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Red Hat on Patents and Der Spiegel on EU, MS, and Patents
Sunday, August 08 2004 @ 08:39 PM EDT

Red Hat's Chairman and CEO Matthew Szulik spoke at LinuxWorld in San Francisco about patents and copyrights and the danger he sees to software, particularly FOSS, if current laws are not fixed, something he pledges his company will work to achieve. If you'd like to hear that part of his speech, and you don't mind using RealPlayer, you can on ZDNet.

I wonder if ZDNet will ever consider adding Quicktime Player and Ogg Vorbis for the rest of us, non-Windows users, who are interested in videos about Linux and would enjoy being able to use what we normally use for playing videos? If you want to cover stories about our operating system, would it not make sense to make it available in our format? If you want hits from us, that is.

Der Spiegel has an article too, in German, of course, highlighting the danger that patents pose to Linux and GNU/Linux systems, and positing that Microsoft intends to use patents as a deliberate weapon to try to kill off their competition. They say Linux is to Microsoft what James Bond is to the villains in the movies -- the only thing blocking their world domination. I have a computer translation of some snips from the ariticle, which I tried to make sound more human, but if you can provide a better translation, please do.

The spotlight is on Microsoft now, where it belongs, on the patent issue. And judging from the article in Der Spiegel, the world believes that they plan on using patents as an anticompetitive weapon. Are monopolies allowed to do that? If Microsoft goes forward now, the whole world is watching and understanding what the various moves here and in Europe are all about.

Whether we can prevail over this threat is yet to be seen, but at least they can't any longer pursue such a strategy in the dark, here or in Europe. Have you noticed that Microsoft has yet to speak? I, for one, would like to hear what they say about IBM's pledge not to sue Linux over any of their patents. What does Microsoft say? Will they make a similar pledge? If not, why not?

While you are at ZDNet, you might want to listen to Microsoft's representative speak glowingly about SP2, which is delayed but has a firewall that blocks some incoming threats but can't yet block anything outgoing. They are working on it, he says. I find that hilarious. Maybe they need to deploy more of their money on solving security problems instead of filing patents to try to kill Linux.

Here are some portions from the article:

**************************************************

Linux is to Microsoft approximately what James Bond is to the bad guys is in the movies: the only barrier blocking them from world domination. . . . So Microsoft allegedly pumped many millions of dollars to a software company named SCO, which plotted a legal crusade against the open source movement.

The example illustrates drastically the danger software patents pose. SCO asserts rights to sections of the Linux system. SCO boss Darl McBride, a pious Mormon from Utah, who emerges at conferences protected by bodyguards, sued Linux supporter IBM for three billion dollars in damages. The process has continued for over one year. . . .

License disputes like these are in America everyday life. That is because of the large range of software patents: They create exclusive rights not only for code lines of a program, but for its methods. . . .

The American model could be adopted in Europe, if the patent guidelines, as decided by the European Union Council of Ministers, are accepted. The European patent office anyhow already recognized several thousand software patents without unique legal basis. If the European Union accepts their guidelines, then patent opponents expect a tide of license complaints also in Europe.

The large ones would profit. Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced already that his company wanted to start a patent offensive and that it expects to file 3000 new patents in the next twelve months. Gates in 1991 was s against such patents because of their adverse affect on innovation.

**********************

German:

Linux ist für den Konzern aus Redmond ungefähr das, was James Bond für die Bösewichte in den Kinofilmen ist: die einzige Barriere auf dem Weg zur Weltherrschaft. Um diesen Anspruch kämpft der Konzern mit allen Raffinessen. So soll Microsoft viele Millionen Dollar in eine Software-Firma namens SCO hineingepumpt haben, die einen Klage-Kreuzzug gegen die Open-Source-Bewegung angezettelt hat.

Das Beispiel illustriert drastisch, welche Gefahr von Software-Patenten ausgeht. SCO behauptet, Rechte an Teilen des Linux-Systems zu besitzen. SCO-Chef Darl McBride, ein frommer Mormone aus Utah, der auf Konferenzen im Schutz von Leibwächtern auftaucht, hat Linux-Unterstützer IBM auf drei Milliarden Dollar Schadensersatz verklagt. Der Prozess läuft seit über einem Jahr. . . .

Lizenzstreitigkeiten wie diese sind in Amerika längst Alltag. Das liegt an der großen Reichweite von Software-Patenten: Sie räumen einer Firma exklusive Rechte ein nicht nur für Codezeilen eines Programms, sondern für seine Grundidee.

So hat sich die New Yorker Software-Firma E-Data das Herunterladen von Musikdateien aus dem Internet patentieren lassen. In den vergangenen Jahren erstritt sie viele Millionen Dollar an Lizenzgebühren von Betreibern von Internet-Musikläden. . . .

Das amerikanische Modell könnte in Europa Schule machen, wenn die Patentrichtlinie, wie sie der EU-Ministerrat beschlossen hat, tatsächlich in Kraft tritt. Das Europäische Patentamt jedenfalls hat ohne eindeutige Rechtsgrundlage bereits mehrere tausend Software-Patente anerkannt. Wenn die EU ihre Richtlinie absegnet, dann erwarten Patentgegner auch in Europa eine Flut von Lizenzklagen.

Profitieren würden die Großen. Microsoft-Gründer Bill Gates verkündete bereits, seine Firma wolle eine Patentoffensive starten und in den nächsten zwölf Monaten 3000 neue Software-Patente anmelden - dabei hatte Gates 1991 noch selbst gegen solche Patente wegen ihrer Innovationsfeindlichkeit gewettert.


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