Copyright fires up Linux in Australia

Restrictive provisions such as in the US aren't part of Australia-US free trade pact, say Australian open source bodies

Linux Australia and the Open Source Industry Association are urging the Australian federal government not to abandon market competition.

A petition, from Linux Australia, is asking the government to uphold consumer and competition rights when drafting anti-circumvention laws, which will tighten the reins on copying protected materials.

Specifically, laws may introduce and enforce a new category of copyright violations that prohibit users circumventing security controls designed to control access to digital media and products. The laws are required under the Free Trade Agreement negotiated between the US and Australia.

Linux Australia IP policy advisor Rusty Russell says although the treaty does not demand Australia adopt a carbon copy of the suppressive US law, "large business interests" are pushing for similar restrictions on access to digital material.

"The treaty doesn't force us to implement this like the US, where these laws have driven litigation to suppress academic publications, prevent third-party printer cartridge manufacturers, and eliminate competition by open source software. But naturally, some large business interests are pressing for the same restrictions on legitimate access to digital material here," he says.

Once consumers have paid for digital products, they should be allowed to use it as they wish, he says.

"Consumers should have full use of legitimately purchased digital material, whether it be playing DVDs, copying CDs onto iPods, using computer programs of their choice, or playing iTunes-bought songs on non-iPod MP3 players. You've paid for it, you use it as you see fit," he says.

Con Zymaris, a director with the Open Source Industry Association, says, "Australian small businesses are world-class at using, deploying and building open source software. We must be free to use, deploy and build open source software without fear of lawsuits from larger incumbents.

"If we don't push back now, Australian competition, consumer rights and freedoms will be hamstrung as we enter the digital age."

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