Meeting with a political person

Loic Dachary loic at
Fri Jan 18 18:28:44 UTC 2002

[France specific but in english to share with everyone]


	That's is likely to be the strangest report I ever sent ;-) In
order not to be exploited by the media, the person I met today is not
willing to be named. And for that matter, it is not of great
consequence.  What really counts in my eyes is the experience and
outcome of talking to someone who has a significant political

	When preparing the meeting earlier today, I knew the central
subject would be software patents and Free Software. The person was
already aware of both subjects. We were connected thru a friend of
mine, willing to help us fight against software patents and to promote
Free Software.  This friend researched during months to arrange the
meeting, carefully chosing a favorable ground. A contact with a
friendly political person but with no real power would be
useless. Talking to someone with no understanding of technological
matters would require too much time to be effective and the outcome
would be hard to predict.

	Shortly before the meeting I called Jaime Villate (PT) and
Georg Greve (DE) over the phone in order to make sure I was not missing a
last minute event regarding software patents. I failed to reach other
people and that was my mistake. I should have done this the day before
and I would have had a chance to get in touch with more people to cover
all European countries. There should be a list of people in each country
to call when a volunteer manage to get such an appointment.

	Such a meeting is like an examination. I had little time
(1 hour) and the following things had to be done:

	A) Explain the subject (Free Software + software patents)

	B) Find a common ground on which to continue the relationship

	C) Expect the person to ask me to do something.

	D) Arrange another appointement

	A) Was the easiest part.

	- Explain who I represent (in this case FSF Europe and APRIL
	  specificaly and the Free Software movement at large).
	- Outline how many people, governements, companies are concerned
	  by Free Software and software patents.

	- Tell the history of Free Software, grounding it in 
	  ethical and moral motivations, starting in 1984 with technical
	  and social results in education, science and industry.
	- Explain why software patents are bad, both for Free Software
	  and for proprietary software. State that they should not
	  become legal in Europe. Although there is a lot of pressure,
	  the situation is not desperate: politicians can stand against
	  it. The EPO coup may even help prevent a decision to legalize
	  patents, if exploited correctly.

	- Show the FFII horror galery. 

	- Advocates who are against software patents and serious
	  studies demonstrate that software patents prevent
	  inovation. Many people Europe wide (90 000) and companies
	  (200) signed the Eurolinx petition. An average of 80%
	  companies are against software patents.

	- Pro-patents never argue that software patents help
	  inovation, they claim that it helps small companies protect
	  their inventions and that Europe must follow the US & Japan
	  policy to prevent isolation. Explain that small companies
	  will never win against the major patent holders (exchange of
	  patents).  Explain that if software patents become legal in
	  Europe US & Japanese companies will invade it with the patents
	  they already hold and takeover the European software industry.
	  Since software patents prevent inovation, not allowing them
	  in Europe is indeed an advantage over US and Japan. An advantage
	  we would lose by legalizing them. Refusing software patents is
	  not being protective, it means being stronger.

	I also prepared documents to give to this person at the end of the

	Software Patents in Europe

	European Software Patents: Assorted Examples

	Juridical Coup at the European Patent Office

	Leaflet about APRIL + FSF Europe + Free Software (Robert Chassel text)

	Plus a business card in exchange of which the person gave me another
business card.

	B) We had many discussions with my friend to figure out why this
person would be interested to be involved in the Free Software and software
patent issues. As an individual, this person could be convinced of the 
values attached to Free Software and the threat software patents represent.
However that was not enough: I was also talking to someone with a political
job to do. How Free Software and software patents can fit in this person's
agenda ? My friend suggested to compare the software patents issue to the
genome patent issue. 

	- There is an urgent need. Software patents may become legal soon,
	  we can prevent it by acting now. Acting later will be much harder.

	- The public, although in a restricted field, is against software
	  patents. A statement against software patents and for inovation
	  would have a positive impact on the public.

	- Software patents would harm inovation in the software field. France
	  is not in a too good shape regarding inovation, specially in this
	  field. We do not want to make the situation worse, we want to 
	  improve it by refusing software patents. A statement against 
	  software patents would have a positive impact on the managers of
	  software companies.

	What really happened is that I forgot to suggest the parallel
with the genome patent issue. But the person did find similarities
anyway and acknowledged that it would fit on the agenda. My mistake
was auto-corrected ;-)

	C) This is the delicate moment. If, by the end of the meeting
the person did not ask for anything, that would have meant that the
subject was of no interest and that the meeting was not conclusive.
Fortunately the person suggested me to:

	- Contact other political persons and raise the issue in the same
	  way. I can ask for help if getting an appointement turns out to
	  be difficult or postponed for too long.

	- Publicly ask to political people to state their position on this

	D) We arranged an appointement 15 days later, to talk about
the work done.

	I hope this report will help and inspire people to try a
similar approach.


Loic   Dachary  loic at
12 bd  Magenta      loic at
75010    Paris         T: 33 1 42 45 07 97          loic at
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