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While We Wait for a Decision in Bilski: Patent Absurdity, the movie
Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 12:28 AM EDT

Every day I check to see if there is any news about a decision by the US Supreme Court on In Re Bilski. I'm sure a lot of you do too, so while we wait, here's a 30-minute movie by independent filmmaker Luca Lucarini, Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system, made possible by a grant from the Free Software Foundation, on how we got into patent quicksand in the US:
Patent Absurdity explores the case of software patents and the history of judicial activism that led to their rise, and the harm being done to software developers and the wider economy. The film is based on a series of interviews conducted during the Supreme Court's review of in re Bilski — a case that could have profound implications for the patenting of software. The Court's decision is due soon...
You don't want to miss the movie, regardless of your views on software patents. Even if you love them, you will at least understand why software programmers almost to a man do not. It's under a Creative Commons license, so you can share it with your friends and with the world. EndSoftwarePatents is asking for help with subtitles in as many languages as possible, so that's a lovely project for the weekend, if you have the skills.

It explains how software patents came to be allowed, and it is explained by folks you've read about and trust, like Dan Ravicher, Eben Moglen, Richard Stallman, Ben Klemens, James Besson, Ciarán O'Riordan, and Mark Webbink. I think you'll enjoy it a lot. Ben uses a blackboard to explain a real patent eHarmony obtained, and it's both hilarious and memorable. Here's where you go to download it, in various levels of quality. It was made with free software, by the way, including my beloved Audacity.

Update: Here's a transcript in English for those who are deaf or just want to read it rather than listen and watch. It's part of a project to create subtitles in various languages.


While We Wait for a Decision in Bilski: Patent Absurdity, the movie | 249 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
While We Wait for a Decision in Bilski: Patent Absurdity, the movie
Authored by: Lazarus on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 01:00 AM EDT
According to SCOTUSBLOG, there are a lot of decisions due out
Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Darl McBride: The Uwe Boll of the business management world.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections Thread
Authored by: bugstomper on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 01:01 AM EDT
Please put error->correction or s/error/correction/ in the Title box for ease
of scanning

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Picks Thread
Authored by: bugstomper on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 01:03 AM EDT
Pick your News here, title of the News you've Picked in the Title box and HTML
clicky links in the text

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic threads
Authored by: bugstomper on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 01:04 AM EDT
Please stay off topic and use HTML clickies for everyone's convenience

[ Reply to This | # ]

COMES goes here
Authored by: bugstomper on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 01:06 AM EDT
I sure there is more to Come. Remember, use HTML markup but post as Plain Old
Text so PJ can simply copy and paste.

[ Reply to This | # ]

mplayer has trouble playing this, but vlc does not.
Authored by: Redcedar on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 02:39 AM EDT
I first tried playing the video with mplayer. Mplayer seemed to have trouble
with the slides in the video. It didn't seem to know when to move on. Vlc
played it okay.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Undue influence
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 03:59 AM EDT
A core point in this documentary is that software patents favors patent lawyers
and patent trolls at the expense of pretty much everybody else.
That these relatively few people can have so much (negative) influence on a core
industry is alarming.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The chances are not good
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 05:02 AM EDT

It's clear that software patents harm the economy, deter innovation, and encourage non-productive rent-seeking by patent trolls. Not being trained in law, I'll leave the legal arguments to others. However, two facts make me pessimistic about the outcome of this case.

  1. Lawyers as a class benefit from software patents, because software patents increase employment of lawyers. Of course judges, especially SC Justices, are above all that, but they are bound to have a natural sympathy for the profession they grew up in.
  2. The current Supreme Court has already shown itself to be very friendly to large corporations, in its recent campaign-finance ruling. The obvious harm resulting to the community was ignored in that decision.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Does not play in a standard Firefox 3.0 installation on Linux
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 07:27 AM EDT
Its only encoded in HTML5 or Ogg/Theora. While I can understand the push for
only open formats, if this is the type of video that you want everyone to see
then everyone should be able to view it. I have a strong feeling that the people
who need to see it the most will not be able to view it online and when they get
to the download page (which expounds the benefits of Ogg/Theora) will just give
up. PUt a version on Youtube and make it more universally viewable.

