[ffii] European Parliament Rejects Attempt to Rush Vote on Software Patent Directive

PILCH Hartmut phm at a2e.de
Fri Jun 27 08:39:03 CEST 2003


     _________________________________________________________________

    European Parliament Rejects Attempt to Rush Vote on Software Patent
                                 Directive

                            Brussels 2003/06/26

                           For immediate Release

   The European Parliament has postponed the vote on the software patent
   directive back to the original date of 1st of September, thereby
   rejecting initially successful efforts of its rapporteur Arlene
   McCarthy (UK Labour MEP of Manchester who acted as a rapporteur for
   the directive in the parliament) and her supporters to rush to vote on
   June 30th, a mere twelve days after publication of the highly
   controversial report and tend days after the unexpected change of
   schedule.

Background

   Members of Parliament from all parties had complained that it was
   impossible to react adequately within a timeframe of 10 days.

   Until Wednesday, leaders of the two largest blocks, the socialists
   (PSE) and conservatives (PPE), seemed determined to follow the
   recommentations of their "patent experts" and go ahead with the vote
   quickly. They explained that there was no reason to wait, because all
   possible amendment proposals had already been submitted to the
   committees and translated to all languages, and there was no need for
   new amendments. This view however became increasingly difficult to
   uphold, as more and more MEPs in all parties became aware of the
   schedule change and pointed out that they wanted to prepare new
   amendments. Within the socialist group, a large opposition group,
   possibly the majority, gathered around Michel Rocard (FR), Luis
   Berenguer (ES), Evelyn Gebhardt (DE), Olga Zrihen (BE) and other MEPs
   who had played a prominent role in resisting software patentability.

   On Wednesday the climate change became apparent. More and more MEPs
   rumored that the schedule would not be upheld. Even [11]Arlene
   McCarthy was quoted as saying that it might be too tight. A spokesman
   from the [12]General Directorate for the Internal Market of the
   European Commission, which has been pushing for the directive together
   with Arlene McCarthy and other allies in the Parliaments Commitee for
   Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (JURI), meanwhile told
   journalists: "Arlene McCarthy has tried hard to have the vote
   conducted on June 30th, but as things now stand, this looks rather
   unlikely."

   On Thursday morning, at the meeting of the secretary generals, the
   representatives of all political groups voted for postponment. Their
   vote was confirmed by the conference of presidents (i.e. head of
   transnational party groups) during their session at 3 p.m. At 8 p.m.
   the decision was made public on the Parliament's [13]schedule webpage.

   Many software professionals have been contacting their MEPs in recent
   days. A letter by [14]Tim Jackson, operations manager for Internet
   Assist Ltd in Chelmsford, UK, reflects the mood :

     Almost all involved in software in Europe, bar a select few large
     corporations, and law firms who make money from litigation and
     legal complexities, are opposed to software patenting. There is a
     huge groundswell of opinion amongst the real software engineers
     (who understand the complex process and history of software
     development) which favours strong and unambiguous prohibition of
     patents on software. Copyright is the right tool to protect
     software, not patents. By using grossly misleading and emotive
     language such as "giving software innovators the protection they
     deserve" the proponents are trying to give the appearance that
     software developers and businesses are crying out for "protection"
     by patents, when quite the opposite is true - we (and society at
     large) actually want and need protection from software patents!
     [...] If any of you intend to vote in favour of the proposed
     Directive, may I ask you to be so kind as to explain to myself your
     reasons for concluding that this is in the interests of Europe? The
     eyes of many IT-literate constituents are on you, and you will
     undoubtedly permanently lose many of our votes (certainly including
     mine) should you choose to support this assault on our livelihoods
     and interests.

   This groundswell of public sentiment, together with a concerted
   lobbying effort by a group of 2000 software companies coordinated by
   FFII/Eurolinux, has undoubtedly helped to raise awareness among MEPs.
   As FFII president Hartmut Pilch remarked,

     With the big pressures in European institutions it might seem that
     only deep pocket companies lobbies would be taken into account, but
     our experience shows that public opinion, grass-roots efforts and a
     little coordination and organisation can still push the interests
     of the majority, at least for so evident cases.

