Thursday, July 07, 2005

Free software users/developers as "believers"

Letter to the globe in response to an article published on the failure of passage of legislations allowing patenting of software in the EU.
"Wednesday's vote was preceded by weeks of massive lobbying between big businesses and free software believers."

This is an odd way to describe people on two sides of a debate over software patents. "Big business" presumably refers to a group of people and corporations involved in doing business, in carrying out a group of activities. Now, the term "free software believers", what does that refer to? Does it refer to a group of armchair philosophers, advocates, zealots, what? It might come as a surprise to the author of this article to learn that the Globe and Mail's website runs on the Apache webserver which itself runs on the Linux operating system, both examples of free software. If any of this software was made unavailable through lawsuits under new patent legislation, the effects on the Globe would be very measurable, just as they would be if the availability of the proprietary Sun or Microsoft or Adobe software the Globe uses changed. In summary, the allowing of software patents could have very real and very measurable business implications for not only advocates of free software but also many who had no idea how important free software was in putting bread on their tables.

Any change in law can have ramifications felt differently by different groups. Calling users, developers, and advocates of free software "believers" trivializes the very real stake these people and business interests have in how patent law is implimented and interpreted.