[ Reply to This | # ]

While We Wait for a Decision in Bilski: Patent Absurdity, the movie
Authored by: dio gratia on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 07:47 AM EDT
There are people out there with a sufficient understanding of music to do the
nifty little transform of the Beethoven at the end, leaving the bell tolls.
You'd think that would speak to obviousness when a PHOSITA musician can do

[ Reply to This | # ]

Blog with anonymous replies - US Patent 8,635,245
Authored by: YurtGuppy on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 04:20 PM EDT

just joking! (probably)


just swimming round and round

[ Reply to This | # ]

A much better question about the outcome - can some comment?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 04:21 PM EDT
ok, so let's go to step 2 of this process.

say for the sake of this post that the supreme court says software cannot be
patented - a goal a lot of us and others want. but wait a second, you need to
think about step 2.

what happens then? what is the way to "Fix" this?
by this I mean, millions of dollars have been spent, there is a whole federal
circuit court setup JUST for software patents and there are thousands of lawyers
and firms just for the handling of software patents

such a ruling would put those legal firms out of business, ok it might be good
for you and me, but it's not really fair to them, be it right or wrong.

How do you rectify this situation without doing undo harm to the ecology that
has been setup around this?

Even if you say, ok, software patents are not legal, and they're going to be
phased out over 5 years, for example.

I believe software patents are wrong, and they need to die a quick painful
death, however, how do they do this in a way that doesn't cause irreparable harm
to the economy, etc?

[ Reply to This | # ]

while interesting its incomplete
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 04:33 PM EDT
there was a section where eben talked about putting patents on music in the
1700's that would have stifled music of bethoven by the 1800's

um didnt that come into being copyrights and tha also plays on it as well, were
seeing that labels tha dont invent anyhting or create anyhting take art and over
commericalize it and take peoples rights away while trying to over protect it.

14 year copyrights is what it started at.
14 years of YOU with absolute control and money.
Easily solved by not allowing labels and or NON individuals form owning them.

US poor folk well were stuck with 14 years and a day but were not thusly stuck
so far back in the past that its irrelevant or SO outdated ( most of the public
domain releases were 1840's crap.... LOL )

and while i too agree that software development could use the NO SOFTWARE
PATENTS, until they also deal with copyright(s) and terms and such at same time
, none of this pipe dream will happen. IT will go and go till no one can or
wishes to afford to pay. THATS when it breaks for good.
THAT day is coming....the numbers are growing fast for linux does that tell you

[ Reply to This | # ]

While We Wait for a Decision in Bilski: Patent Absurdity, the movie
Authored by: achurch on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 05:32 PM EDT

FWIW, I've just completed a Japanese subtitle list (here, UTF-8 encoded), which naturally includes a transcription of the English as well. Someone could probably use it to compile an English-only transcript if they were so inclined.

Me, I'm going to sleep. If I'm not already there yet.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Warnign to all BCE and CAIP dsl users of canada
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 17 2010 @ 06:50 PM EDT
DO NOT download the video or the torrent
as soon as you do BCE on the back end will throttle you back to 60Kbytes a
second speed

I have explained this PJ to the powers that be including my ISP and because its
a public torrent they shape it , funny they dont shape the direct download BUT
if you get that they still will put you into shape mode for at least 2 hrs

NICE isn't it

and you people think canada is full a pirates at 60Kbytes a sec we must be
hoarding tons

[ Reply to This | # ]

"The Law May Upset Reason, But Reason May Not Upset The Law"
Authored by: sproggit on Sunday, April 18 2010 @ 08:15 AM EDT
We've all come across that quote, right?

From the moment that the door was wedged open, the software patent debate was
never going to be resolved purely on the basis of a valid and prevailing
argument against their existence.

There are several reasons for this [in no particular order]

1. The US Domestic Lobby (Monopoly Guarantee)
From the perspective of a non-US Citizen, the impression one gets of US politics
is that the lobby group with the biggest budget tends to get to write the laws
and make the rules. That may be inaccurate and unkind, but in the US, the UK and
many other so-called "democracies", the rules seem to be written
during shady deals, behind closed doors. For software patents, this means that
companies including Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Intel and others are able to
use their combined patent arsenal to prevent new players from muscling on to
their turf. Whatever software patents were intended to provide, they are instead
being used for exclusionary tactics. Unless or until that capability is removed,
software patents are here to stay.

2. The International Effect
The US likes to think of itself as a "world leader". If the US can
convince other countries that software patents are a good thing (just look at
the lobbying happening in Europe at the moment) then automatically all those
thousands of US software patents go global in scope. Domination of the US
software marketplace becomes "Global Domination of Software) and the
software patent system will be used to exclude competition the world over.