     The conference which we organised with the Greens/EFA in May and
     the steadily mounting pressure of public opinion have clearly
     created a sense of urgency among the promoters of software
     patentability in the Legal Affairs Commission. Now, thanks to the
     postponement, we have three more session weeks for raising
     awareness. 

     The Commission for Legal Affairs and the Internal Market was
     justly labelled a "legislative sausage machine" by its vice
     president Willy Rothley shortly before its misguided vote on
     software patents. This sausage machine has been turning out a
     seemingly never-ending series of poorly-crafted and
     shoddily-reasoned special-interest legislation for many years.
     Now perhaps for the first time the sausage machine is meeting a
     public resistance which could bring it to a rest. We may
     cautiously hope that we are part of a process of change for the
     better in the culture of lawmaking in Europe.

Media Contacts

   mail:
          media at ffii org

   phone:
          Hartmut Pilch +49-89-18979927

   More Contacts to be supplied upon request

About the Eurolinux Alliance -- www.eurolinux.org

   The EuroLinux Alliance for a Free Information Infrastructure is an
   open coalition of commercial companies and non-profit associations
   united to promote and protect a vigourous European Software Culture
   based on copyright, open standards, open competition and open source
   software such as Linux. Corporate members or sponsors of EuroLinux
   develop or sell software under free, semi-free and non-free licenses
   for operating systems such as GNU/Linux, MacOS or MS Windows.

About the FFII -- www.ffii.org

   The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a
   non-profit association registered in Munich, which is dedicated to the
   spread of data processing literacy. FFII supports the development of
   public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open
   standards. More than 200 members, 180 companies and 12000 individual
   supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public
   policy questions in the area of software property law.

Permanent URL of this Press Release

   http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/index.en.html

Annotated Links

   -> [15]PSE pushes Parliament to rush vote on McCarthy software
          patentability directive
          Due to requests from the Socialist Group (PSE) of JURI
          rapporteur Arlene McCarthy, the European Parliament protracted
          the planned vote on software patentabilty from September 1 to
          July 1, just 13 days after McCarthy won the vote in the Legal
          Affairs Committee (JURI).

   -> [16]Vote in 8 days: 2000 IT bosses urge European Parliament to say
          NO to software patents
          A "Petition for a Free Europe without Software Patents" has
          gained more than 150000 signatures. Among the supporters are
          more than 2000 company owners and chief executives and 25000
          developpers and engineers from all sectors of the European
          information and telecommunication industries, as well as more
          than 2000 scientists and 180 lawyers. Companies like Siemens,
          IBM, Alcatel and Nokia lead the list of those whose researchers
          and developpers want to protect programming freedom and
          copyright property against what they see as a "patent
          landgrab". Currently the patent policy of many of these
          companies is still dominated by their patent departments. These
          have intensively lobbied the European Parliament to support a
          proposal to allow patentability of "computer-implemented
          inventions" (recent patent newspeak term which usually refers
          to software in the context of patent claims, i.e. algorithms
          and business methods framed in terms of generic computing
          equipment), which the rapporteur, UK Labour MEP Arlene
          McCarthy, backed by "patent experts" from the socialist and
          conservative blocks, is trying to rush through the European
          Parliament on June 30, just 13 days after she had won the vote
          in the Legal Affairs Committe (JURI).

