by Joe Mullin - Nov 21, 2012 - arstechnica“Your criticisms are completely wrong”: Stallman on software patents, 20 years in
Free software guru makes a still-unpopular plea with new urgency—just ban them.
The large, bearded man
bounded to the front of the room last Friday, hand thrust into the air, fingers shaking. It was a question-and-answer session, but he clearly wouldn't be able to wait long. He began speaking just before a conference organizer moved to hand him the microphone.
"So many stupid insults—and mistakes!" shouted Richard Stallman, the father of the free software movement. "I proposed a way to solve the problem! It's elegant, and it gets right to the point. Your criticisms are completely wrong."
The speaker he was denouncing, Professor John Duffy of the University of Virginia, had been defending software patents to the assembled crowd a moment ago. Duffy was actually proposing reforms, but as was the case with most speakers at this legal conference, Duffy's reforms weren't quite what Stallman was looking for. He was looking for a "safe harbor" for software—essentially, a total ban on any patents that touched on software.
Duffy raised the specter that some things might not be invented at all without patents, in software and other fields. "The only thing worse than a patented technology that burdens the public is not having a technology at all," he said. Sure, some software patents were a pain, but others were protecting important work. "The question is, will you get very serious research that is patent-motivated? Speech recognition, for example, is very patent-intensive."
In Stallman's view, the idea that society might be able to eliminate "bad patents" while keeping good ones is a kind of Jedi mind trick. Offering patents as a reward for software development—a system where the prize is a right to shut down someone else—is fatally flawed.
"Consider the MP3 patent," said Stallman. "That caused a lot of harm. It's not trivial, it came from a research institute. But we can fund research institutes in other ways."Full article
by John Timmer - Nov 21 2012 - arstechnicaStallman’s got company: Researcher wants nanotech patent moratorium
Claims advances in the field are "being stifled at birth
Joshua Pearce is a professor at Michigan Technological University, and he very explicitly argues for taking an open-source and open-access approach to nanotechnology research. But he also goes well beyond that, calling for a patent moratorium and a gutting of the law that governs tech transfers from government-funded university research. At stake, he argues, is the growth of a field that could be generating trillions of dollars of economic activity within a few years.
Pearce's viewpoint may seem like a radical overreaction, but there are technical reasons that nanotech might be more prone to patent troubles than other fields. Though often portrayed in science fiction as having something to do with tiny robots, nanotechnology is actually based on the premise that the familiar properties of materials in the world around us can be radically altered when those same materials are structured on nanometer length scales.Full article