently on lots of subjects. (Leave computers out of it- he knows little about them but instinctively mistrusts the usual thundering Windows hype, which is all he's really aware of. He does database searches through _microfilm_. Yes, it still exists :) )

    Anyhow... I'm still curious what Jon Katz's response to this is. Any chance of a statement? Or, God forbid, an article?

  • Weehhoo, repost fiesta!

    Here is a great site, you give it the ISBN# and it says where the book is cheapest. http://www.snmputils.com/booksearch/ [snmputils.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What can we do about this. Patents were put in place to protect capital investment. Intellectual capital is pocket change when compared to gearing up a factory.

    Can the patent system be restricted now, or is it too late?

    Could individual patent examiners be named in a lawsuit as their actions in granting bad patents can and do have a monetary effect on individuals and businesses? This would have a very nice chilling effect on the reckless granting of patents, and also do something about the PTO farm system...where a fresh lawyer goes in for several years and emerges a high-priced patent attorney.

    Would the industry put up with a restriction on software patents? A large number of 'tech' companies exist solely as a patent licensor. A few have a ton of cash and nothing but lawyers to keep the feed mill running.

    My feeling is it is far too late. A economic engine has formed around the system of software patents. Too many hands...more and more money... A voice echos in the wilderness...

  • What do you recommend for people like me? I'm curoius...

    I understand where you're coming from. Those of us who have the misfortune of living in the suburbs see problems like this all the time (mcdonalds, mcdonalds, everywhere).

    I would recommend encouraging other people to patron the independant bookstore, as well as give the people there advice on what would make them more competitive. More books, sure, but maybe they could get involved with being able to order books, quickly, for people if they don't have them. Or maybe they could have local bands play accoustic shows there to encourage people to shop there, things like that.

    Get people to boycott the large corporate bookstore, and to focus on the small, independant one, and the small independant one will be able to grow to meet the demand.

    Of course, there's always the more radical option (which I always prefer), which is to start your own bookstore. Get enough people together, and start a cooperative, that way no single person has to devote their life to it. It's a great way to meet people, too.


    Michael Chisari
  • ... I agree with a lot of the things he says ... but he somehow really annoys me with just about every pronouncement he makes.
  • The consensus of the discussion is that most will boycott. But that is just the consensus of those that wish to or dare to explicitly express their opinion.

    I would like to see a poll:

    Will you take part in a boycott of Amazon, as proposed by RMS?
    Yes
    No
    Wouldn't have bought from Amazon anyway
    sucks blah blah

    It would be great to see just how big Stallman's geek army is, and whether it contains the majority of /.ers or not. Of course it would still only contain the results of those that can be bothered to vote...
  • Amazon's real bottom line is their share price. If the boycott is picked up as important by investors , *then* it will affect them.
    What would happen if:
    a) People with shares in AMZN tell their brokers to sell, and mention the boycott/reasons
    b) People with investment plans tell their fund managers that they don't want AMZN shares in their trust, and explain reasons.

    Just imagine what the slashdot effect could have on a volatile internet share price?

    --
  • As soon as the news of the lawsuit broke, I sent the same email to Amazon and B&N, stating that if B&N fought the suit, I'd shop there and if they settled, I'd stay well away from both lousy companies. If Amazon does an about face and behaves to my satisfaction, I may consider shopping there again.

    Anyway, as has been pointed out several times here, neither Amazon nor B&N have the best deals. Taking your business elsewhere is no loss to you financially. You will have to enter your credit card info every time you order, though, because other booksellers aren't as innovative as Amazon ;->
    --


  • An interesting concept...but I don't think it's as general as you make out. For instance, "ideas" don't just apply to software and inventions. What about writers? If I have the "idea" of a great book and write it, surely I have the right to stop someone else copying it and making a profit? Even if they don't copy the thing verbatim I still own the story and "concept" behind the book.

    Likewise music, if I was a songwriter I'm not sure I'd be very happy if anyone could just come along, find a tune of mine they like, make a record from it and make a fortune, without paying me a penny.

