Amazon's dubious patent activities came back to haunt the company last week at the Paris launch of amazon.fr. Amazon had pushed the boat(s) out for the occasion, inviting 4,000 guests to a party on the Seine, but was faced by a small clutch of demonstrators from campaigning groups APRIL and AFUL, handing out leaflets and "free cookies, not patented by Amazon."
APRIL (Association pour la Promotion et la Recherche en Informatique Libre) and AFUL (Association Francophone des Utilisateurs de Linux et des Logiciels Libres), were expressing support for the Eurolinux campaign on computer patents. According to APRIL president Frédéric Couchet, the target wasn't Amazon setting up in France, but what Amazon represents: wholesale patenting of software. "We must make them understand that patenting of software is a threat to development."
Amazon came under fire earlier this year over two patents (one of them the notorious 1-Click patent) covering e-commerce, and took flak from Tim O'Reilly, and from APRIL ally Richard Stallman, who called for a boycott. Life's been quieter for the company since, but those pesky Europeans clearly aren't going to let the matter alone.
Couchet professed to be well-pleased with the results of last week's demonstration, claiming good feedback (something in the cookies, Frédéric?) from Amazon's guests, and more importantly a slew of interviews with key French media. "We had the opportunity to explain that patents are not only a threat for Free Software, but also for the entire computing industry." By doing this, the campaigners hope to convince European business leaders of the rightness of their case, and hence to exert pressure in favour of the Eurolinux patent petition on Brussels. ®