Why I think we won the battle against software patents

After many years talking about the damages to innovation created by patents on software, I believe that the we can consider the battle won: the free software/open source movement should focus its attention on other battles.  While I agree with Florian Mueller that the Europeans are still pestered by patents on software, I believe that our campaign was to mainly raise wider awareness.

During the long march to reject the directive on ‘computer implemented inventions’ we put the issue of software patents in front of millions of Europeans, thousands of small businesses and hundreds of MEPs. We convinced the majority of  MEPs to reject, for the first time ever, a Directive approved by the Council. We started a debate about the threats to innovation posed by patents and we made sure the business community knew about the risks to their activity. The issues of patents on software and math are now visible to all those affected in the business community: entrepreneurs, small-and medium-size businesses and big business.

The business community at large is the ultimate victim of software patents. With trolls constantly at work, all companies face potential damage. Companies, small and big, are now aware of the problem and the debate about how to fix it is now a fire that burns on its own. Academics publish a lot more papers and research projects demonstrating that the current patent system is broken and dysfunctional and may be harming economic development of the US.

Looking at it strictly from the perspective of the free software movement: we won! We did our job, software patents are now a mainstream issue, our arguments are being pushed forward by people with vast resources, much more than the FSF or OSI can put together. I believe that Google, HTC, Apple, Microsoft etc. are the main victims of this stupid system. Some argue that the whole US and European commercial power is being harmed in the competition with China. Let them finish the fight: they have all reasons to want to change the system.  We as the free software movement can continue provide expertise when needed, follow the progress of the issue.

We need to liberate resources and energy for other fights that are still not mainstream: online privacy, DRM and locked devices are some that come to mind.

I believe that the victory in the European Parliament was and still is a full clear victory.  As Jack Welch teaches: celebrating a victory is always a good thing, even a small one.

Cost saving is the wrong argument, but it may work

Scott Mc Nealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has been asked by the new Obama administration to prepare a paper about ‘open source’. From what I read on the BBC report, though, he is using a tired losing proposition:

The secret to a more secure and cost effective government is through open source technologies and products.

To me statements like these look too much like a “worn-out dogma” that open source is gratis, costs less, is more secure.’  These arguments have been demolished by plenty of evidence in real life and by academic research. They can easily sink under the fires of the Microsoft, Adobe, IBM and Oracle of the world.

Probably there is a remote chance that the winds of change blowing in Obama’s sails will make Mc Nealy’s and OSI’s arguments float. What do you think?

via BBC NEWS | Technology | Calls for open source government.

Affero GNU GPLv3 evaluated by OSI

As Fabrizio reported, Funambol submitted the Affero GNU’  GPLv3 to the Open Source Initiative for approval (it was my first task as Funambol Community Manager).’  OSI’s stamp on AGPLv3 makes business sense for Funambol, afaik the first big free software project to adopt AGPLv3 as soon as it was announced. Open Source is a recognized brand,’  a magnet for media attention and helps drive value to companies.’  Free software business needs a common brand as a marketing tool and OSI provides that.

I still believe that OSI’s refusal to talk about principles is its biggest weakness (even though lately Raymond noted that there are principles behind licenses) and a very dangerous one.’  On the other hand, OSI has no competition (or help) especially after the failure to launch the GNU Business Network by FSFE.

What’s interesting is that Funambol’s management has got the Free/Libre Software principles right.’  As Fabrizio writes:

Big Google, a company that could not stand the ASP loophole because they built their entire business on it, manages to get that provision out of GPL v3 and runs to get it approved by the OSI (BTW, it was approved).

Now it is the Funambol turn. Hoping more people will choose AGPL versus GPL, because giving hosters and portals a free lunch is just a bad idea. If they want to use it for free, at least get their code back.

The market will give the answer about the AGPLv3 adoption, but I’m confident that this year will be fun to be into this community.