Re: Intellectual Property Rights and software

Tim Bates (
Mon, 21 Dec 1998 11:08:27 +1100

Spike Jones said

>with software, all the advantages of both worlds are offered to the
>creator: any company can sell you a product that does not work,
>they are not liable to repair or replace it, you cannot repair it yourself,
>you cannot even hire someone else to repair it for you. you cannot
>purchase a module that will repair the bugs. yet unlike a book, all the
>information contained in that product is not right there for you.
>question please, my european friends: is a similar arrangement forming
>on your side of the lake? ausies and nz's? does not this constitute
>overprotection of software makers? spike

Software patents are really bad. Criminal in fact. This is why Richard Stallman is so important. They essentially place a lien on the future mental work of other people.

Case in point: when you move a mouse, the little bit of screen that was behind the mouse has to be redrawn. The obvious solution is called "backing store" - when you draw the mouse you copy what was underneath into a little store, and then when you move on you redraw from the backing store. Almost anyone faced with this problem would invent this solution. The alternatives (such as asking the application that own the screen to redraw it from scratch) are just so inefficient.

However, it is illegal to use this unless you pay a royalty to the patent holder. That is just plain BS. The law essentially says that older people have have a right to earn a living off of younger people (who because they are younger will come up the solution later). It is wrong.

The defence of this law is pathetic: that innovators will not think of backing store unless they have a right to stop others from using this or to make them pay. Of course people will invent baking store: they need it for their programs.

Copyright is a completely different ball game. I am glad to see copyright on software just as on books. But patents are like saying no one else can do physics without paying Feynman.

I encourage you all to learn more about this topic: it is really very central to our shared freedoms.


"The reason I care especially," said Stallman, "is that there is a philosophy associated with the GNU project, and this philosophy is actually the reason why there is a system -- and that is that free software is not just convenient and not just reliable ... More important than convenience and reliability is freedom -- the freedom to cooperate. What I'm concerned about is not individual people or companies so much as the kind of way of life that we have. That's why I think it's a distraction to think about fighting Microsoft."