Ireland working for Microsoft?

Bill Gates and Charlie McCreevyFlorian Müller of the No Software Patents! campaign has posted an article claiming that Ireland is pushing for software patents because we are economically dependent on Microsoft and other US software companies:

Given his obvious bias, Irishman Charlie McCreevy should never have been entrusted with the control over the process on the software patent directive. Unfortunately, in his role as recently appointed EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, he is the most powerful man in the process. That man is a Microsoft vassal. Bill Gates’ wish is McCreevy’s command. We are not talking about an impartial politician but about someone who even vowed in a speech in the European Parliament that he would vigorously represent certain interests. If he is not stopped, then he will abuse the power of his office to wreak havoc to 24 EU member countries only to do what he thinks is good for one country — his own.

Those accusations may sound quite strong but they are based upon facts. Let’s look at the way things work in Ireland for those U.S. software companies like Microsoft.

The argument is that Ireland is so dependent on Microsoft’s tax revenue that no Irish EU Commissioner can be trusted to oversee the patents directive. Along the way, Müller takes a number of swipes at Ireland’s low corporation tax regime, claiming it is unfair on other EU countries. He goes so far as to say that Ireland is pushing for patents in order to damage the EU software industry to the benefit of its US investors:

Software patents are so negative for innovation and the economy that Europe as a whole would clearly suffer from them. However, if there is any country that could capitalize on them, then that’s Ireland because it benefits from Microsoft’s and other companies’ monopolies. What Ireland would like to do is to crush any or all competition to Microsoft et al. (be it open source or smaller companies) just to make sure that Microsoft will for a long time continue to generate huge profits of which Ireland gets its share.

I don’t see this as a very constructive contribution to the battle against software patents. I’m no fan of McCreevy, but I don’t think this sort of elaborate conspiracy theory is necessary to explain why he’s on the pro-patents side. The European Commission have had the clear intention, well before McCreevy joined, of pushing through the patents directive without the European Parliament’s amendments. Müller hasn’t provided any evidence that McCreevy is acting out of a “vested interest” (i.e. a supposed Irish economic interest) in continuing this line. Given that so many figures in the Commission and elsewhere also line up on the pro-patents side, it really shouldn’t be necessary to look to a theory like this to explain McCreevy’s attitude.

For the purposes of advancing the anti-software patents campaign, Müller’s article is over-the-top, inaccurate and largely irrelevant. As a general observation on the Irish body politic, however, it is not without merit. If Microsoft really did want to push their weight around, what Irish government would stand up to them?

[Introduction to the software patents issue]

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