Me discovering FOSDEM
Two weeks ago I went for the first time to the FOSDEM, the annual Free and Open Software Developer’s European Meeting hold in Brussels.
During one afternoon, I discovered a vibrant environment, gathering 5,000 people surfing between hundreds of different presentations dedicated to free software, where creativity of some individuals expressed in a particular project was shared with the audience, debated, and opened to possible contribution of new individuals. Besides the technical aspect of (free) software engineering I am not familiar with, I enjoyed watching free software developers defending their baby while still in the same time giving it to the community to help it grow! I attended one presentation of a developer presenting an online sheet music platform that enables you to edit your music and share it for free (as for a speech and a beer!), it is called MuseScore. Musescore is under GPL. I perceived the utility of the software since I have been into music somehow and simply attending this meeting made me realised how greatly free software can accelerate the diffusion and improvement of an invention. After some quick exchange of words, they were talking about adding this, or improving that function. The developer finally said” those who want to contribute to the software are welcomed!” Even if my IT knowledge would be, let say…Insufficient to apply for the job, some others did and I just loved that!
On a legal aspect of the Free software issue I could see the presentation of the End Software Patent organisation. They militate to exclude software from patentability, claim for the EU to stay away of the temptation to give existence to software patent via court decisions and closely follow the interpretation of the judges when they come to decide what is patentable and what is not. There were concerned about the influence of patent lawyers from software patent owners on the courts decisions for their benefit, in particular in some court assessments in the US and in the UK , which recognise software patent and justify it by the need to follow the decisions from ”others” (experts from the European Patent Office- who is no jurisdiction-, or lower courts) in order to avoid controversy… Avoid controversy. What an arbitrary criteria! A higher court basically says: ”I decided this because others decided it so”. This seems to be a kind of negation of the independence and impartiality of the law. I am amazed this argumentation even appears in official case law documents. I have never seen something similar. Of course, Higher courts do sometimes follow experts and lower courts decisions but they always need to legally justify this by explaining why it was correct to do so. Then they talked about the future, possible unitary EU patent and the creation of the EU patent court. The project does not exclude software from patents and it gives substantial new legal powers to the European Patent Office, that is already delivering many software patents, see the concerns of Richrad Stallman. When End Software Patent warns against a kind of current risk of arbitrary ”expertisation” of patent law interpretation, to the benefit of software patent owners, we could be rather sceptical of the motivation behind such initiative.