[rumori] Stallman: Do not buy from Amazon! (fwd)

Steev Hise (steevATdetritus.net)
Thu, 16 Dec 1999 08:02:29 -0800 (PST)

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Richard Stallman

Please do not buy from Amazon

Amazon has obtained a US patent (5,960,411) on an
important and obvious idea for E-commerce: the idea that
your command in a web browser to buy a certain item can
carry along information about your identity. (This works by
sending back a "cookie", a kind of ID code that your browser
received previously from the same server.) Amazon has sued
to block the use of this simple idea, showing that they truly
intend to monopolize it. This is an attack against the World
Wide Web and against E-commerce in general.

The idea in question is that a company can give you
something which you can subsequently show them to
identify yourself for credit. This is nothing new: a physical
credit card does the same job, after all. But the US Patent
Office issues patents on obvious and well-known ideas every
day. Sometimes the result is a disaster.

Today Amazon is suing one large company. If this were just
a dispute between two companies, it would not be an
important public issue. But the patent gives Amazon the
power over anyone who runs a web site in the US (and any
other countries that give them similar patents)--power to
control all use of this technique. Although only one company
is being sued today, the issue affects the whole Internet.

Amazon is not alone at fault in what is happening. The US
Patent Office is to blame for having very low standards, and
US courts are to blame for endorsing them. And US patent
law is to blame for authorizing patents on computational
techniques and patterns of communication--a policy that is
harmful in general. (See lpf.ai.mit.edu for more information
about this issue.)

Foolish government policies gave Amazon the opportunity--
but an opportunity is not an excuse. Amazon made the
choice to obtain this patent, and the choice to use it in court
for aggression. The ultimate moral responsibility for
Amazon's actions lies with Amazon's executives.

We can hope that the court will find this patent is legally
invalid, Whether they do so will depend on detailed facts and
obscure technicalities. The patent uses piles of semirelevent
detail to make this "invention" look like something subtle.

But we do not have to wait passively for the court to decide
the freedom of E-commerce. There is something we can do
right now: we can refuse to do business with Amazon.
Please do not buy anything from Amazon until they promise
to stop using this patent to threaten or restrict other web

If you are the author of a book sold by Amazon, you can
provide powerful help to this campaign by putting this text
into the "author comment" about your book, on Amazon's
web site. Please send mail to amazonATgnu.org when you do
this, and please tell us what happens afterward.

Richard Stallman President, Free Software Foundation

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