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Red Hat Linux Summit Day By Day 59

Joe Barr writes "NewsForge (also owned by OSTG) has complete coverage of the second annual Red Hat Summit, covering everything from the announcements of Mugshot and 108, Eben Moglen's inspirational and FUD-countering defense of free software and the GPL, to One Laptop Per Child's Nicholas Negroponte asserting that Intel is 'pissing on us.'" From the defense of Free Software: "He spoke primarily about freedom, and the American legacy inherent in free software. He reminded us that there was a day when the word 'yankee' was not automatically preceded by the word 'damn' or followed by the words 'go home.' In fact, he noted, it was once most often followed by the word ingenuity. He also spent a lot of time discussing patents, and explaining why they were added to our legal system so that the world's brightest, most creative people, would move here. Today, however, Moglen says, 'the patent system is an unbridled and unnecessary headache.' He then went on to describe how patents stifle innovation and creativity today. "
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Red Hat Linux Summit Day By Day

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  • by packetmon ( 977047 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @06:03PM (#15463533) Homepage
    the patent system is an unbridled and unnecessary headache. I think the patent system just needs revamping to conform to today's rapid changes. The fundamentals of the patent system is to protect the author's idea and inventions. Without it many corporations with deep pockets could possibly collapse since their intellectual property would be carbon copied dissolving their efforts and work. I'm not one "for big business" on an abusive scale, but I can empathize with them. If I had my own business and paid someone a lot of money for their ideas and creations, I should be entitled to the benefits of them. Without someone to intervene, businesses could collapse, economical and industrial warfare would be off the meter. For someone in the business world to wish away the patenting system is irresponsible. Much to much economical damage could occur from it. When an economy is damaged to an extreme the snowball effect tends to lead to poverty, crime, disease, etc. I don't know where this guy's head was at when he made his comment.
  • by madcow_bg ( 969477 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @06:10PM (#15463556)
    I guess he means software patents. And everybody on /. knows they are *EVIL*.

    No, really. They are. I am mathematican and I think it is just plain STUPID to have algorithms patented. So, I cannot think a certain way? Just because someone else did? And (with patents) even though I did it first???

  • by nlago ( 187984 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @06:20PM (#15463594)
    Free Software, at least for a part of this community, is a matter of principle, ethics, morality, you name it. Unfortunately, such approach to free software is currently not very fashionable.

    Yet, I believe we are headed for some serious turbulence in the not-too-distant future, and the "use the best tool for the job" crowd, the "I use it because it is free (as in beer)" crowd or even the corporations currently making money from free software are not going to be the ones solving the difficult technical/legal problems that are to come for software to be truly free. It will be the idealistic crowd. And that's why we need, more than ever, a lot of evangelization.

    According to TFA, Moglen's speech was the only one not "business"-focused; all the other speakers addressed "the wonders of open-source software", as a means of making money while involving a community (which means "reducing costs"). While there is nothing wrong with that, it is important to realize there are ethical reasons for some people to spend a lot of time on something that is not reverted to them in the form of money.

    When difficulties arise, are these companies to back-up the free software community, investing developer and lawyer time, or are they going to go the short-term solution of reverting to the closed-software business model? While expecting moral decisions on the part of a company is unreal, it may make business sense to stick to free software, specially if there is a strong enough community behind it to actually have an influence on the market.

    Of particular importance, IMHO, is the GPL v3 subject. A lot of ignorance, misinformation, prejudice and even FUD seems to be currently associated with GPL v3. The new GPL is going to be very important, but the community needs to understand it *correctly* ASAP. And I surely hope more *accurate* stuff is written about it, and Moglen is probably the person to do it.
  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @06:28PM (#15463614)
    in just about all cases, the infringement when it comes down to algorithms and similar patents, comes from the use of the algorithm to mimic an already invented program.

    You should really check the JPEG patent case, the EOLAS patent case, the "algorithm" of e-commerce patent cases, the "three-columns interface" patent of Creative sues Apple case and more and more.

    Half of those have no product involved. The other half has patented ridiculously basic stuff you can't call an algorithm even if you tried real hard. What they do, is wave their patents in court and go after the successful businesses, since they have the money to pay up the ransom.
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @06:49PM (#15463670)
    I was sitting around one day, cold, damp and miserable. Then I had a brainstorm - fire is hot! Perhaps if I could find a way of creating a small fire at my own will I could get; and remain, dry and toasty.

    The exhaltation soon passed, however, when I realized I wouldn't benefit from this because anybody else could use my idea as well.

    And that's why we're all sitting here, cold, damp and miserable today when if we only had a patent system you could all be paying me a tribute to be dry and toasty.

    Damn I hate being cold and damp. I wish I could just build a fire. You guys suck.

  • by NetSettler ( 460623 ) <> on Saturday June 03, 2006 @07:03PM (#15463714) Homepage Journal

    The fundamentals of the patent system is to protect the author's idea and inventions

    Actually, the patent system does not protect ideas. No intellectual property does. The patent system protects a way of doing something useful and novel as a way of incentivizing creation. The problem is that ways of doing things are being cranked out so fast that their very speed of being cranked out is a prove of non-novelty, yet people are capitalizing them economically as if they were a proof of "infringement", which they often are not. That an idea about how to do something is easy to recreate should be proof of non-novelty and a defense against infringement, not a source of income. And that's why the software patent system is broken: because in the digital marketplace, a lot of the good algorithms are practically forced. It's like giving patents on addition and subtraction, when you know these ideas would come anyway.

    I agree that software patents are an unnecessary headache, but I think it's because software patents are just different than things like material process patents, and I propose dealing with them very differently, more like the Nobel prizes [], but I'm not so sure I have a strong position on patents in general, as long as they run in a reasonable period of time and don't start doing like copyrights where they keep getting extended all the time to last closer and closer to forever.

    It bugs me though, that people move so fluidly between discussions of software patents and discussions of GPL as if it were all one kind of thing. Copyrights are protections of work done, and the likelihood that two people will write the same software system is close to zero, so there's little harm in protecting the expression of someone's program. If they want to let someone use it, let them. If they don't, let that person write something else.

    I don't see that someone's copyright protection infringes the world, since recreation of an idea in another form is not an infringement, only direct copying. It's the fact that patents make even independent creation into an offense that makes it a problem where copyright is not. People who need to get around a copyright can just head to a clean room and work their way through. People who need to get around a patent can't even claim as a defense "we raised the authors on Alpha Centauri and they never heard of this patent, so couldn't have infringed it". In fact, I suspect the whole patent system will necessarily collapse as soon as we open trade relations with another intelligent race, who will surely have a different theory of what has and has not been invented and will think different things to have "prior art" (not to mention different things to be "obvious"). When is First Contact scheduled for again?

  • by theonetruekeebler ( 60888 ) on Sunday June 04, 2006 @10:23AM (#15466294) Homepage Journal
    The fundamentals of the patent system is to protect the author's idea and inventions.

    Close, but there's a critical flaw in that oversimplification. Patents, like copyrights, were designed to strike a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of everybody else. But like any other legal fiction, the concept of "intellectual property" has been distorted far beyond its original intent, in the ways most profitable to those who already profit from it.

    Patent systems were meant to help you protect your invention and make it exclusively yours for a limited time. After that, it belongs to everybody. You invent something, and make what money as you can, then a few years later it's just another thing anybody can use.

    But patents expire. After you've been protected from us, the rest of us are now protected from you. This is good. If you don't think it is, consider what the world would be like if one big company that still held a patent on "the use of electrical signals to convey a message."

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.