Tuesday, December 14, 2004

HERE'S AN INTERESTING RUB: (Reuters) Computer software should not be protected by copyright laws designed for music, literature and other creative works, according to a lawsuit filed in a U.S. court in San Francisco.

Intellectual-property consultant Greg Aharonian hopes to convince the court that software makers can protect their products adequately through patents, which provide more comprehensive protection, but are difficult to obtain and expire in a shorter period of time.

The case seeks to clarify which laws the $100 billion U.S. software industry uses to protect its products. Currently, software makers like Microsoft Corp. use both copyright and patent laws to protect their creations, as well as "clickwrap" agreements that stipulate terms of use.

An official with a software-industry trade group said not every software product is protected by patents.

"If you eliminated the ability to sue somebody for copyright infringement, you would eviscerate our ability to go against pirates," said Emory Simon, counselor for the Business Software Alliance, which estimates that U.S. businesses lost $6.5 billion last year to piracy.

Aharonian argues in his complaint that software copyright laws violate the right to due process enshrined in the U.S. Constitution because they do not provide clear boundaries for appropriate use. That means industry players and courts do not have a clear idea of the rules.

"Until you're sued and a judge makes up his mind about what is the idea and expression (at stake), no one knows," Aharonian said in an interview.

- A longshot for sure, but it raises some valid points. And I bet this is going to get the EU "free software" crowd convulsing over the prospect of having a "patent-only" system in the U.S.

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