Issue #12
July 2006

     1. Editorial: Software patents in Latin America - Brazil and Argentina headed down a dangerous path?<br />

2. GPLv3
3. FSFLA at the University Information System (Argentina)
4. Participating in FSFLA


1. Editorial: Software patents in Latin America - Brazil and Argentina headed down a dangerous path?

In mid-June, the Argentine media reproduced press releases issued by the Ministry of Economy as well as by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The brief text reported that both ministries have joined efforts in "the creation of a program dedicated to the promotion of the development of information and communication technologies", through a foundation which will carry the name of Argentine mathematician Manuel Sadosky[1]. According to the Ministry of Economy, "once the project is set in motion, mechanisms will be put in place to provide genuine funding through agreements with the private sector for the exploitation
of patents".

The goals of this foundation, as was put forward in September last year[2], include basic research, theoretical studies and applied research, which will "enable Argentina to develop patents" which in turn, so they hope, will enable the collection of royalties on them.

These announcements beg the question: ¿is Argentina opening the door that leads to software patents?

Argentine patent law[3] explicitly says that "plans, rules and methods for carrying out intellectual activities, for games, or for economic- commercial activities, as well as computer programs" are not to be considered "inventions" for the purposed of the law. In other words, they are not patentable.

Brazilian law is just as explicit in its rejection of software patents, yet this other Mercosur partner also seems to be headed down a dangerous path.

During the Second International GPLv3 Conference, which took place in Porto Alegre, Brazilian lawyer Thiago Tavares Nunes da Silveira warned his audience that Brazil's patent office is already granting software patents as "computer-implemented inventions", the same euphemism against which a long and hard battle was fought and won in the European Union last year.

Brazil and Argentina seem to be headed in the same direction.

The US experience shows unmistakably that software patents are an obstacle to innovation and software development[4], regardless of whether it's free or proprietary software, and they are a direct threat to the use and development of Free Software.

Neither Argentina, nor Brazil nor any other Latin American country has a chance to compete in a software development arena that is mined with patents, artificial monopolies for which our societies are paying a dire price. The negative impact of software patents grossly outweighs the highly unlikely potential benefits their proponents suggest.

Software Patents:

  • grant arbitrary monopolies on abstract ideas,

  • stand in the way of innovation, since they allow monopolies on ideas which the patent holder hasn't even implemented,

  • prevent the operation of competitive markets, giving large corporations a stranglehold on strategic markets,

  • prevent interoperability, thus strengthening the dependency on single solution providers,

  • carry their pernicious effects over to other areas of the economy

  • discourage the production of useful Free Software programs, out of fear of stepping on a legal trap.

FSFLA reminds readers of its Newsletter that software patents are a threat to Free Software all around the world, and calls on all software users to act against them.

In order to be effective against this threat in our region, being well informed is a priority. Here is a list of suggested reading on software patents and their consequences:

[1] http://www.infobae.com/notas/nota.php?Idx=260109&IdxSeccion=100799
[2] http://www.softwarelegal.org.ar/HTML/prensa/noticias.asp?id=150
[3] http://www.fsfla.org/?q=es/node/50
[4] http://www.researchoninnovation.org/patent.pdf

2. GPLv3

Alexandre Oliva and Federico Heinz were in Barcelona, attending the Third International GPLv3 conference, which aimed at discussing the progress of the actualization process for the world's most pupular Free Software License, the GNU GPL.

The event was coordinated by our sister organizations, FSF and FSFE, and featured the presence of Richard M. Stallman, who did a presentation on the main goals of the GPL update to version 3. He placed special emphasis on the issues raised by software patents, Digital Restriction Management systems, and license compatibility.

Also present was FSF board member and Software Freedom Law Center director Eben Moglen, who walked through the audience through the main changes in the current draft of GPLv3.

This was the third international conference of the public consultation process, after the two first were held in the US and Brazil, respectively. The next and last conference of the cycle will take place in Bangalore, India on August 23rd and 24th, in an attempt to achieve maximum international coverage to the update process initiated by the Free Software Foundation.

More information on the process in the portion of our site dedicated to GPLv3,( http://www.fsfla.org/?q=node/60 ) and on FSF's GPLv3 site,( http://gplv3.fsf.org/ ).

3. FSFLA at the University Information System (Argentina)

Thanks to the efforts of the Capital Federal Free Software User Group in Buenos Aires, Argentina ( http://www.cafelug.org.ar/ ) FSFLA has a new channel to communicate Free Software's principles and philosophy. Starting in June, FSFLA will publish a monthly column in InfoSIU, the Argentine University Information System's newsletter, which reaches all of Argentina's public universities.

The first installment of this column carries the title "Software: cultural technique of our time", and begins "Software is everywhere. Today, we blindly trust the computer programs that control de operations of our cellular phones, voting machines, databases, automation systems, and all kinds of computers which surround us without us even being aware of it. [...]".



4. Participating in FSFLA

We invite activists and people who are interested in spreading the word and promoting the use and development of Free Software in our region to join our work teams and activities.

Those who wish to get involved can find instructions in our web site under "¿Cómo participar en FSFLA?" http://www.fsfla.org/?q=es/node/78