    Just because some examples of patents are absurd (genomes, one-click shopping etc) doesn't nullify the concept IMHO, idea's are valuable and should be protected.

    As a closing point - if idea's are so "free" and could occur to anyone - why do some people have a lot more good ones than others? Why did Mozart start having great musical ideas when he was 5 and carry on for his entire life when others can hardly whistle a tune? There is something more at work here - I formly believe some people are "ideas people", some people are "do-ers", some are managers etc.

  • Valid patents and IP should be defended. Who appointed us judge and jury?

    We don't need a judge or a jury to tell us where to spend our money. We're talking about boycotting these people, not throwing them in jail.
    --

  • There's several places where you can compare the prices of books [yahoo.com]. For your amusement, here are links to an example comparison on those that I could get useful results out of.

    Best Book Buys [bestbookbuys.com]
    BookFinder.com [bookfinder.com]
    BestBookDeal.com [bestbookdeal.com]
    BookBlvd.com [209.54.41.193]
    DealPilot [dealpilot.com]
    BESTeDEAL.c om [bestedeal.com]

    Some links (which are not normally supposed to be bookmarkable, I guess) may become broken. Pick your favorite, and try them out with books that you're looking for in the future. Now all we need is a meta-meta-book search and you'd be set for sure!

  • Jolly good - perhaps I ought to do likewise.

    One thought though: if Amazon win the case for some strange and perverse reason, won't it just alienate us open-source type hackers as a bunch of weirdos, from the rest of the commercial world?

    Let's hope the judge isn't that easily bribable...
  • There is no way that any of these claims will ever hold up in court! All you guys are doing is making a laugh of your selves in front of the global community.

    Hey, despite the claims, they already have "held up in court." Barnes & Noble is presently subject to a Preliminary Injunction, an extraordinary step in a case of this kind. Significantly, counsel for Barnes & Noble, with virtually infinite assets at their disposal, were unable to produce any sufficient to avoid a preliminary injunction.

    The standard for a defendant to avoid a preliminary injunction --showing the absence of a substantial likelihood that plaintiff will prevail-- is much, much, much less than will be necessary to invalidate the patent on summary judgment or trial: to prove invaidity by clear and convincing evidence. The inability to satisfy the court at this early stage suggests that no readily available prior art exists.

    Perhaps something good will turn up in the months to come, but this isn't a good sign for those who "feel" that the patent is "obviously" invalid.

    It is common to see claims of invalidity being made in this forum. It is much more difficult to prove them. B&N couldn't even show that there is a cloud on the substantial likelihood of Amazon's patent being valid, let alone meet the burden of proof it would need to overcome at trial.

    If the claims are invalid, where is the prior art? When you see such claims, consider whether its based on the merits, ow whether its all just wishful thinking by a lockstep ideologue.

    Further, as to the superiority of patents across the pond, only time will tell if the foreign counterparts are found to be enforceable.

    I, for one, concur with the sense that the amazon claims "feel" too broad. But it is irresponsible to merely assert, without more, that the claims "will never stand up." Time will tell. So far, all evidence is to the contrary.
  • by Gurlia (110988) on Tuesday December 14, 1999 @03:55AM (#1467987)

    If you read the patent laws, you'll see that the original intent of the patent system is, indeed, simply to give an incentive for researchers to work harder and come up with new, creative ideas. How the patent system warped itself into its current state is conjectural...

    Perhaps it's because of the fallacious association of intangible things in the Information Age (eg. the Internet, software, software design (ideas), etc) with physical objects. OT1H physical analogies are necessary to convey the ideas and patterns behind the electronic world, however it is way too easy to make that jump to believe that these analogies are actual, physical descriptions of the electronic medium. Eg., regarding software as a physical or close-to-physical material object which can be owned, traded, etc.. In some respects software does exhibit such attributes; however, it is totally fallacious to think software behaves exactly the way physical property behaves. One such fallacy, for example, is the fact that it costs close to nothing to duplicate software. There are no real physical objects that behave in a similar way.

