Consumer Rights and Innovation

Our entire system of copyright, patents and other controls is out of control.  Corporate and other interests want to own and control everything, while giving consumers and small inventors the short end of the stick.

Recently software makers have tried to tell people that the products that they buy are not actually their own-that they only have a personal life stake in the product, but that they do not have the right to sell, give away or modify it.  If you buy a book on Kindle or the Rosetta Stone program you do not have the right to sell it.  I think that it is time to give some push back from consumers that when we buy something, we actually buy it, and we can do what we want with it.

Please sign the petition:


Do you really own the smartphone or computer you’re using to read this? If you sold your books, would you be breaking the law? A federal court in New York says you would be, even if you legally paid for and bought them.

It’s unbelievable, but trademark and copyright holders really are trying to use a legal loophole to take away your right to sell things that you own: Please add your name at right to fight back.

Public interest advocates are taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court, and Demand Progress is joining up with a coalition of groups — including many of those that came together to kill SOPA — to support the rights of ordinary Internet users and everyday consumers.

We are working to defend a long-standing principle known as the “First-Sale Doctrine.” This common-sense rule gives us the right to sell most property we own, but big businesses have been trying to chip away at out our rights in the courts. If the Supreme Court supports the lower court’s decision, we won’t really “own” anything if any part of it was made in a different country. And practically anything you own — from your iPod to your house — could have been made abroad, in whole or in part.

We only have a few months to make our voices heard before the Supreme Court makes a lasting ruling. We are asking President Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice to stand up for the little guy: The President can urge the Court to side with consumers, but he’ll only do it if we bring enough pressure to bare.

If we lose this fight, practically anybody who wants to resell products they bought — from Macbooks and iPhones to our clothing and textbooks — will have to ask copyright holders for permission first. And they’ll have the right to deny it!

It’s bad for so many reasons: It’ll undermine Craigslist and Ebay, hurt the environment, increase incentives for manufacturers to move jobs off-shore, and effectively ban the traditional American yard sale. For more info, please check out Marvin Ammori’s article about the lawsuit.

In addition, our patent system is actually discouraging innovation and competition…but it is great for the lawyers and patent trolls who feast on the carcase of our economy and society.

EEF is leading the fight to protect consumers in this respect.  Please sign the petition below.  Thank you.

Petition at:

The patent system is in crisis, and it endangers the future of software development in the United States. Let’s create a system that defends innovation, instead of hindering it.

-A patent covering software should be shorter: no more than five years from the application date.

-If the patent is invalid or there’s no infringement, the trolls should have to pay the legal fees.

-Patent applicants should be required to provide an example of running software code for each claim in the patent.

-Infringers should avoid liability if they independently arrive at the patented invention.

-Patents and licenses should be public right away. Patent owners should be required to keep their public records up-to-date.

-The law should limit damages so that a patent owner can’t collect millions if the patent represented only a tiny fraction of a defendant’s product.

-Congress should commission  a study and hold hearings to examine whether software patents actually benefit our economy at all.

About Defend Innovation


U.S. Constitution, on the justification for patents

Civil liberties groups, academics, innovators, and Internet users team up to address the broken patent system.

Patents are supposed to foster innovation, but modern software patents have been turned against inventors. We need your help to defend innovation from a broken patent system. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Internet Users Sign on to EFF’s seven proposals for fixing the patents system. Add your name and a comment. We’ll take these signatures with us when we go to Washington, D.C., to tell legislators about our concerns with the patent system. The more names, the more powerful the document will be to lawmakers.
  2. Companies EFF wants to hear from developers, engineers, and creators of all types. We’re going to travel through Silicon Valley and beyond to talk with those who really feel the effects of today’s flawed patent system: Internet companies. We want to have a conversation with you – find out how you are using patents, what you’d like to see in the patent system, where it is flawed and where it works. Some companies (like Twitter) are already hacking the patent system, and we want to hear what you think about that. We’ll explain our proposals for repairing the system and hope to get your feedback. Click here to suggest a date for EFF to stop by for a meeting.
  3. Individual Inventors, Lawyers and Academics You know patents – you’ve been following the patent process inside and out for years. We want your feedback about the major problems with the current system, EFF’s seven proposals, and your experiences in the field.

We’re going to take everything we learned from Defend Innovation and distill it into a whitepaper – In Defense of Innovation. We plan to take this document with us to D.C. and use it to educate lawmakers about what’s really going on in the patent system – complete with a roadmap to fix it.


Matt Bailey
Software is becoming an ever increasingly important part of our lives . Our broken patent system discourages small independent developers from taking the risks to develop something totally new.
Thomas Parkinson
I continue to defend against patent trolls. Would do anything to stop them.
Donald Hayward
Software patents are one of the gravest threats to achieving the future that we’ve all dreamed of.
David Switzer
Software patents are silly because they often allow of patenting of vague concepts/ideas, that are more universal than brand new concepts… lawsuit madness!
People who have been following the software patent space know just how flawed the current system is and how, instead of promoting new inventions, software patents are being turned against everyday inventors. It’s got creators up in arms (and rightly so) and we’ve been working for years to bring attention to this growing crisis.  A lot of people want to abolish software patents altogether, while others hold out hope that reforms can help address the situation. Well, here’s the truth of it: neither reforms nor abolition of software patents will be possible unless software patents are treated differently under the law than other types of patents.
Copyright is also something that needs to be dramatically reformed.  I believe that copyright should only apply for about 12 years before it becomes public domain.  Movies cannot even sing happy birthday without paying a copyright…and the damn song was written in the 19 century.  This is beyond absurd.

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