A group of companies promoting open source software has launched a campaign in Europe designed to bolster copyright at the expense of patent law to safeguard the spread of open-source software.
Initial corporate backers of the campaign - called NoSoftwarePatents (NSP) - are Red Hat, MySQL AB, and 1&1.
US-based Red Hat is a Linux operating system and open source pioneer, and Sweden-based MySQL claims it markets the world's most popular open source database software.
1&1 is a German software and internet services provider with nearly US$600 million in annual revenues.
"This is the first time that a group of companies [in Europe] has gotten together to fight against the idea of software patents in general," said Florian Mueller, a German software entrepreneur who is managing the campaign, in an interview.
"The issue needs to be solved at the political level." The campaign will seek to influence European nations to address the issue with new legislation that strengthens copyright protection for software rather than patent protection.
Large established corporations generally resort to patent protection to protect their positions over newer and smaller companies, such as open source firms. The issue figures directly into IT organisations moving towards open source software.
For instance, the largest planned migration from Microsoft Windows to open source operating systems is underway at the city of Munich.
That migration effort has been slowed because of the copyright-patent debate. The NSP campaign seeks to influence patent legislation at the pan-European level.
"Software patents are used for anti-competitive purposes, stifle innovation, and would cost the entire economy and society dearly," said Mueller.
"There is only a small group of people in the patent system that would benefit from them, and some large American corporations have ulterior motives."
Asked to identify the "large American corporations" noted in the campaign, Mueller declined to identify them by name.
The copyright-patent debate has a long history in the US, too, with both approaches being utilised to protect innovators, although there are some who argue that the IP regulations are sometimes used to thwart competition.
Mueller said the NSP campaign would attempt to influence 12 European countries to work to water down patent protection for software.
The grass-roots campaign seeks to eventually influence pan-European patent agencies, including the European Patent Convention to promote new legislation.
The final goal is to help spread open source software by removing onerous IP regulations, Mueller indicated.
Issue: 315 | May 2013
Access CRN's extensive online resources including; email bulletins, community discussions and unique online news.
Processing registration... Please wait.
This process can take up to a minute to complete.
A confirmation email has been sent to your email address - SUPPLIED GOES EMAIL HERE. Please click on the link in the email to verify your email address. You need to verify your email before you can log on to the CRN website or start posting comments on articles.
If you do not receive your confirmation email within the next few minutes, it may be because the email has been captured by a junk mail filter. Please ensure you add the domain '@crn.com.au' to your white-listed senders.