   -> [17]JURI votes for Fake Limits on Patentability
          The European Parliament's Committee for Legal Affairs and the
          Internal Market (JURI) voted on tuesday morning about a list of
          proposed amendments to the planned software patent directive.
          It was the third and last in a series of committee votes, whose
          results will be presented to the plenary in early september.
          The other two commissions (CULT, ITRE) had opted to more or
          less clearly exclude software patents. The JURI rapporteur
          Arlene McCarthy MEP (UK socialist) also claimed to be aiming
          for a "restrictive harmonisation of the status quo" and
          "exclusion of software as such, algorithms and business methods
          from patentability". Yet McCarthy presented a voting list to
          fellow MEPs which, upon closer look, turns ideas like "Amazon
          One-Click Shopping" into patentable inventions. McCarthy and
          her followers rejected all amendment proposals that try to
          define central terms such as "technical" or "invention", while
          supporting some proposals which reinforce the patentability of
          software, e.g. by making publication of software a direct
          patent infringment, by stating that "computer-implemented
          inventions by their very nature belong to a field of
          technology", or by inserting new economic rationales
          ("self-evident" need for Europeans to rely on "patent
          protection" in view of "the present trend for traditional
          manufacturing industry to shift their operations to low-cost
          economies outside the European Union") into the recitals. Most
          of McCarthy's proposals found a conservative-socialist 2/3
          majority (20 of 30 MEPs), whereas most of the proposals from
          the other committees (CULT = Culture, ITRE = Industry) were
          rejected. Study reports commissioned by the Parliament and
          other EU institutions were disregarded or misquoted, as some of
          their authors point out (see below). A few socialists and
          conservatives voted together with Greens and Left in favor of
          real limits on patentability (such as the CULT opinion, based
          on traditional definitions, that "data processing is not a
          field of technology" and that technical invention is about "use
          of controllable forces of nature"), but they were overruled by
          the two largest blocks. Most MEPs simply followed the voting
          lists of their "patent experts", such as Arlene McCarthy (UK)
          for the Socialists (PSE) and shadow rapporteur Dr. Joachim
          Würmeling (DE) for the Conservatives (EPP). Both McCarthy and
          Würmeling have closely followed the advice of the directive
          proponents from the European Patent Office (EPO) and the
          European Commission's Industrial Property Unit (CEC-Indprop,
          represented by former UK Patent Office employee Anthony Howard)
          and declined all offers of dialog with software professionals
          and academia ever since they were nominated rapporteurs in May
          2002.

   -> [18]FFII: Software Patents in Europe
          For the last few years the European Patent Office (EPO) has,
          contrary to the letter and spirit of the existing law, granted
          more than 20000 patents on what the law calls "programs for
          computers" and what the European Patent Office (EPO) started to
          call "computer-implemented inventions" in 2000: software in a
          context of patent claims, i.e. rules of organisation and
          calculation framed in terms of generic computing equipment. Now
          Europe's patent community is pressing to impose the EPO' recent
          practise by writing a new law. Europe's programmers and
          citizens are facing considerable risks. Here you find the basic
          documentation, starting from a short overview and the latest
          news.
     _________________________________________________________________


    http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/index.en.html
    [19]© 2003/06/27 [20]Workgroup

Verweise

   1. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/swnplen030626.en.txt
   2. http://swpat.ffii.org/group/todo/index.en.html
   3. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/swnplen030626.en.pdf
   4. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/index.en.html
   5. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/#bakgr
   6. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/#media
   7. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/#eurolinux
   8. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/#ffii
   9. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/#url
  10. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0626/#links
  11. http://swpat.ffii.org/players/amccarthy/index.en.html
  12. http://swpat.ffii.org/players/cec/index.en.html
  13. http://www3.europarl.eu.int/ap-cgi/chargeur.pl?APP=IRIS+PRG=REPRIEF+FILE=REPRIEF+SESSION=JUL|03+DAY=1+SES=ALL+LG=FR+BACK=NONE
  14. http://www.timj.co.uk/digiculture/patents/
  15. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/plen0620/index.en.html
  16. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/epet0622/index.en.html
  17. http://swpat.ffii.org/news/03/juri0617/index.en.html
  18. http://swpat.ffii.org/index.en.html
  19. http://www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl.html
  20. http://swpat.ffii.org/group/index.en.html



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