Zones of Emergency

It’s very short notice but I’m giving a talk tonight (2008-03-03) at the Joan Jonas Performance Hall at the MIT Visual Arts Program. It’s rather last minute.

I’ll be talking along with Mark Tribe as part of a series called Zones of Emergency. I’ll be speaking a bit about free and open source software and why it’s particularly important in the context of emergencies. Think Sahana. There’s more information about the talk online here.

Ending Software Patents

Last week, the Free Software Foundation announced an important new initiative called End Software Patents whose goals are pretty evident from the project’s name. So far, the initiative is backed by the FSF, the Public Patent Foundation, and the Software Freedom Law Center.

There are several organizations who are taking on specific bad patents but ESP is unique in that it is activitely working toward the abolition of software patents in the United States. While the organization is focused on work in the US, it’s deeply important globally — much of the world’s patent law is "exported" from the US.

The FSF is stretching extremely limited resources in backing ESP to help it get off the ground because we believe two things:

  • First, software patents are a fundamental threat to free and open source software (but not just to free and open source software). The FSF must oppose software patents because they provide a fundamental threat to free software’s continued success. That sounds like hyperbole but is unfortunately not.
  • Second, we can win this fight. For a whole set of reasons, the successful abolition of software patents is a goal that, while extremely ambitious, is also within grasp. These issues, of course, are much bigger than free software. Companies spend billions of dollars in litigation over software patents that are not novel and that should not exist. ESP can reach out farther than the FSF alone and build a coalition that can destroy software patents for the good of much more than the free software community.

Please read the new ESP report on the state of software patents written by the ESP Executive Director Ben Klemens to understand why we are optimistic. And please, support ESP financially in this fight. ESP’s continued work is not ensured past the immediate future. Your support will help endow a bright future for the next generation of software developers and users.