Looking for a patent-breaking brain

Francois-Rene Rideau fare@tunes.org
Wed, 1 Sep 1999 01:21:03 +0200

Here is an english adaptation of a message I sent to mailing-lists of
french-speaking free-software associations...



Good Morning, Mr. Hacker,

UNISYS, one of these companies that feed on the world by legally reducing
people to mind-slave by means of the regime of Intellectual Property,
has recently announced that it would require a licensing fee
from anyone using any GIF picture produced with non-licensed software
in any for-profit environment.

I think it is the perfect opportunity to react into a brilliant deed
that demonstrates the utter absurdity of software patents.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, will be thus:

* download the specifications for the GIF format
 (GIF will be used as a topical example, but any other software using
 patented technique could do the trick as well)
* draw as small a bitmap as possible, that reads:
 You can make it large if you're brave. You can have a friend do it for you
 if you don't want to mess with a bitmap drawing software.
* compress *by hand*, with pencil and paper, the bitmap drawing.
* enter the GIF picture in a computer with an hexadecimal file editor
 (or with DEBUG.EXE, or a C program, or a perl script).
* rename the file as FUCK_UNISYS.GIF
* publish it on the Internet.
* _sell_ copies of it, to get these bandits with their back to the wall,
 who claim to only threat those who'd use GIF for profit.
* send copies to their legal service by registered post with
 acknowledgement of receipt, for if they do not try to enforce
 their patents against you, it will be automatically rendered null and void.
* REFUSE any license from them.
 Have they got the right to grant you a license without your permission?

Should you or any of your collaborators be caught,
we shall claim knowledge of your actions, back you,
and laugh at the patent office.
* you will be the first human being whose brain (or at least its use)
 infringes a patent. Or would patent holders rather demand acquisition
 of a patent from authors of DEBUG.EXE? In this case, why not ask
 acquisition of one from authors of cp or of cat > ?
* since your parents, and not you, are the authors of the illegal software,
 they are the one who ought to be prosecuted.
 You will get extra credit should you be either an orphan or an adopted child.
 Or maybe will they rather sue God instead?
 You will also get extra credit if you are born before the date
 when the patent was issued, since your brain will have anteriority over it.

This e-mail will self-destruct in 10 seconds.
But of course, your DRAM will refresh before that,
and you'll have a brand new copy, complete with a new set of electrons.
And of course, I do hope that even when you stop the viewer process,
you'll have a copy of this message encoded and compressed within your brain.

So, since it's all about selling copies,
I am willing to purchase the original copy (on paper)
for FRF100 (about EUR15, USD16), although other people may make higher bids.
Money made by selling copies could go to a fund to back incoming legal
battles against the "intellectual property" poison.

Odds are sharks^Wlawyers will claim that the patent only applies
to software and not to human beings. Here is a way to corner these crooks
into the absurd:

* write a family of more and more highly automated programs
 to compress GIF files:
 = start with a program that reads hexadecimal and dumps a binary file,
  and package the GIF specification with it.
 = refine successively the automation with one small conceptual step
  of the LZW algorithm, until a fully automated program is obtained.
 = accompany every intermediate program with readable documentation
  that describes how a human can complete the yet-automated steps.
* It seems that languages such as FORTH or LISP are perfectly adapted
 as interactive environments where functionalities are incrementally added.
 Of course, everyone is free to pick one's favorite language.
* at every step (in LISP or FORTH, that means at every function definition,
 which means about every other line), post the program on the Internet,
 and send a copy to UNISYS' legal department.
* if they decide a version of the program is in violation of their patent,
 distribute the previous version.
* write a metaprogram that transforms the acceptable program
 into a complete program.
* if the complete metaprogram is itself considered illegal,
 then apply the same butchering process to it,
 and jump into metametaprogramming...
* HINT: in a functional programming language such as FORTH or LISP,
 the metaprogram can be just a set of triffling combinators,
 rather than something that would contain character strings representing
 program text.
* If the above isn't enough, write a metaprogram that analyzes and understands
 the GIF specification (or another equivalent text written
 in natural language) and dumps a GIF coder/decoder.
* Finally, if they claim the resulting GIF, not running the program,
 is an infringement, then let's do as Gandhi's salt march,
 and all carry null GIFs on our sites!
 Let's include multiple copies of the GIFs, too, for multiple infringements;
 and let's also use hardlinks, symlinks, and URL pointing,
 just to see what they say.

All in all,

My FRF100 offer is firm. If you believe it's worth more, raise the bids...

Oh, and no, I'm just too lazy to do it myself.
I'm not a hacker, only a meta-hacker :(
Now, since I just wrote the present software,
whose execution or proper wetware leads to infringing a patent,
I'll plead guilty as charged.
Besides, this software does not depend on any particular patent,
so I'm willing to plead guilty for infringing EVERY single software patent,
and be convicted for being responsible for the software industry
losing 10,435,675,109,227.13 euros.

A word to the wise is enough!

[ "Faré" | VN: Уng-Vû Bân | Join the TUNES project!   http://www.tunes.org/  ]
[ FR: François-René Rideau | TUNES is a Useful, Nevertheless Expedient System ]
[ Reflection&Cybernethics  | Project for  a Free Reflective  Computing System ]
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of
exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea,
which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to
himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the
possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.
Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because
every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me,
receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his
taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should
freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual
instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been
peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like
fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any
point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical
being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then
cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
	--Thomas Jefferson