[clug] Last night's RMS talk on software patents

Paul Leopardi paul.leopardi at iinet.net.au
Tue Oct 5 15:26:17 MDT 2010

Hi all,
For those of you who did not attend (and that means most of you, because the 
talk was very poorly attended) here is a quick summary of last night.

1. Before the talk, the IEEE-ACT guy had no opinions on software patents, 
because it was not his field of engineering.

2. The talk was very poorly advertised. In fact, many or most of the Nicta 
people in the same building did not know it was on until that day. AFAIK, only 
IEEE-ACT members were notified. This is partly my fault, because I received 
the email (below) on 23 September and ignored it because I am no longer an 
IEEE member - because of the position of IEEE-USA on software patents. After 
the talk, RMS complained that the talk had been poorly advertised. It would 
have been much better had legal and public policy people, e.g. Hazel Moir been 
in the audience. 

3. RMS ate during the talk, which was distracting. This may have been because 
of last-minute changes to the time of the talk. He is having trouble walking, 
and had to sit during much of the talk.

4. RMS gave pretty much his standard talk on software patents. If you have not 
heard it before, and have no vested interests, the talk can be very persuasive 
towards understanding how broken the system is, especially in the US. He also 
gave Australian and European examples. The talk ended with his famous literary 
and musical analogies.

5. RMS in traditional fashion, RMS auctioned off a Gnu. It went for $100. I 
bought a $20 pin.

6. I asked the last question, which was to ask him what he thought about IEEE-
USA's Bilksi amicus brief in favour of software patents. 
He said it was disgusting that IEEE-USA would do that. I told him I had 
resigned from IEEE and he urged me to put my reasons for doing so up on my web 
site. The reasons are already up on Groklaw.
He also asked me to tell others to threaten to resign from IEEE. The IEEE-ACT 
people were, I think blindsided by this one.

7. RMS asked us to sign the anti-software-patent petition:

8. In summary, a good night was had by a few.
Best, Paul

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jun Zhou <junzhou at ieee.org>
Date: 23 September 2010 12:44
Subject: IEEE Australian Capital Territory Section: Presentation: The
Dangers of Software Patents

Dear IEEE ACT Computer Society Members,
This is the announcement for a presentation by Richard Stallman,
titled "The Dangers of Software Patents". For details, please see the
attachment. [omitted]

Abstract: Richard Stallman will explain how software patents obstruct
software development. Software patents are patents that cover software
ideas. They restrict the development of software, so that every design
decision brings a risk of getting sued. Patents in other fields
restrict factories, but software patents restrict every computer user.
Economic research shows that they even retard progress.

Bio: Richard Stallman launched the development of the GNU operating
system (see www.gnu.org) in 1984. GNU is free software: everyone has
the freedom to copy it and redistribute it, as well as to make changes
either large or small. The GNU/Linux system, basically the GNU
operating system with Linux added, is used on tens of millions of
computers today. Stallman has received the ACM Grace Hopper Award, a
MacArthur Foundation fellowship, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's
Pioneer award, and the Takeda Award for Social/Economic Betterment, as
well as several honorary doctorates.

Best regards,

Jun Zhou

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