In this months Linux User & Developer Magazine (that’s right I read lots of non-Microsoft Technology), there is an article titled “Patents, the commons & and theft of ideas. The article is written with enigmatic comments by Richard Stallman. Stallman, in my opinion, is good at producing words, but far less good at communicating opinion of providing and substantiation for his comments.

 

First, a bit of opinioned frame setting.

 

FIRST, I agree that the patent law system is broken. Anti-Patent activists need to stop shoveling rhetoric and work to FIX the system by WORKING the system.

 

Stallman re-quotes include Sir Isaac Newton & Andy Warhol commenting on the predications of their works. Richard…. Comparative relevance please?  What does the fact that Andy Warhol permitted his assistant (Gerard Malanga) to create paintings that Warhol then signed as his own have to do with the argument that Patent law shouldn’t apply to Software?

 

In fact, doesn’t that make Warhol an admitted thief? And are you contending that because a famous thief purportedly accepted the practice that the rest of us should become thieves?

 

Linux Torvalds (who prefers to sue people for copyright infringement) was quoted in the article as saying “I do not look up any patents on …principal…because (a) it’s a horrible waste of time and (b) I don’t want to know. The fact is technical people are better off not looking at patents. If you don’t know what they cover and where they are, you won’t be knowingly infringing on them. If somebody sues you, you change the algorithm or you just hire a hit-man to whack the stupid git.”

 

So you don’t lookup patents because it’s a waste of time? Well so is speeding, paying taxes, running a stop sign, getting a building permit, and a thousand other things that are also ILLEGAL.

 

I don’t know about your neck of the woods Linus, but here in America, ignorance of the law does not buy you any indemnity.

 

If you don’t like the law – work to change it – but don’t say, I don’t like this law so I’m going to ignore it !!!

 

And buy the way, suborning homicide is probably one of those thing that you never looked up, but if you had, you would have found to be illegal.

 

Stallman is also quoted as saying “There is no doubt that software patents tie us in knots. If there is no clear and vital public need to tie us up in bureaucracy, untie us and let us get back to work.”

 

Richard – relative to your statements I have a few comments / questions.

 

1.)    On what statistical evidence do you predicate you blanket declaration? Point me at the data and let me evaluate it for myself.

2.)    What US are you talking about – it seems to me there has been tons of innovation since US Patent law was activated. Perhaps your “us” is…  you and a few of you pals.

3.)    What makes you feel empowered to declare that the world does not need legal support of intellectual property protection?

 

SECOND – I’m an Open Source fan, but as an OPTION not as an imposition. For all the lip service Stallman et. al, pay to “Freedom” what about MY FREEDOM to share my source or keep my own secrets as I choose?

 

To be clear, while I’m a fan of having the CHOICE to publish as Open Source, I am NOT a fan of the GPL.

 

I think the real issue is whether or not one believes people should have the right to profit from their own inventions.

 

If I invent something new and unique, whether it’s a new mouse trap or a new search algorithm, I believe I have the right to profit from my invention. I believe that the time, money, and energy that I spent to develop MY ideas should not be free for use by others because they were able to steal my idea and use it for their own profit (and to my deficit).

 

This has always been the American way.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I also think the patent system is broken. (I also think the Trademark System and the Copyright systems in the USA are broken.)

 

I think people who know little about technology are deciding what is and what is not a “new and unique” idea and I think that patent arguments have digressed to industry that really only benefit the lawyers (did is say scum sucking lawyers J ).

 

I appreciate the technical work of Linus Torvalds and the idealism of Richard Stallman. I am also grateful that Torvalds  decided to give his work to the world and thereby set a model of sharing, but I’m also grateful to live in a country where the law protects my endeavors to seek economic well being and improve my family’s standard of living by seeking to prevent others from profiting form my labor without my permission.

 

So why to folks like Stallman, the FSF, and GrokLaw feel that they should have the right to take away MY rights and freedoms to NOT share my ideas if I choose not to. Under their instruction, if I have unique intellectual property in for form of software and, even if I publicly declare ownership and use restriction, anyone who reverse engineers my code and steals it should be able to use it without compensating me, any way they want, even to compete with my business.

 

That doesn’t seem right.

 

Now….  Let the flames begin. J