The idea of handling back the controls to the driver whenever the car encounters a situation it can't handle any more is patently absurd.
That's how every autopilot system works. It's the only failure mode that aircraft engineers have deemed appropriate in decades of development. What better solution is there?
I suspect that you got "patents" and "copyrights" mixed up here. Your sentence is the classic way of explaining what a "copyright" is: "Copyright doesn't cover an idea -- it only covers the expression of an idea." Patents very much cover the whole idea. For example, nobody can use the idea of one-click-purchasing on a web site without infringing Amazon's patent. Even if you write all the code yourself, you're still in violation of the patent by using just the basic IDEA...
No, I did not mix them up. You're missing the entire distinction at issue here: Copyrights cover expression, patents cover implementation. All of your examples of patents describe prohibitions on the *use* of ideas, not on the communication of the ideas themselves. In fact, the whole purpose of the patent system is to encourage free public dissemination of the ideas underlying the patent - in exchange for a monopoly on the actual use of those ideas in the real world. Amazon does not own the *idea* of one-click purchasing. You can talk about it all you want, theorize about it, come up with improvements to it; whatever. What you can't do is actually put it into use. You can patent a method of producing a molecule, or a specific use for a molecule, but you can't patent the idea of the molecule itself. Everyone else can still draw it, talk about it, analyze it, make it using other methods or use it for other purposes, and do anything else they want with it - as long as they don't do the specific thing your patent covers. They can talk about your patented thing; they just can't actually DO your patented thing. Software, by itself, is merely an idea. An expression (in all senses of the word). That's not the stuff of patents. A patent may keep you from using software to do something, but should not prevent you from writing the software in the first place.
Look. I see EFF lawyers saying code is speech and is protected. And I see EFF lawyers saying code is math and is not eligible for patent protection and sometimes not even eligible for copyright protection. I want an EFF lawyer to explain their stand on how these three mechanisms apply to code before this story gets posted AGAIN and it had better be consistent.
It's not the EFF that's inconsistent, it's the law. Things that are patentable (functional devices or systems) are not copyrightable (creative works of expression), and vice versa. The two systems are inherently designed not to overlap. That's why the EFF and others are upset about the apparent overlap in practice with respect to software. The EFF's perspective is that treating software as a functional device is wrong. It's speech, math, creative expression, a literal set of instructions, but not a "thing" which "does" something itself. Therefore, it is inappropriate to handle software through the patent system. To put a finer point on it, patents cover implementations of ideas, not the ideas themselves. You can't patent the idea of a new invention - you can only patent an actual implementation of it. The EFF's position is that software is strictly an idea, a communication of instructions. The instructions themselves are not functional or even tangible and therefore should not be patentable. Just like any other written information, it should be copyrightable if and when it constitutes a creative work. That's the EFF's argument, and it's a good one. And it is entirely consistent with their position in this amicus brief.
So writing this shit is what attorneys do all day.
Nah, just in the mornings. Afternoons are full of golf with politicians, smoking expensive cigars in private clubs, and drinking scotch with reclusive business magnates.