Today is the last of the four days of this year's LinuxTag trade show and conference in Berlin, Germany. I had missed the call-for-papers deadline by far but the organizers gave me a slot on Friday to make a presentation on European Union processes relevant to Linux and open source in general.
Demonstration at LinuxTag 2004 against software patents
LinuxTag brings back a very special memory. Six years ago it took place in the southwestern German town of Karlsruhe and I spoke at a demonstration against software patents that according to media reports drew about 1,000 participants including Jon "maddog" Hall, the Executive Director of Linux International, who was wearing a "No Software Patents" T-shirt all day.
Here's a story that appeared on the website of Germany's leading newsweekly, Der Spiegel. It's available only in German but you'll enjoy the pictures anyway, such as the slogan shown by the two guys in the first photo :-) That statement of mine that is quoted in the Spiegel article highlighted the fact that the youth organizations of all major German parties opposed software patents (at least at that point).
Back from memory lane to LinuxTag 2010.
Presentation available online
I have uploaded my presentation to Scribd. My original ODP (Open Document Presentation) file was automatically converted by Scribd to PDF (which is highly patent-encumbered and therefore rejected by many Free Software advocates). The original ODP file is available on the LinuxTag website.
It's a total of 22 slides and here's an overview:
A. Title and introduction of speaker
slide #01: Title
slide #02: Disclaimer (slides are just outline, don't expect much content)
slide #03: Background - 1 of 2
slide #04: Background - 2 of 2
B. The EU and why its decisions matter to Linux (and FOSS in general)
slide #05: Relevance of the EU (largest single market in the world)
slide #06: EU Structure: Laws & Institutions (comparison to US)
slide #07: EU Influence on IT I ndustry (different ways in which the EU has influence)
slide #08: Influence goes beyond EU market (explanation of impact of EU decisions beyond the EU itself)
C. Past landmark EU processes from FOSS point of view
slide #09: Past landmark processes from open source point of view (legislation: software patents; intellectual property rights enforcement -- regulation: two Microsoft cases; Oracle/Sun/MySQL merger control process)
slide #10: Microsoft antitrust cases
slide #11: Aftermath of Microsoft cases (others are now bigger threat in select areas and more closed; examples: IBM, Apple)
slide #12: Oracle/Sun/MySQL - 1 of 2
slide #13: Oracle/Sun/MySQL - 2 of 2
slide #14: Oracle/Sun/MySQL as Precedent (future cases will raise same questions but may lead to different answer when case-specific pro's and con's are balanced)
D. Ongoing EU patent reform effort
slide #15: EU Patent Reform Proposal (current fragmented situation vs. "package deal" for future system)
slide #16: Criticism of EU Patent Reform Proposal
slide #17: Procedural Difficulties of EU Patent Reform Proposal (includes link to this FFII page on a leaked report from a court hearing)
slide #18: Digression: Defensive Patent License (DPL) - more information available here
E. Digital Agenda; European Interoperability Strategy and Framework
slide #19: Digital Agenda; European Interoperability Strategy; European Interoperability Framework
(change from royalty-free requirement to acceptance of patent-encumbered standards; credibility problem of IBM's lobbying frontends due to IBM's failure to practice what it preaches; possible new initiative to impose interoperability-related obligations not only on companies that are considered dominant in their market but also on many more who are "only" significant)
F. IBM antitrust problem (mainframe monopoly; prevention of interoperability)
slide #20: Complaints Against IBM (Mainframe Monopoly)
slide #21: IBM and TurboHercules (IBM losing its credibility as advocate of openness; contrasted with clear statement made by Google's chief legal officer the previous day: "anyone using patents against open source is a bad idea, you won't see us do it"; will report on that one separately soon)
G. Final slide
slide #22: Thank you and stay in touch (contact data including Twitter: http://twitter.com/FOSSpatents)
Questions & Answers
Benjamin Henrion made a very informative intervention on the ongoing EU patent reform effort and a possible procedural trick with a modification of the current Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU; "Treaty of Lisbon") by unanimous decision in the EU Council without ratification by national parliaments and referenda. I didn't know about that possible path until Benjamin brought this up.
Another intervenor claimed that Microsoft's case was about them not allowing the use of any other media player than their own on Windows. However, that was never the problem. It was always possible to run any media player on top of Windows, but Media Player was the only one shipped as part of the Windows package. So the intervenor had some misunderstanding concerning the legal nature of the issues involved, but conferences like LinuxTag are a great place to gather information.
In that spirit, I look forward to LinuxTag 2011.
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