Brussels demonstration against software patents
On the cold Thursday morning of 17 February, 250-300 people gathered on the square between the European Commission and the Council of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium for a demonstration against patents on software ideas. The demonstration was aimed to support the request made that same day from the European Parliament Conference of Presidents, i.e. the heads of the political groups, to the Commission for a restart of the procedure. Many turned up dressed as old-style prisoners, wearing badly fitting black and white striped clothes and signs such as “I am a software writer”.
Bananas were handed out to everyone and were waved in the air as the group marched to hand letters (and bananas) to the Luxembourg presidency of the EU and the European Commission DG Internal Market. The bananas were a pun on a remark made early in January by a representative of the Luxembourg Presidency in a meeting with the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII): “This is not a Banana Republic”. He meant the directive as adopted in May 2004 had to be adopted by a Council and procedures wouldn’t be changed because of later differences in opinion in national parliaments. But according to the protesters, the two attempts to schedule the proposal as A-item at the inappropriate Council meetings of the Ministers of Agriculture and Fishery, even after it had become clear that there was no majority for the proposal anymore, surely indicated quite the opposite.
It is unclear how the Commission will respond to the request from the European Parliament to restart the procedure. According to an article in ZDNet, Council and Commission each wait for the other to make a decision. Possibly the item will be on the agenda of the Competitiveness Council on 7 March, but it is unlikely it will be presented as an A-item. In Spain, The Netherlands and Germany the national parliaments have adopted motions on 8, 10 and 17 February 2005 respectively, forbidding their ministers to agree with the current proposal. The Danish government already asked for a delay before, not giving in to alleged pressure from Microsoft threatening to withdraw their development branch Navision from Denmark, with 800 jobs.
Pictures of the demonstration (17.02.2005)
Demonstration background information and news coverage
Patent directive deadlocked (23.02.2005)
Extortion should not decide Danish IT policy (15.02.2005)
(Thanks to Ciarán O’Riordan, Irish Free Software Organisation, www.ifso.ie)