Panel Discussion on Software Patents and FOSS

I am sharing the outline for a proposed FOSS United Panel Discussion on Software Patents and FOSS. The goal of this session is to help the Indian FOSS community get an understanding of the challenges posted by software patents. Comments, and suggestions of speaker names welcome.


Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) are governed by licenses that give users the following four freedoms:

  1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to study how the program works and change it so that it does your computing as you wish.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others – giving the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes.

The four freedoms of FOSS enable unfettered learning and innovation, and have enabled the internet, and countless technologies from which humanity derives value every day. For developing countries like India, FOSS enables us to build self-sufficient technological capacity by allowing people from all cultures and backgrounds to freely innovate and use technologies to solve our problems, and to move forward as a society. FOSS is what has catapulted the tech startup ecosystem in India and enabled major e-Governance projects.

However, this freedom to innovate is under threat as major software companies lobby to enable a regime of software patents. Patents are state granted monopolies on inventions that give the patent holder the right to exclude others from using that invention for a limited period of time. This limited period is usually around 20 years. The Free Software Foundation, Software Freedom Law Center, Open Source Initiative, and other FOSS organizations have voiced their opposition to the current software patents regime.

In this panel discussion, we take a closer look at why the FOSS community has always been opposed to software patents historically, why there is huge pressure on governments around the world to enable software patents and how software patents can impact the FOSS community. We bring together academics, industry experts, and lawyers to explain this issue to the Indian FOSS community and software developers.

Format: 60 minute panel discussion conducted online