    The association of ideas with physically owned objects suffers from the same fallacies. Ideas behave much like software does -- they are replicated (in fact, without effort, as Jefferson points out!) in whoever hears them, and are next to impossible to erase once it enters the memory. Moreover, the conveyance of ideas does not detract any of itself from its originator. This is the key point IMHO. The copying of ideas is free. And the act of copying in no way harms the originator of the idea. (Save perhaps some ego loss when the originator of the idea isn't acknowledged.) It does not detract anything from the "owner". It does NOT behave like physical property -- which costs money and time to duplicate, and which thieves take away from the owner. You cannot really "steal" an idea -- you are merely making a copy of it.

    I'm rambling... but the point is, ideas and software are NOT the same as physical property and should NOT be treated as such. The spirit of the original patent system was NOT to enforce "intellectual property"; it was to give the originator of an idea a reward by granting him temporary control over his (non-physical) creation. It was never intended grant the power to withhold ideas from the rest of the world.

  • by Hard_Code (49548) on Tuesday December 14, 1999 @04:05AM (#1467997)
    While I agree that by making this absurd patent and then pushing it, Amazon.com is in the heinous here, I disagree a bit with your thoughts on originality. I respect and admire Stallman for his perseverence and standing up for his beliefs, and I think more people should be applauding him than deriding him. Who else is putting themselves on the line on these issues? Certainly not the critics.

    In any case, I have to differ in your perception of originality. Originality, by mere, definition is /not/ something that just happens as a natural consequence of previous steps. The _true_ original and spontaneous breakthroughs in history, you will find, did indeed often occur solely in one or a few people, /despite/ (not /due to/) outside influences. It is the one human brain which percieves something differently, that puts it over the edge. It is the one leap of inspiration. True original ideas aren't /developed/...they just /happen/. There are numerous examples throughout history. Some of the more popular ones:

    Einstein's theory of relativity. His thoughts were rather absurd at the time, and many people thought he was just another armchair crackpot. In fact, he WAS just another armchair crackpot. Only AFTER presenting his ideas on relativity, physics being a mere /hobby/ for him at the time, did he enter the scientific community appropos. Einsteins thoughts ran /against/ the current of modern thought, not as a natural consequence of it. Very few people, if any, hosted ideas like his at the time, and although he was probably influenced by physicists in general, I believe relativity was of his sole inspiration.

    Well, I can't think of any others off the top of my head, but the graph of scientific/technical progress is not a simple clean straight line - it is peppered with peaks of unique and radical and individual insights and ideas, of people thinking /against/ the norm.

    For this reason I believe that ideas are not such common property (perhaps why some people consider Stallman a "communist" - because he believes that ideas are common property?). We are not just vats that add a certain percentage on the intellectual rating of humanity. Each one of our brains and ideas are different and unique and have their own perterbations, perceptions and insights. Because of that, I do not think it is accurate to claim that original ideas are merely an amalgam of previous ideas and as such cannot be solely attributed to one person or entity. People who do truly have good original ideas should at least be recognized for them, even if not rewarded monetarily.

    Jazilla.org - the Java Mozilla [sourceforge.net]
  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday December 14, 1999 @04:22AM (#1468014) Homepage Journal
    Well, I've read the patent too.

    Sure, it's far more than credit-card lookup -- it basically describes an order entry system. Such a system may be exotic to the intern at the patent office who approved this one, but anybody who's been involved in transactions in any way other than as a retail customer won't find this original.

    If you call LL bean on the phone and order a pair of "Beans Best Red Suspenders (TM)", it's a fair bet that the person on the other end taking your call knows all about you -- where to send your order, what your monogram is, your waist size and inseam, etc. The only difference is that the Amazon system is self-service -- as all web commerce sites are. They take combine of a few public domain mechamisms that were specifically meant to create relationships between the client and server of various durations and -- voila! -- a patent.

