Open Source

Thousands of AU developers protest US trade pact

Almost 3,000 developers from Australia and abroad have voiced their opposition to the proposed intellectual property clauses in the United States-Australia Free Trade agreement.

Almost 3,000 developers from Australia and abroad have voiced their opposition to the proposed intellectual property clauses in the United States-Australia Free Trade agreement.

Linux Australia, an organisation that claims to represent Linux and open source developers and users in Australia, set up an online petition last month to protest against the impact on the open source community if the pact comes into effect.

Linux Australia spokesperson, Paul Russell told Builder AU that the open source community was concerned about abuse of aspects of the legal regime in the US covered mainly by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and US patent system.

"We needed to publicly air our opposition to adopting such laws here, and the danger of binding ourselves to laws which will hurt us in the near future," Russell said.

Protestors who have signed the online petition believe that chapter 17 of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement will have a negative affect on the open source community by making some open source software illegal and possibly preventing the Australian Parliament from changing its own intellectual property laws.

"By making 'unauthorised' circumvention of an access control illegal, they have a free hand to implement DVD region-coding, DVD "no-fast-forward" zones, Windows-only music, and whatever other odious restrictions they might choose." Russell said.

"In the United States, the DeCSS code used by open source DVD players (such as those on Linux), is illegal, and we'd have to follow that here. In addition, distribution, creation or import of this code brings criminal, not just civil, penalties," he added.

"Australia has been a leader in developing and adopting open source software, which gives us great potential for future services in this growing sector. We shouldn't be passing laws which hobble competition in these areas".

A copy of the petition will be sent to every Australian MP and Senator along with a letter annotated by points from their local constituents.

According to ABC reports today a federal parliamentary committee tabled a report on the free trade agreement that found the deal was in the national interest.

The coalition government is keen to have the treaty passed by the Senate to cover off its ratification on the Australian side, while it must also be passed by US Congress to come into effect.

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