Two very good pieces of news today, from completely different corners of the world.

Firstly, Amina Lawal has been freed. This is good news for me for so many reasons.

Secondly, the EU has decided to limit software patents. The directive itself is written in confusing Eurocratese, but here’s the gist of it: The legislation provides much clearer guidelines on what can and can’t be patented. Software can’t be patented. Business methods, such as Amazon’s 1-click buying, cannot be patented.

As one poster to an EU Free Software mailing list wrote, “Inventions that have a “physical effect” in the environment (say, a robotic arm) are patentable, but software by itself is not patentable.”

My colleagues at various Linux Users’ Groups and the Free Software Foundation Europe are hailing this as a victory for common sense, but also for free software, which relies much more on an incremental process of software development.

Days like today make it all worthwhile. But they don’t come about without great effort by large numbers of very committed people. And my hat is off to all of them today.

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