Introduction of EU software patents blocked

Protest in front of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg Microsoft, IBM and co. had hoped the pan-European introduction of software patenting would help them extend their monopoly power and put free and open-source software such as Linux and Firefox on the defensive. Software patents would mean they would always be in danger of violating the arsenals of patents of the monopolists. Steep licence fees would be payable, which would put a real damper on innovation. For the general public, the consequence would be that software would become more expensive, less innovative and less secure.

In early 2003, hardly any MEPs were in a position to gauge the significance of the Software Patent Directive. However, the software companies had not counted on European citizens getting involved. Since mid 2003, activists have been lobbying and engaging in PR work, and as a result have won over numerous MEPs from all parties to their cause. Despite this, in 2004 and 2005, the Council of Ministers decided in favour of software patents. Ahead of the decisive vote in the European Parliament, small firms, software activists from the FFII, the online citizens’ network Campact and the globalization critics from Attac all worked together.

Bridge foundation funded the work of the FFII and a new kind of online demonstration: Attac and Campact called on citizens to »face up« to software patents on the internet. Nearly 5,000 people uploaded a photo of themselves on to the campaign website. The photos together formed the slogan »No e-patents!«.

On 6 July 2005, the day of the decision in the European Parliament, the online demonstration was displayed as a giant banner in front of the entrance to the parliament building. Many MEPs got talking to the activists. Two hours later, they decided against software patents! On that day, a whiff of another Europe, a Europe of the people, wafted through the streets of Strasbourg!


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