Helsinki 22 September 2003
Press release
For immediate release
Electronic Frontier Finland - EFFI ry

Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox: Please say no for software patents

Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox ask for strict limitations to software patents in their letter to the members of the European Parliament. The vote on the Directive will be on Wednesday and it is expected to be a very close one.

Linus Torvalds comments: "The experiences from the USA demonstrate that software patents don't benefit anyone but perhaps the patent lawyers. They will just weaken the market and increase spending on patents and litigation, at the expense of technological innovation and research." He continues: "We hope that the members of European Parliament see these negative sides and don't push the same chaos to the old continent."

Alan Cox notes: "Currently, the companies are moving programming jobs offshore. The huge move away from the USA is not entirely driven by pricing but also by patent litigation and risk. Companies create a US holding company for the intellectual property rights which licenses it to a non-US body to write the software overseas and import it, so as to reduce risk." He stresses: "Adopting the same kind of patents in the EU will drive thousands of EU programming jobs overseas, too."

The Open Letter also strongly argues for open standards. Linus Torvalds explains: "Without open standards it is not really possible to develop open systems. And in the end, without open systems the society won't remain open for its citizens."

In their letter, Torvalds and Cox set three requests for the Directive. Firstly, it should clarify limits of patentability so that computer programs and business methods really cannot be patented as such. Secondly, the Directive should make sure that patents cannot be abused to avoid technical competition by preventing interoperability of competing software. Finally, the patents should not be allowed to be used to prevent publication of information.

Electronic Frontier Finland ry (EFFI) has coordinated the campaign against software patents in Finland. EFFI is very pleased of the position taken by Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox. EFFI chairman Mikko Välimäki comments: "We hope that all members of the European Parliament now understand the real harm caused by the software patents."

More information:

Open letter in English:

Open letter in Finnish:

Open letter in Swedish:

Finnish version of this press release [expanded Finnish coverage]:

Linus Torvalds

Alan Cox

Mikko Välimäki
Chairman, Electronic Frontier Finland ry
+358 50 598 0498

Linus Torvalds <> is the originator and main developer of the Linux operating system. Alan Cox <> has been one of the major developers of Linux for a long time.

Electronic Frontier Finland - EFFI ry was founded in 2001 to defend active users and citizens of the Finnish society in the electronic frontier. EFFI influences legislative proposals concerning e.g. personal privacy, software patents, freedom of speech and fair use in copyright law. We make statements, press releases and participate actively in actual public policy and legal discussions. EFFI has been featured in the national media including TV, radio and leading newspapers. EFFI also works in close cooperation with organizations sharing the same goals and values in the Europe, United States and elsewhere. EFFI is a founding member of the European Digital Rights and a member of Global Internet Liberty Campaign. More information from EFFI's home pages:

[Note: After this press release the letter has been translated to French, German and Spanish in addition to the languages mentioned in the press release. -Janne Nikula, 5th October 2003]