    As far as the originality of the specific idea of storing credit card information to speed the transaction along, I can personally attest that the idea is definitely not original, having persoally been involved in numerous arguments over the years about whether this feature should be implemented. The marketing guys all have this idea and think it's wonderfully original because it isn't (or wasn't) all that commonly done. The accounting guys hate it because it makes them vulnerable to employee fraud -- which is why it wasn't all that commonly done back in the days when we still cared about protecting our customers from fraud.

    I can understand Amazon's complaint that it took thousands of hours to do there system -- good order entry systems are always hard to implement. However just because it is hard doesn't make it patentable.
  • by Tom Christiansen (54829) <tchrist@perl.com> on Tuesday December 14, 1999 @04:27AM (#1468017) Homepage
    Several of you have posted letters from Amazon confirming their irrepentance in claiming so profound an innovation as to merit a real patent. Given that incorrigible reaction out of them, it's unclear whether any simple letter-writing campaign or passive boycotting can hope to effect a change in their position. After all, they've invested money and image in their legal defence of this notion. Do you truly expect them to blithely throw out that investment?

    Many others of you have expressed your own incredulity as to the obviousness of the technology. This suggests another and probably a better way to combat Amazon: get the patent struck down as invalid. Software professionals are in the best position to provide evidence that this idea is obvious to someone in the field, and that it is hardly a new idea due to prior art.

    I've no idea whom you would send such supporting technical data, but if you can help provide tangible evidence of why the patent is invalid, this would appear to hold the potential for a more effective strategy than a passive boycott or mass-mailed letter-writing campaign could.

  • by Jamie Zawinski (775) <jwz@jwz.org> on Tuesday December 14, 1999 @12:06PM (#1468142) Homepage


    It's very unlikely that Amazon will be harmed by the loss of money caused by boycotters taking their business elsewhere. It is possible, but still unlikely, that the negative PR impact of a boycott might hurt them, or cause them to change their ways.

    What a boycott will do is make you feel better about yourself. And there's nothing wrong with that.

    I don't shop at Fry's because their service sucks and I am offended by the body-cavity search they give you on the way out. I don't rent from Blockbuster because they won't rent NC-17 movies. And now I don't shop at Amazon because I don't like their predatory business practices.

    It's completely rational to choose not to do business with companies that behave badly. Just as it is completely rational to choose not to do business with people who are rude, or stores that don't have the products you want.

    The really sad thing about this is that Amazon doesn't need to resort to such underhanded tactics. Amazon really does have a good store, and I think they would be successful on that basis alone, without having to resort to such dirty tactics.

    So I stopped shopping at Amazon the day I heard about their patent suit, despite the fact that one of my best friends is the guy who implemented ``one-click ordering.''

    Here is the letter I sent them:

    • Subject: patent suit ==> losing customers
      Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 11:57:53 -0700
      To: feedback@amazon.com [mailto]

      You have finally gone too far.

      When you started spamming me, I was irritated, but didn't much care, since at least you gave me a way to unsubscribe. When you started selling your customers' private information down the river, I was irritated, but didn't much care, because I'm not overly concerned about my privacy. But now you've finally lost me as a customer.

      Why? Because you asked for, and were awarded, a 17-year monopoly on the concept of "one-click shopping", because that idea is apparently such an innovation, such a breakthrough, that you never would have gone into business without the incentive of federally-mandated exclusive rights.

      As if that wasn't bad enough, now you are sueing Barnes and Noble for adding a similar feature to their web site. So much for the bullshit apology one often hears of "we only have patents for defensive purposes, in case someone bigger and stronger sues us for patent infringement first."

      Amazon.com is a great web site, far better than any other online store I've used. But I will not be using it again. I will either use other web sites, or make more trips to physical stores from now on.

      Convenience is nice, but I don't feel good giving my money to anticompetitive parasites who succeed because of their lawyers rather than the quality of their products and services.

      The real shame of it is that your services are *good*. You don't need to compete this way. It's sad, and sickening.

      Software patents are far more of a threat to competition and innovation than anything Microsoft has ever done.

      Goodbye.

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