The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to establishing a free market in information technology, by the removal of barriers to competition. The FFII was largely responsible for the rejection of the EU software patent directive in July 2005, working closely with the European Parliament and many partners from industry and civil society. CNET awarded the FFII the Outstanding contribution to software development award for this work, which was the result of years of research, policy, and action. Today we continue to defend your right to a free and competitive software market by working towards sane patent systems and open standards.
[ffii:action:ga2006 FFII general assembly] to be held on 25 November 2006, Munich
What we do
Most FFII members and supporters are independent software developers, patent experts, and academics who have studied the patent system and understand its strengths and weaknesses. We monitor proposals for new laws and treaties that affect the IT sector, and we analyse these proposals and prepare responses. We research the consequences of software patents in particular areas, and we collect results from studies conducted around the world. We make our research available to industry, to politicians, and to academia. We alert people to problems that may not yet be visible to all. We define policies. We organise conferences, meetings, reports. We work with politicians to build better laws.
A Free Information Infrastructure
For six years the FFII has fought for the rights of small and independent software authors. We apply the techniques of free and open software development to our research and activism. We live from the voluntary efforts of hundreds of activists and thousands of supporters who believe, like us, that it is possible to build a better world, that big business and big government don't always have the right answers, and that the organised work of volunteers can beat even the best paid professional lobbyists.
Competition, Copyright and Open Standards
We believe that innovation comes from competition in an open and fair market, backed by an appropriate ownership model. In the software industry, this means access to a full and open market (not restricted by monopolistic practices), to a robust copyright regime (not undermined by software patents), and to fully open (not licensed) standards backed by independent bodies.
Regulation of the Global Patent Industry
The global patent industry acts as an unregulated monopoly and it is unbalancing the system of property rights that underpin the software industry. The FFII believes that the patent industry must be properly regulated, by democratically-elected legislative bodies, and by civil high courts.
No Software Patents
Software patents are a barrier to a free market in information technology. Each software patent claims to "own" areas of the software market. The FFII believes that software patents are inherently unsafe, unnecesssary, and that the global patent industry seeks these for the sake of profit, not innovation.
The Internet was built on open standards and the FFII believes these are essential to the healthy growth of the IT market. Open standards are patent-free, usable with no licenses or other conditions, and governed by independent bodies (not vendors). Licensed standards are by definition a barrier to competition.
Brian Kahin said in 1990, of US software patents: "never before has an industry in which copyright was widely established suddenly been subjected to patenting." The FFII believes that copyright is an effective and accurate form of ownership for software, though the life+70 duration is far too long for software.
Clear Rules and Balanced Enforcement
Any market needs clear rules and balanced enforcement. The software market needs clarity when it comes to ownership. Software patents have turned a clear set of rules, based on copyright, into unclear ones. The patent industry has become too powerful and seeks to increase its wealth at the expense of the real software industry. We believe that the role of government is to respect the needs of the market, not promote the interests of the few.
How to help us
The FFII is funded partly from individual membership fees, and partly from donations from sponsors in industry and civil society. We are not a trade association, and we rely on volunteers and contributions to make a difference.
Consider making a donation. You can make a real difference.
We are currently working against a fresh attempt to bring software patents to Europe: the [ffii:kwiki:EplaEn European Patent Litigation Agreement]. Read more about it [ffii:kwiki:EplaAnalysisEn here] and here. These documents tell you how to help.