Lessig Blog
the "democracy" that is Europe

So despite the fact that the EU Parliament has rejected software patents for Europe, and despite the fact that there is not a qualified majority of member states supporting it, the EU Council has now endorsed their draft of the "Directive on the Patentability of Computer-Implemented Inventions."

This struggle continues to astonish me. There's no good economic evidence that software patents do more good than harm. That's the reason the US should reconsider its software patent policy.

But why Europe would voluntarily adopt a policy that will only burden its software developers and only benefit US interests is beyond me.

They call it a "democracy" that they're building in Europe. I don't see it. Instead, they have created a government of bureaucrats, more easily captured by special interests than anything in the US.

I guess this is "free" as in free markets, not free software or free beer. I am a capitalist, but looking at the damage that monopolies and strong commercial interests are wreaking on the world, I begin to question the "sanity" of our markets. Now that our media companies and it appears are policies are traded for cash, what is there to check the continuing consolidation of power and diminishing of democracy?

9 Comments

LL should really limit his writing to subjects that he understands to some degree.

Umm... He used to be a constitutional law professor and helped write constitutions for Eastern Europe. I think this qualifies his as an expert in the field.

from LL..."There's no good economic evidence that software patents do more good than harm"

This is a debate that hasn't been aired nearly enough in EU or US. In fact, I would ask anyone to show economic benefit of patents, beyond the obvious profit taking of the few who are lucky enough to hold the patents.

I am with Lessig on this topic. This is why, after a markedly pro-European past (have even been on an Euro-election ticket some years ago), I asked for a negative vote in the past European Constitution referendum. Didn't get much following, though.

The European Union's democratic deficit used to be a temporary negative side-effect, but time passes and it is starting to look like more and more like a feature in the eyes of many.

...consolidation of power...

Exactly. That's what has been bugging me too.

OK, LL is an expert, amen. However, the jump from the EU process around software patents to the state of democracy in the EU in general is a very large one.

"Now that our media companies and it appears our policies are traded for cash, what is there to check the continuing consolidation of power and diminishing of democracy?"

Nothing.

Which means that we are entering into a world very different from any imagined by us or our forbears - Mussolini being one of a few possible exceptions. Mussolini and Ridley Scott.

Imagine what Europe looked like before its Enlightenment. Now throw in technology, and voila, you have the world upcoming.

It's quite difficult to determine the democratic value of the EU so far. Certainly if you just take it on face value, it appears like a bureaucratic mess. In practice though, the Union gets a lot done in terms of opening markets and protecting citizens and the environment.

There are undoubtedly problems with the accountability of the Commission in particular. However, on the whole the EU has made democracy and human rights stronger on the whole by tempering the power of national government and big business.

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