9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN24 Science and Technology

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 IPR, Patenting and Knowledge Transfer Building AA, AA.225

Mapping contemporary technoscientific controversies: the software patent debate in Europe

For the last decade, software and IT lobbies and a few
European industry sectors have presented a proposal for a directive
("Directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions"
(2002/0047/COD)) in order to apply the patents regime to software.
This directive would entail one of the sweeping changes in software's
legal and socioeconomic regulation in the European history (a shift
from copyright to patent protection). The conflicts and controversies
which arose over the planned directive have configured a landscape
where several political and social actors, institutions and movements
(such as "Free Software" or Open Source movement) fight to define the
social and legal place of computer programs. In fact, while the
European Council adopted the software patent directive and the
European Commission welcomed Council agreement on it, the European
Parliament voted by a massive majority to reject it (July 2005). The
immaterial code has become an obscure object of desire (at stake) and
a real puzzle for legislators and current juridical normative. In this
work, after an historical revision of software's trajectory in Europe
and its role in the global economic order, we will try to sketch the
kind of discourses and effective rhetorical strategies developed on
each side of the intellectual property controversy. Besides which, we
also aim at mapping out the spaces of conflict and to register the
multiple participants around this debate, ranging from software
companies (European and American) to social movements of programmers
or computer users (The Foundation for a Free Information
Infrastructure (FFII)) or the European Patent Office (EPO). The
ubiquity of such conflicts about intellectual property claims has
become a relevant phenomenon of which deserves a careful consideration
and research.