Patents are considered bothersome in software. What a surprise that a parallel fight is fought in biological gardening scenes! This gave me an absurd idea, which may actually work well in practice.
| posted on Fri, 29 Dec 2006, 11:44 | weblog | rss | spin-off | comments |
In software, you want to write software and remain free to share it. To do so, a number of license forms, commonly known as open source licenses, have been developed. Unlike a commercial license, these open source licenses actually protect your freedom to use, develop and distribute software. Depending on the style of license, commercial development based on open software may be resold at a profit (as with BSD) or it must then be made available without profit (as with GPL).
The ecological problem is that a few multinational corporations are confiscating the seed market; they sell the same seed throughout the world and thereby ensure that any problems with a crop automatically become large-scale problems. They also prohibit derived forms from plants that work well in a local environmen. But if a farmer is not allowed adapt seed to local conditions then he is not able to help avoid the occurrence of crop problems on a large scale. (It is being rumoured that those seed companies also win from sale of detergents, which can explain this motivation to some degree.)
Perhaps it is an idea to have an 'open plant license' which would be inspired on open source licenses.
Open source software may be manipulated in any way that a user likes. In terms of plants:
This License does not limit private use of Plants and Seeds under in any way; the only restrictions that apply are to distribition.
Open source software is protected so that the source code can always be obtained.
Seeds and Plants under this License may freely be distributed, either at no cost or at a fee, as long as the License is mentioned to apply, and either this License or a reference to it is mentioned alongside.
Software licensences often protect the availability of free code, but this does not make sense for plants; it takes much more effort to harvest seeds than it is to duplicate software.
Seeds that fall under this License grow into Plants that fall under this license. Plants that fall under this License may be multiplied vegatatively, leading to Plants that also fall under this License. Plants that fall under this License may produce Seeds, either through pollination or being pollinated, which also fall under this License.
A less-strict form is the BSD license, which allows any mingling as long as the origins are made explicit.
Open source software protects itself against patent-ridden software, and explicitly excludes integration. This is practiced by disallowing the redistribution of such mixed-licensed software. In terms of plants:
If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Seeds or Plants at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Seeds or Plants by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Seeds or Plants.
This is an almost-direct copy from the GPL text, section 7; section 8 continues the stanza in a practical manner:
If the distribution and/or use of the Seeds or Plants is restricted in certain countries either by patents or by copyrighted interfaces, the original copyright holder who places the Seeds or Plants under this License may add an explicit geographical distribution limitation excluding those countries, so that distribution is permitted only in or among countries not thus excluded. In such case, this License incorporates the limitation as if written in the body of this License.
The best way to fight legally-enforced issues like contracts is usually to use the same, legal tools. These licenses have worked well for software, as we can all see by the acceptance of open source software by large companies. They use it as a common code base which they extend with the things they need for some commercial endeavour. Interestingly, this leads to code being shared between companies that would normally not dream about working togeting. Open source, and especially the force applied by the licenses, makes these companies bond nevertheless.
The idea of plants and seeds under a license may be absurd, but it is no more absurd than patenting them. And since it is a relatively light-weight construct to add remarks like These seeds are available under the terms of the Open Seed License it might make a lot of sense. Plus, it makes the ideals of biodiversity very visible.
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