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Petition the UK Government to protect GPL software

I have created a petition at the Number 10 website essentially proposing that GPL v3 software in the UK be granted immunity from patent infringement - therefore requiring an alteration of the Copyright, Designs and Patents act.
The petition will run until 10 November 2007 and can be signed by persons who hold British citizenships, or by persons residing in the UK.

Look at the petition

Here are a few paragraphs of justification:

Today's Free Software community produces a vast array of programs for the greater good of humanity as a whole. Some of this Free Software assists us with humble office tasks or with pleasurable pastimes such as watching films, sharing photos or learning new skills. Other Free Software programs are used in research against disease and climate change, in network security and monitoring and in powering around 60% of all websites currently on the Internet.

This software differs from proprietary software in that Free Software preserves the freedom of every individual to use the software, modify and redistribute it, as opposed to proprietary licences which generally remove individuals freedoms to co-operate in this way.
Software patents, in our view, constitute a restriction on the free flow of ideas and such patents may risk slowing down the continued development of Free Software. For example, Fast Fourier Transforms in disease research are patented and cannot be used in Free Software, thus slowing down research.
This is unacceptable in the face of the challenges faced by humanity today.

Another reason why Free Software deserves this kind of protection lies with the increasing capability of computer hardware and software itself. Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) is an example of how people begin to lose control of the hardware and software which is designed not to function in the manner of the user's choosing and restricts the users ability to access media of their choice.

Proprietary software always carries the risk of containing unwelcome functions and capabilities, unknown to their users. By contrast Free Software, by virtue of being open, does not have this drawback.

In order to have some prospect of retaining control over our computing hardware and software, it is essential that Free Software be utilised in the future and as such it follows that patent protection be extended to Free Software.

A third justification for this claim also comes from the rapid advances in technology and the pressure this places on software development. Recent microchips such as the Intel Itanium or the Sony PlayStation 3 are sufficiently complex as to require thousands of man-years of development and design. This is a trend which will continue. Free Software allows developers to build on the advancements made by their antecedents in such a way that their efforts too will be available for our children and grandchildren. This idea of 'standing on the shoulders of giants' has bee a traditional and established route for scientific and technological progress in Britain for hundreds of years. Software patents pose a possible threat to this as well by closing off certain lines of development and passing control to individuals and corporations instead of to society in general.

The GNU General Public Licence (GPL), published by the Free Software Foundation is one licence for software which attempts to protect the freedom of individuals and of society in general for current use and future development of software and of a free society. The stance taken by the General Public Licence is a very noble one and through the GPL the Free Software Foundation strives to protect the endeavours of many tens of thousands of programmers around the world, who are working co-operatively, developing software that can be used freely by all peoples of the world, now and in the future.

Since software patents may threaten this fundamentally important freedom, we propose that software published under the GNU General Public Licence (version 3 and above) be given immunity from prosecution from patent infringement under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act.


Why not all software?

Why not just ask for software idea patents not to be enforceable for any software? Also, are they actually granted and enforced in the EU at all?

I would be happy to see the

I would be happy to see the current patent system dismantled for software. I'm sure I have signed such petitions as would have software patents rendered unenforceable.

This does not seem likely to happen any time soon, although is still a worthy goal for proponents of Free Software. My hope is that granting exemption for GPL software would be possible. It would in fact give quite an advantage to GPLing your software over proprietary stuff. It would also give formal recognition that the GPL and compatible licences have something very special to offer, which is worth protecting.

The EU situation is absurd.


The EU situation is absurd. Software Patents are not supported under the law, but the EU Patent Office has issued thousands anyway. Cuckoo!!

I don't like the


I don't like the discrimination — there's nothing special about the GPL. I'd rather see that implemented for any software whose copyright conforms to the Debian Free Software Guidelines or the Open Source Definition (not the Free Software Definition, as it's probably too vague to have predictable results in court)

Nonetheless, I'm signing.

Well since it's not a final

Well since it's not a final solution anyway GPL is a good start because it is the most popular and influential Free Software license. A more definitive solution extending to all Free Software may then perhaps follow. So one step at a time.

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