Liberation (from patents)

I was wondering why lots of people, including myself, were considering that free software is so important. It is also equally important to fight against patents, especially when they are used in gratis softwares... The idea behind all that is that software is just an assemblage of knowledges. And that knowledge/information should always be free. For human matters, it is very important in a democracy where you are supposed to be able to decide what's good or bad. And in the technical world it means you are allowed to do any assemblage of any kind to try something and usually improve something already existing.

This is a known problem in the opposition against patents. If company A "owns" a part of a process and company B "owns" the complementary part, if they disagree to work together, a wonderful system is not possible. It is usually not the case because companies agree to work together for greater benefits. But when you have nothing to offer but a new assemblage based on old/known solutions you have simply no way to make your idea become real. Even though it would benefit everyone at no cost.

The speed of progress is always increasing (in other words, progress is accelerating) because of the law of accelerating returns (see Kurzweil). And the speed in which a patented solution can be used by anyone has not changed and is sometimes increasing (for music it is the new trend). There is clearly something that used to "work" that will not work in the near/mid-term time. I don't think the patent system should be removed. After all it worked for some people/companies to help them develop. But now that it used and abused so much (especially in the USA) it should be changed. And IMO the minimum change would be to reduce (to 3 years?) the time in which a patent applies. A company can keep a good advantage in this timeframe and fully use the patent while the competition won't be impacted too long (considering the acceleration we can see).

Another key change would be that open source softwares (meeting the Open Source Initiative definition) should not be concerned by any patent. They offer free solutions (new or not) for the whole humanity. And therefore should not be concerned by private company needs. It should be considered as a public service. But we are far from that. Right now most people don't care about softwares and the digital world in general. They don't realise that economical considerations and freedom restrictions (for programmers but in a bigger extent the Patriot Act in the USA is such an example of why we should care about the digital world) are slowing progress, making some assemblages impossible (instead of being humble enough to agree that someone might use your ideas better than yourself), and giving very big powers to a "happy" few (usually considered as evil).

This concentration that is slowly happening will have more and more impact on the real world. For example, what happens to a student making a exercice that use a patented solution ? For educational reasons it can't be sued (that's somehow the argument behind LAME and all other OSS projects working with patented solutions). So a solution that is OK inside a school is not OK out of it ? Once you're out of the educational system you have to pay for everything you create. At least the limit is clear. But aren't we all students ? Always learning new things ? Starting things from scratch with ideas other people already had before ?... As said above, progress is growing and we, humans, have to constantly adapt to an ever changing world (and mostly a faster world), ie learn new things and use them. What would happen if you had to consult a lawyer everytime you want to create something and share it, to know if you're going to be sued by people who won't have any problem sucking even more money that you actually have ? Isn't it a big threat to creation ? Innovation ?

Patents are said to protect people who create, innovate. But assembling 2 existing solutions to make something is also a creation, an innovation. But you can't patent them (AFAIK). But this is usually most of the creations happening in this world. This is indeed an explanation for the law of accelerating returns of Kurzweil: mixing 2 solutions that will not add their benefits, but multiply them. But the new concepts that are the basis to these solutions are very rare. Usually patents are a concept of a domain applied to another domain, you can find analogies of existing things to all the patents in the world. Because the basic concepts are never patented, and usually found by researchers in universities (it usually leads to invent new words that couldn't otherwise express the new concept).

So what does this mean ? I wanted to know why I want to work on all these projects and why only OSS softwares would be an option. Because I think every OSS project that can be a real benefit to the users is good argument to explain people why it's important to share knowledge. That knowledge should be free for anyone to use it... As money is a key factor in the current world and is what's driving the world, it's always amazing to see great things available for free. But the difference between and OSS project and a private company is that the latter always has something tricky in mind when offering something for free.

Later, I'll probably talk more in depth about why any kind of knowledge should be free (and why there won't be any other choice).

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