A Question Red Hat Must Answer


With apologies for returning to the theme of patents, I'd like to direct your attention to a long and interesting piece that has appeared on the Digital Majority site asking a very important question: “Did Red Hat lobby for, or against software patents in Europe?”

The piece is dense and closely argued, drawing on Red Hat's statements down the years to support its case. The central question it tries to address is whether Red Hat is truly helping to fight software patents in Europe, or whether it simply wants the patent system reformed to something more convenient for its own purposes as a big software house, while retaining the good graces of the free software movement. Here's the concluding paragraph:

Red Hat, instead of working with the Abolitionists to end software patents in Europe, was working to rewrite the law and remove the protection from patents that Europe's small software sector had enjoyed until then. While this seems normal and obvious for a firm that needs to answer to shareholders and investors, it is Red Hat's own statements that baffle us. If Red Hat seeks patents "to discourage patent lawsuits by giving us the ability to retaliate against potential patent aggressors by asserting counter-claims as a defence", why did they not work for abolition in Europe in 2005 and why are they not working for abolition in 2009?

Happily, this issue is very easy to resolve: all Red Hat need do is to state clear and unequivocally, once and for all, whether it wants software patents abolished – not reformed - in Europe. That's not too much to ask, is it? Hello, Red Hat: we're waiting....