Don Marti

Sun 17 Apr 2005 08:33:51 PM PDT

President of the USA?

Here's a hard one: should free software organizations and publications endorse a candidate for President of the USA? Interest groups with fewer members and less unity of purpose endorse candidates all the time.

People are going to disagree on many issues, but there are some core free software issues to which any candidate who loves Freedom could reasonably commit.

So, since the first step in getting what you want is asking for it coherently and repeatedly, I would like to present a list of campaign promises to ask candidates to make in order to get the Free Software vote.

(If you think Free Software is not an important issue for national elections, you must own a media cartel...can I have an hour show on Saturday mornings?)

Issue: DMCA reform

  1. Promise to sign a DMCA reform bill if it passes.

We need the President's signature to turn the DMCA into the law that Congress wanted to pass, or thought it was passing, in the first place. A candidate should promise to sign a bill that implements this sensible reform if it passes.

"[A]n individual [should] not be able to circumvent in order to gain unauthorized access to a work, but should be able to do so in order to make fair use of a work which he or she has acquired lawfully."

  1. Promise to veto any "technology mandate" legislation that would require any new digital rights management measures for general-purpose computers.

Issue: Patent reform

3a. Promise to involve either Richard Stallman or Prof. Lawrence Lessig in the selection process for Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

3b. Promise that the Federal budget will include adequate funding for USPTO to bring the quality of issued patents back up.

Patent reform is a tricky one, because reforming either quality or patentability by itself is useless or harmful.

Without a high-quality patent office, lawyers will push the limits. Result: patentability creep. (see "Europe, software patents in.")

Unless a reasonable scope of patentability is defined by law, patent examiners will be flying blind. Result: invalid patents.

Issue: Internet free speech

  1. Promise that the US government will not require compliance with any information technology standard for which a US patent without an innovation-compatible (IC) license is in force.

  2. Promise to appoint FCC Commissioners who will keep any regulations for "soft radio" compatible with free software.

  3. Promise to appoint FCC Commissioners who will refuse to endorse a DRM mandate in FCC regulations.

  4. Promise to appoint FCC Commissioners who are committed to giving out more unregulated spectrum if and when the Internet needs it.