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Simple patent pledge for FFII

Or how to phone your MEPs and MEP candidates and find out where they stand on software patents.

First, an overview...

You are going to be phoning MEPs and candidate MEPs, so you need to adjust your brain to this task. The whole procedure will work as follows:

  1. Find out about the candidates that will represent you
  2. E-mail them, introduce yourself, and ask them to sign the FFII's Call To Action II
  3. After a reply, or a week with no reply at most, phone them, asking them the questions listed below
  4. Send the response to the FFII
  5. Go to the pub and buy yourself a congratulatory pint :)

1. Researching your MEP

You need to first find out a few things about your MEP:

  1. How did they vote in September 2003?
  2. What is their EU coalition's / national party's official policy on software patents?
  3. Does their coalition/party have a specialism to whom they defer?
  4. What is their specialty? (e.g. if they specialise in international development, you can tailor your e-mails and phonecalls to focus on that issue)

Point number three can be the hardest to find out, and the most important. To take an example, if you phone a UK Conservative, they will usually defer to Malcolm Harbour MEP, who is their spokesperson and specialist on the issue. It can be very difficult to get anything meaningful out of a UK Conservative MEP beyond "I will speak to Malcolm Harbour". The initial e-mail/fax will help you with this...

2. The initial e-mail/fax

With that basic background information in mind, you need to send them a quick e-mail or fax (both is better). Write it as you would a formal letter; it should look something like this:

Dear Mr Smith MEP,

I am writing to you as a constituent and as a [software developer|CEO of a software SME|etc.] about software patents. As you know, in September 2003 the European Parliament made a legislative decision not to allow pure software to be patented. Now the European Commission has drafted its "concilliation" version of the legislation, removing all of the amendments made by Parliament that block software patenting.

The European Commission and the European Council are claiming that their version of the legislation blocks software patents, but I, based on analysis I trust [1], believe otherwise.

I hope that you, as my representative in the EU, will back Parliament when the legislation comes for its second reading, and ensure that the version Parliament passed last September is passed again.

I look forward to hearing your opinions on this matter,

Yours faithfully,

Tom Chance
1 Lobbyist St,
LV20 5GH

[1] Some suitable background (TODO)

You should, of course, alter this letter, so that they don't realise they are being spammed with the same letter. The purpose of the letter is to get them to think about the issue a little before you phone them, so that they can't claim they haven't thought about it. It might also give you more useful information on their position. And make sure you include your address, so they can be sure you're a constituent!

The phonecall

Now the moment of truth. Since it's a phonecall, you only need to worry about your voice and what you say. Some general tips first:

Your phonecall should run something like this:

stage one: introduction
Hello, I'm a constituent of yours, and I'd like to ask you some questions regarding your position on software patents. I e-mailed you [x] days ago about this issue, and you [never replied|replied saying x,y,z].

MEP replies... don't let them take control of the phonecall... if they're starting to talk a lot, try to cut them short and say:
Since the elections are approaching, I'd like to find out your position on software patents. Could you commit to the following as an election promise:

"The software patent directive must ensure the following, as already decided by the Parliament in September 2003:

  1. Freedom of publication (patents must not prevent publication of knowledge);
  2. Interoperability (patents must not prevent making compatible products);
  3. Data processing is not a field of technology (processing data does not become technical even if it is done with a computer, although the computer itself is of course a patentable technical device. Similarly, a musical instrument would be patentable, but the musical score played on it would not be.)

If these three things are not in the final proposal, the entire directive must be rejected."

Make sure you use that exact wording. Emphasise that you want an election promise, and keep mentioning that this will go out to all the FFII supporters until you think they have acknowledged that this will affect their election chances (though don't overdo this... it's not as though they will be unelected from a strong seat on this single issue!)

Note down their response carefully. You may need to repeat it, and even e-mail it to them so they can read it. If they ask to read over it, try to keep them on the phone while they do it so they can't consult other people in their party. If you've pressed for a committment (as a constituent and a voter!) and they really won't commit, say you will phone them again in a few hours time, or tomorrow. If that doesn't work, ask them to give you a date for when they will be able to give you an election promise.

Finish the phonecall politely. Thank them for their time, and if possible see if you can get them to follow up on the call; they may discuss the issue with their party's software patent specialist; if their response is positive (i.e. they will commit to it, and seem anti-software patents), ask them to sign the FFII's Call For Action II.

Send the data to the FFII

TODO: how to write it up in the correct format for Bernhard Kaindl.