Mathematics, software and free speech

Here’s what I think is a really important article on the intersection of computer science, the law and “the general welfare” (i.e., “the common good”):

1+1 (pat. pending) — Mathematics, Software and Free Speech

As a systems analyst and former lawyer I’ve always had a particular (peculiar?) interest in how copyright and patent law impacts the freedom to innovate.

From the article:

This article provides a detailed factual explanation of why software is mathematics, complete with the references in mathematical and computer science literature. It also includes a detailed factual explanation of why mathematics is speech, complete once again with references. My hope is that it will help patent lawyers and judges handling patent litigation understand these fundamental truths, so they can apply that technical knowledge to their field of skill.

Case law on software patents is built on a number of beliefs about how computers and software work. But as you will see, when you compare the technical facts presented in this article and in the authoritative works referenced, with expressions in case law on how computers and software work, you will find they are often in complete opposition. I believe this is a foundational problem that has contributed to invalid patents issuing.

If you are a computer professional, I hope you pay attention to another aspect of the article, on how the lawyers and judges understand software. This is critical to understanding their point of view. After reading case after case on the topic, I have concluded that the legal view of software relies on beliefs that are in contradiction with known principles of computing. Computer professionals explain their profession based on an understanding that is, on its face, the opposite of a few things the legal profession believes to be established and well understood facts. Moreover, the law is complex and subtle. Computer professionals don’t understand it any better oftentimes than patent lawyers understand software, and so they can make statements that make no legal sense.

This is a good read. Because of my retired status I’m not really allowed to render legal opinions any more (thankfully!), so I’ll leave people to assess what’s said there for themselves.