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20
Oct 04
Wed

Richard Stallman at UNSW

Stallman gave a two hour talk entitled, “The Dangers on Software Patents”. A more appropriate title would be “Software Patents are Evil and should be Eradicated”. Stallman’s a good speaker, and he makes an argument that most would agree with. Patenting of software ideas is not a good thing in general in terms of innovation, small businesses and so on. And it gets pretty ridiculous when something like Amazon’s “1-click” ordering can be patented. Of course, the illogic of the patenting system is the easy thing to point out. The far harder task is trying to phase out the system, and that’s a political process.

While the message was compelling, the messenger was, well, quite grating. During the Q&A session, Stallman would cut people off mid-question, yell out “No! No! No!” and do everything but give people a chance to have their say, no matter how wrong it may be. Also, branding patent lawyers as “parasites” is okay if you’re addressing a room full of computing science people, but not when half the audience are from the big law firms around. But hey, I know enough computing people to know that some of them can have quite quirky personalities. It’s just a pity that a lot of people were put off by Stallman’s “abrupt” personality.