3. The (Lack Of) Doomsday Effect
As the report says, software patents have been around since the mid-1990s. The
world as we know it hasn't ended. Yes, large companies have spent more money on
patent lawyers. If they didn't spend it on patent law, they would only have
spent it on something else, anyway. Simply because we haven't had a meltdown,
anyone opposed to software patents is going to face an uphill struggle that gets
harder with ever passing day.

4. The Unprovable Negative Effect
Remember "The Art of 'No' Management"? It's the idea that if a Manager
says "No" to every request received, they can get by just fine. If
they refuse spending on an item and no disaster occurs, then their strategy of
inaction is proven. If they refuse spending and something does go wrong, there
is still no concrete proof that the spending would have solved the problem
anyway. In translation: merely saying "It would be better without software
patents" is an unprovable position and therefore an untenable one.

For the above 4 reasons, we may have to accept that software patents are going
to be around for a while. But that does not mean that it has to be the end of
the world.

Unpalatable though it may be, it's possible that there are analogies between
software patents and nuclear weapons. The Cold War brought us "MAD" -
Mutually Assured Destruction - the idea that if one side (Western Allies or
Soviets) pressed the nuclear button, the result would be the end of life on
earth. Because of that no-win position, nobody pushed the nuclear button (at
least, not yet). The software patent argument is more subtle than this, because
it *is* possible for a company with a large software portfolio to attack a
smaller rival with relative impunity.

I see one potential scenario in which the strangle-hold of software patents may
be broken, but it's unlikely and may be unpalatable to many.

It would occur if a major country - like China or India, for example - realised
that it could have a flourishing and productive software industry and that the
only thing holding it back was the US dominance of software patents.

If that nation - or a group of nations - were able to go before the WTO - World
Trade Organisation - and say, "Look, if the US wants to play silly with
software patents on US soil, that's their call, but we won't have this imposed
internationally..." then by insisting on sticking with software patents,
the US would potentially place herself at a disadvantage when trading with other
countries. Those nations not so encumbered would encourage innovation in
software, until such time as the local product out-performed US technology. That
would create the tipping point that would result in the collapse of the US
software industry...

Unfortunately, that scenario is extremely unlikely to ever happen (I fear that
US dominance of international institutions including the WTO and World Bank is
too strong).

But without it, the free software world faces a considerable and rising
challenge. There is likely one more thing that software patents have in common
with nuclear weapons. Just as the "fuel" or "munition" in
nuclear weapons is an incredibly toxic and lethal poison that cannot be safely
dismantled, with an effective lifespan of tens of thousands of years, so the
likely fallout from a few years of software patents could easily have
far-reaching effects, particularly in areas we may not easily foresee.

Here's a completely different example of monopolistic effect... In the UK, £4
out of every £7 spent on the "high street" goes to a retail company
called Tesco. They own and operate supermarkets and other stores. Over the last
20 years, the dominance of supermarkets has contributed to other changes in
society, including...

1. High Streets have imploded. Independent retailers and smaller stores have
been wiped out. Choice has been removed and prices have risen drastically as a
result of the elimination of competition on the high street.

2. Other markets have been impacted. At first it was just food and groceries.
Then the supermarkets built gas stations on their land - to the extent that now
90% of fuel in the UK is sold by just a tiny handful of vendors. Another
no-choice, closed-rank cartel.

3. Suppliers have been squeezed or eliminated. Farms, for example, have been
wiped out by supermarkets. Farmers are forced to accept whatever prices the big
supermarket chains want to pay, trade at a loss and go bust. The supermarkets
buy the farms and install cheap imported labour - and own the entire supply
chain. They also have the political clout to influence planning decisions and
get permission to build on land that original, private farm holders could not
have achieved.

In short, in the last 15 years, although you can still buy food in the UK,
choice has been seriously eroded, quality is no better, and a very small number
of organisations are making huge, huge profits. But the really scary thing is
the immense control and influence that *food retailers* can have on the
distribution industry, the petroleum market, the clothing market, electronics
and "white goods", farming, etc, etc, etc. Dominance in one market
sector was leveraged and monopolized to the detriment of other things.

Likely that software is going to go the same way, with that process seriously
accelerated as a result of software patents.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Criticism of the film
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 20 2010 @ 06:37 AM EDT

[ Reply to This | # ]

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