May 28, 2004

EU Patent Fight [8:01 am]

Europe Braces for Patent Rules

Many coders fear a controversial law approved last week by the region’s ministers will pave the way for widespread restrictions on essential software components if it’s rubber-stamped by Parliament members later this year.

Smaller publishers say it will grant automatic monopolies to large multinationals and cripple the industry — unless they can plug popular opposition into the continentwide ballot process, now entering full swing.

“We’re making this an election issue,” Richard Stallman, the spiritual leader of the free software movement, told an audience of disgruntled developers he addressed in Bristol, England. “We can win this battle. We’re talking about a new bureaucracy tying up every business in Europe. It’s very harmful and only to the advantage of the mega-corporations.”

[...] The modified bill will be hit back to the Parliament in Strasbourg, France, for a second reading in September, when only a majority vote against it can undo the changes and derail the looming legislation.

With one last chance before the law is passed, programmers are moving to sway the world’s largest-ever transnational election, warning Parliament candidates that, if they want to return to their 732 seats come June 10, they had better listen to the coders’ concerns.

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