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Torvalds trashes EU patent proposal

Linux creator calls an EU proposal on software patents "deceptive, dangerous and democratically illegitimate."

2 min read
Linux creator Linus Torvalds has appealed to the EU Council to oppose a directive that would make software patentable in Europe.

Torvalds, as well as MySQL co-founder Michael Widenius and PHP creator Rasmus Lerdorf, said in a statement Tuesday on an anti-patent Web site that software patents must not be legalized.

"In the interest of Europe, such a deceptive, dangerous and democratically illegitimate proposal must not become the Common Position of the member states," said the three open-source luminaries. "For the sake of innovation and a competitive software market, we sincerely hope that the European Union will seize this opportunity to exclude software from patentability."

Torvalds, Widenius and Lerdorf were not immediately available to confirm the statement, but MySQL co-founder David Axmark said all three had confirmed the statement by e-mail to him.

In the statement, Torvalds, Widenius and Lerdorf laid out the risks of the software patent directive--known as the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions --including concerns that it could damage the European economy.

"Software patents are dangerous to the economy at large, and particularly to the European economy," said the open-source proponents. "Copyright serves software authors while patents potentially deprive them of their own independent creations. Copyright is fair because it is equally available to all. A software patent regime would establish the law of the strong, and ultimately create more injustice than justice."

The trio also said that if the EU Council adopts the draft proposal from May, it would be undemocratic. This is due to a change in the voting weights of EU members, which means the council members that supported the initial proposal no longer have a majority vote.

Florian Mueller, the founder of the anti-patent Web site, said the statement comes at a vital time, as the EU Council is due to convene later this week and will soon try to formally adopt the proposed change to the directive.

The anti-patent campaign received another boost last week when Poland withdrew its support for the patent directive.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.