Groundhog day: Leaflet for Software Patents

Ciarán O'Riordan ciaran at
Thu May 17 12:45:46 UTC 2012

I can't do any more on this.  Exams coming up.

Whichever intro is used, it should explain how swpats are bad for:

1. Free software - important for users
2. Software freedom - important for developers

1. Free software is harmed because swpats give an advantage to companies
   with money and lawyers.  This category is the least likely to
   spontaneously give freedom to users of their software.  Spontaneous
   offers of freedom (and pressure on large companies to also give
   freedom) comes from individuals, academics, hobbyists, and (to a
   lesser extent) SMEs.  Anything that helps big companies and harms
   small developers, will reduce the amount of free software in the

2. Software freedom is damaged because it becomes illegal to develop or
   distribute certain types of programs.

For FSFE both are important, but users might only see the value of #1,
and developers might only see the value of #2, so both should be

The harms of software patents can also be explained with two other
categories: 1. They add financial and legal risks to *all* software
development.  2. They specifically block the development of useful
software because (a) they block standards and (b) when a software
package gains a lot of users, *then* it becomes a target for either
patent trolls wanting money or big software companies wanting to kill

I think it's also important to ignore innovation.  FSFE has no mandate
to promote innovation.  If some reliable studies proved that swpats help
innovation, or if politicians were convinced that this was true, then
FSFE saying "Promoting innovation is important" wouldn't be helpful.  We
can leave that work to researchers.  FSFE's role is to say "They also
hurt free software and software freedom, and these are important!".

Some people will see freedom as a tradeable value.  (Do I want more
freedom if it will ruin the economy?)  To reassure those people, a
*minor* mention of not hurting innovation/SMEs/economy/other-stuff is

Last comments:

* Avoid words like "oligopolistic" - not everyone knows what exactly
  they are and how they affect software freedom / free software

* Words like "market" are difficult to use right.  The software *market*
  is just an incidental aspect of what FSFE cares about.

Hope that helps.  This groundhog is now going into hibernation...
Ciarán O'Riordan
+32 (0) 485 118 029

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