2005 Fight Against Software Patents in Estonia


The history described here represents ONLY the version that I, Martin Vahi, with the Estonian personal identification code of 38108050020, understand and remember in 2014_05. Different sides have different stories and this here is MY VERSION of the story. There's no point of suing me for that, because Your victory in any court will not change my beliefs about the events that I believe that I was deeply involved in. I believe that I write here only the truth and nothing but the truth the way I remember it, but other people may call it all fiction.

I admit that in 2014_05 I had to look up the number of the year, when it all took place. I only remember the story, the sequence of events, not dates, except that some critical parts of it took place during the period, when I prepared for exams in the University of Tartu. I do not even remember, if it was spring or autumn.

The Story

An Estonian politician, Silver Meikar informs Peeter Marvet, members of offline.ee and some other people in a private list of activists that Microsoft has hired a franchise based international public relations company, Inorek & Grey, to lobby for software patents. Silver Meikar also leaks the actual plan of the Inorek & Grey.

The plan consists of 2 stages:
  1. Eesti Päevaleht presents the software patents issue as if the Eesti Päevaleht were starting the discussion on its own initiative, presenting the issue as if the topic were something that emerges naturally from "the public", from the "business community".

  2. The media coverage is supposed to culminate at a "conference" held in one of the most prestigious hotels in Tallinn at that time, the Radisson SAS, where the actual business community and local patent law office representatives were supposed to come up with a common statement that software patents are good for Estonian businesses. According to the initial plan the conference were to be publicly organized not directly by the Public Relations company, Inorek & Grey, but by the Eesti Päevaleht as if the whole issue were raised by the Eesti Päevaleht.

A title of a special sub-edition of the Eesti Päevaleht, where the Eesti Päevaleht hides the fact that they were actually providing propaganda services to a Public Relations firm:

Pages: 1, 2 and 3, 4 and 5, 6 and 7, 8.

A later version of the same propaganda material, but by a separate "media partner", Äripäev, who publicly acknowledges at the corner of the edition that the edition is a form of advertisement, not something raised by the journalists:

Pages: 1, 2 and 3, 4.

What happened was that I distributed that plan to various private e-mails and e-mail lists, where IT-people were, including the main list of the faculty of mathematics and computer science.

Formally the set of mathematicians and computer science people at the University of Tartu has different names at different times, because the structure of the University of Tartu gets reorganized from time to time, but the most prominent computer science people in the University of Tartu at that time did receive the message.

I kept the involvement of the Silver Meikar a secret, e.g. I did not reveal the source of that information. After distributing the plan I gave feedback to the Peeter Marvet and other anti-software-patents-team members. My feedback letter contained a copy of the text that I distributed. Peeter Marvet cleverly "wanted to clarify the facts" by forwarding my letter to a representative of the Eesti Päevaleht, someone, who's first name started with letter "A" and second name was certainly "Kokk". According to the dates in Wikipedia, the Aavo Kokk was the CEO of the Eesti Päevaleht from 2002 till 2008, which fits well with the date on the corners of the propaganda materials, 2005. The A. Kokk acknowledged that the Eesti Päevaleht was offering services to the public relations firm, Inorek & Grey, but totally denied the idea that the deal between the public relations firm and the Eesti Päevaleht was intentionally hidden.

I do not remember, if I sent out one or 2 separate messages (to all parties), but in one of them I certainly emphasized that the propaganda event in the Radisson SAS must be taken seriously, because the law firm representatives are probably there and need to be counterbalanced with the actual opinion of the business community. I even phoned/talked/lobbied many of my course mates, practically everyone from the IT-industry that I knew and who worked someplace, that they must get their bosses to take that Radisson SAS event seriously and that the bosses must be active at expressing their opinion about software patents.

The Results

I was deeply disappointed that almost all of the lecturers, IT and computer science people, with the exception of Jaak Vilo, totally ignored the topic, refrained from having any kind of an opinion. The Jaak Vilo was a firm supporter of software patents, which meant that effectively the whole Estonian academia was represented by a single person, Jaak Vilo, who supported the use of software patents.

The anti-software-patents team was successful at activating the Estonian Information Technology (IT) business community to the point that the propaganda event

at the Radisson SAS hotel failed for the Microsoft hired public relations firm. The conclusion of the "conference" was that software patents are against the business interests of majority of Estonian IT companies.

On 2005_07_06 the European Parliament decided to ban the majority of pure software patents, but legalized software patents, where software is used for analysing some automatically measured data or where software is controlling some physical process, regardless of the "novelty" of the hardware or "process".

The Eesti Päevaleht refrained from organizing the propaganda event at the Radisson SAS hotel under its own brand and the public relations firm, the Inorek & Grey, organized the event without hiding its identity.

As of 2014_05 I, Martin Vahi, consider the contribution to the torpedoing of the Microsoft payed and organized public relations stunt as one of my greatest achievements by 2014_05. When I heard about the vote in the European parliament, where the majority of pure software patents were banned, I truly, sincerely, celebrated. If birthdays are something for my guests, then that celebration was certainly something for me.

Thank You for reading. :-)

2018_10_12 Update

As it turns out, the Micro$oft has joined (archival copy, local copy unpacked) the LOT Network ("LOT" is an acronym for "License on Transfer") and the Open Invention Network.