To: [email protected] X-Mailer: NMH 1.02 Subject: Insubstantial Patents and Lawsuits Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 14:32:37 -0500 From: "Johan A. van Zanten"
Dear Amazon.com, While i and many friends and colleagues have admired the superior service your company provides, i am afraid i will boycott (and encourage others to boycott) Amazon.com as long as it attempts to defend insubstantial patents with litigation or threats of litigation. (see http://www.noamazon.com/) I have been an Internet user and UNIX system administrator for about 10 years now. Without the "free software" (as in "free speech," not "free beer") movement, and the tradition of collaboration, the Internet would never have become anything more than a private military research network. Projects like BSD UNIX, Linux or Apache, which involve the non-profit collaborative work of hundreds or thousands of programmers were and are the driving force behind the growth and innovation of the Internet. If UC Berkeley patented and licensed TCP/IP and SMTP, or Tim Berners-Lee patented and licensed HTTP, or various developers patented and licensed *parts* of Apache, or Larry Wall patented and licensed Perl, or Richard Stallman patented and licensed Emacs, Amazon.com would NOT EXIST today. Amazon.com should ask its own programmers and system administrators how many of them could do their work without such free software. Imagine how much more in the RED Amazon.com would be if it had to pay usurious and exploitative licensing fees to patent holders for to use of what would otherwise be free. Amazon.com is beholden and eternally indebted to the spirit of free and collaborative software development that thrives on the Internet. Whether Amazon.com realizes it or not, its lawsuits are an attempt to kill this productive and free collaboration. Just because the U.S. Patent office is staffed with brainless morons who are incapable of legitimately evaluating patent applications for virtually *any* software, does not mean that Amazon.com should take advantage of the situation to establish a monopoly. If Amazon.com had come up with some unique solution to a business problem that required a substantial amount of cranial work (like the PostScript typesetting language, for example), i would have a very different view of this situation. But the concept of "one-click" shopping is *immediately obvious* to anyone who considers the problem for more than a few minutes, and is simple to implement. In the late-1980's, AT&T filed suit against UC Berkeley for copyright infringement of the UNIX operating system. Berkeley counter-sued, and accused AT&T of not properly acknowledging use of "free" BSD code in AT&T's releases. The suits were eventually settled, but effectively killed both entities interest in further development of UNIX, though BSD UNIX did manage to survive. Further, one can argue that the void of BSD UNIX development created by the legal restrictions during the suit are what gave birth to Linux. Just as Berkeley filed a counter suit against AT&T, if Amazon.com continues to litigate these bogus patents, i fully expect Amazon.com's LICENSORS of free software distributed under the GPL to defend their way of life by filing suits against Amazon.com. Ultimately, no one wins in these types of situations. Valuable resources that would have otherwise been used for development of software or business are squandered on legal skirmishing, until both parties are too tired to fight anymore. In such an outcome, Amazon.com will loose business because of negative publicity, and from restraining orders issued against use of free software, which Amazon.com depends upon. I will boycott Amazon.com as long as Amazon.com continues attempts to enforce these insubstantial patents, because i believe that such actions by any entity are "patently" wrong, and are a threat to the existence of the Internet as a free and open medium. I imagine many like-minded computing professionals make up a distinct group of your potential customers, and we will be watching very carefully to see what Amazon.com does, and advising friends and colleagues accordingly.
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