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The passage of a bill by the Commission for Software Patents on September 22nd has triggered off much debate since summer. Until today legislation in force has banned software copying. Now a ban on the ways a computer performs some of its functions is about to be issued. To make things more clear we could roughly say that, in our world, one would be able to patent nailing. He would go to the proper patent Office and would apply for one, illustrating the procedure (“you drive the nail through, by means of a hammer”) and would be issued with a document prohibiting…the use of hammer and nail by anyone but him.
It sounds crazy, but this is what, in a way, the European Union is trying to pass in connection with computers. The procedures are to be patented rather than the final product. The draft of directive has acquired the status of a pressing matter after a lot of pressure being exerted by American software companies, and is about to be voted for at the end of the month. Yet, resentment against it seems to be great. So far 300,000 signatures against this irrational regulation have already been raised/gathered./collected.
The great American thinker and politician Thomas Jefferson had foreseen the situation two centuries ago when he wrote: “If nature has produced a creation which sole among all others is less prone to the right of absolute possession, this is none than the power of thought, what is called an idea. Every human is entitled to own it completely as long as they keep it to themselves. Yet, when it is revealed and becomes the possession of us all, mo matter how hard one might try they cannot shake this common property off. Its strange nature [an idea] is that not anyone is in possession of less of it, as the totality of an idea is the possession of all (…) Nature has made ideas like fire, spreading everywhere in space without losing their force at any point, and like the air we breathe which is beyond anyone’s power to totally possess. Therefore, inventions, by nature, cannot constitute anyone’s asset.”