22 September 2010

Free Software Activist in Conference Demonstration – of Ignorance

As we reported recently, Richard Stallman – originator of the GNU project, and founder of the Free Software Foundation – is currently in Australia on a speaking tour.

iTNews has reported that Stallman yesterday made an "unexpected appearance" at a presentation by the European Patent Office at the World Computer Congress in Brisbane, toting a placard reading "Don't get caught in software patent thickets".  This no doubt left European Patent Officer Ralf Abbing, whose presentation on "big issues in IP in relation to computing technology" was briefly interrupted, quaking in fear at the prospect of being entangled in dense woodland!

We have, as yet, heard no reports of retaliation by EPO activists at Stallman's presentation later in the day.  We have therefore launched our own minor protest, in the form of the above photograph (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, for those concerned about copyright issues).

Subsequent to his incursion, Stallman told iTnews that the European Patent Office was lobbying for software patents in Australia, saying:
We're here at the World Computer Congress and what I've discovered is that the European Patent Office is here to campaign in favour of software patents in Australia.
You can be sure that if Australia allows software patents, almost all the patents will belong to foreigners and will give them the opportunity to sue Australians.
Of course, Australia already grants patents for inventions implemented wholly or partially in computer software, and has done so for over 20 years.  To date this has not resulted in an opening of the metaphorical (and largely mythical) floodgates to "foreigners" suing Australians for infringement of software patents.

On the basis of this experience, it would appear that Australia may have a bigger problem with ill-informed foreigners showing up here, and telling us how to run our country!  But, to be honest, this is nothing new and, with all due respect to the many friendly Americans who read this blog, Stallman's countrymen have, over the years, been amongst the worst offenders.  "Our" Rupert Murdoch even became a US citizen so that he could more-effectively berate Australia for our restrictive cross-media ownership laws.

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