Thursday, August 05, 2004

Copyright not patents

Open Source Against Software Patents "t is worth taking a look at the history of databases to understand why copyrights, rather than patents, are the right form of protection.

In 1970, Edgar Codd, an IBM computer scientist, wrote a number of papers which developed the idea of a new form of relational database which went beyond the then current hierarchical and network database models. Codd's paper was instrumental in the development of IBM's prototype relational database known as System R (and ultimately in the development of IBM's DB2 database), as well as Oracle, the first commercial relational database. Codd's paper was read by computer scientists Michael Stonebraker and Eugene Wong at the University of California at Berkeley, who subsequently developed the Ingres database. System R and Ingres in turn inspired the development of virtually all commercial relational databases, including those from Sybase, Informix, Tandem, and even Microsoft's SQL Server. SQL (Structured Query Language) became a de facto standard as well as an official standard published by ANSI in 1986 and ratified by ISO in 1987. And then in the 1990s, we saw the emergence of open source databases such as MySQL, Postgres, Firebird, and others. All of these databases benefit from the development of standards that ensure compatibility and interoperability...Every time you search on the Internet, shop online, or book a reservation, you're using database technology. The database industry has grown successfully because it was not locked up in proprietary patents.

Of course, the history of database technology is hardly unique. The same story could be told about spreadsheets, word processors, e-mail systems, graphical user interfaces, electronic shopping carts, search engines, and even the Internet itself. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, says software patents have "run amok.""
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