Software Science or Software Alchemy

It is unusual for one NGO to criticise another in public, particularly when they are involved in the same sector. Divisions can be harmful. However, when the NZICT chooses alchemy over science it really is time to call a spade a spade.

NZICT is an organisation formed by large multinationals which makes the following claims:

The NZICT Group is an industry association made up of over 80 leading New Zealand ICT companies. It was founded to provide a single unified voice to address issues facing the industry as a whole.

Representing New Zealand’s ICT industry, we will take leadership by collaborating with business, aligned associations, communities and Government to promote the use of ICT to enhance our country’s competitiveness for the betterment of all New Zealanders, and growth of ICT industry.

Actually, they don't provide a "single unified voice". If they did they might not have made the following statement in their most recent newsletter:

"The most surprising news was the recommendation of the Commerce Select Committee that software be excluded from proposed changes to the NZ patents legislation. We regard patents as a fundamental property right for those software developers that choose to pursue this path. Particularly disappointing was that there was no rigorous economic impact analysis undertaken around their decision making – another reason for the ICT Research Forum. We will be discussing this further with Government and Select Committee members.

In an industry where protection of intellectual property is a fundamental requirement for international investors, we see this proposal as a constraint to expanding innovative NZ businesses. I accept that patents are not for everyone, and there are alternative business model like open source that many of our Members pursue. But we see having the option to seek a patent as being a fundamental choice for businesses to make."

For the first time in their history NZICT are campaigning unequivocally on an issue of real concern to the digital sector. Software patents. They are in favour of them. So having pussy footed around a number of issues critical to NZ IT, such as S92, ACTA and so on they now come out in favour of a regime that would ensure we all pay royalties to external parties for work that we have done. They also ensure that New Zealand owned companies will continue to have to offer IP indemnities to clients that go so far beyond reasonable risk that no insurer will back us. This is hardly favourable to our "betterment".

The "news" would only have been surprising to those who have failed to read submissions and evaluate the academic research and evidence that is already available and that demonstrates that undoubted economic harm that comes from software patents. Given the research credentials NZICT claim this lack of basic background reading is disappointing.

As John Rankin so eloquently puts it:

"As the digital economy plays an ever-growing part in the total economy, we as New Zealanders need to decide whether we want to build our future on software science or software alchemy. Based on the evidence placed before it, the Select Committee chose science.