Subject: Re: Why software patents are bad
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 14:58:40 +0900 (JST)

I wrote:

    >> My hope is that they do no such thing (compute copyright
    >> damages with respect to "damage to the community") unless the
    >> suit is properly framed as a class action.

>>>>> "craig" == craig  <> writes:

    craig> My impression is that the courts often award *vast* damages
    craig> to plaintiffs that are *way* out of line with a simple,
    craig> strict notion of what is compensatory and punitive, though
    craig> I assume that's more often the case when the defendant is
    craig> an entity other than a human being.

I've replied to this line of thought out of band; I don't think it's
really relevant.  I will say that I can't see a justification for
terming this pattern "logic"; it is simply a tax on the Fortune 500,
being transferred to extremely lucky plaintiffs (extremes of both good
and bad luck) and lawyers of rather lucky taste in personal injury
plaintiffs.  In general it will not affect safety, however, as most
products are designed and built by firms with much shallower pockets.

    craig> I think that's rarely the result of a coherent
    craig> thought-process, myself, but that it's highly dangerous for
    craig> society to acquit the wealthy while convicting the rest in
    craig> criminal court and use civil courts to punish the wealthy
    craig> via monetary means, even though I can see how it might work
    craig> quite well on a defendant-by-defendant basis, because I
    craig> think a society that implements, or especially applauds,
    craig> *non-equal* justice is shaky in the long run.

In other words, you agree with me in principle ...

    craig> So as long as this "let's punish beyond the issue of this
    craig> one plaintff and this one defendant, and send a message"
    craig> mentality governs our legal system (especially in civil
    craig> courts), I'd hope the courts would view free software as
    craig> benefitting the public, since it clearly does.

... but are willing to follow society in practice?

None of us would be here if we did that in business :-)

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."