November 8th & 9th, 2024
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SeaGL speaker Q&A: Deb Nicholson

SeaGL speaker and staff member Deb Nicholson talks software patents:

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

My name is Deb Nicholson and I work at the Open Invention Network OIN. OIN is a defensive patent pool for lots of free and open source projects, including Linux, GNU, Android and a ton of other tools. I also serve as the Community Manager for GNU MediaGoblin, a decentralized media-hosting project, and as a board member at OpenHatch, which we like to call “Free Software’s Welcoming Committee.”

Q: Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

Well, we’ve seen some really big changes to the patent landscape in a short amount of time. In the US, we went from almost no software patents to an exponential increase in patenting in computing which lead to a huge uptick in software patent aggression. For a while, it seemed like nothing could be done but there’s been lots of progress; both in community awareness and understanding what can be done. Finally, the Supreme Court addressed the scope of patentability twice last year and I’ll talk about how that is affecting cases around the country.

Q: Is this your first visit to SeaGL? If so, what are your expectations? If not, can you give us your impressions of the event?

I’ve been to every single SeaGL since I’m also one of the organizers, which is a little weird since I live in Boston. I blame the rest of the amazing SeaGL team and the ridiculously good Seattle coffee. So I’m probably a little biased, but I think we put on a great conference for beginners, hobbyists, activists and long-time free software users.

Q: Aren’t legal issues sort of boring for the layperson?

A: Not at all! Software patent cases involve actual people trying to change the way the law treats our community and our industry. Some of those people are heroic, others are craven bullies, and some are just trying to make the best of a bad situation. Toss in ridiculous piles of money and there’s easily enough drama for a TV show.