With the intention of making Australian software developers less susceptible to security threats, program errors and compatibility problems, the Federal Government is currently in the process of pushing amendments to the 1968 Copyright Act through the Senate.
The Copyright Amendment (Computer Programs) Bill 1999 hopes to encourage developers to adhere to an open information policy in which the codes to software are readily available to the technology industry.
The legislation allows developers to de-compile the program if this information is not obtainable from the original source.
In a joint statement from the Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, and the Attorney General, Darryl Williams, the Government presented the initiative as a response to growing concerns that Australian Copyright Law was not in line with its major trade partners, the United States and Europe.
Government officials believe the proposed law will provide the Australian software industry with a more competitive platform, presenting them with the ability to use existing software codes to design and test compatible products. The decompilation of software will also facilitate businesses' ability to correct error-ridden software in the absence of an error-free version. Open information policies will ensure that the security of a computer network can be more comprehensively tested and Y2K issues will be more easily resolved.
However, the Government is adamant that the open source policy is limited to these areas and companies cannot depend on open access to software information for purposes other than interoperability, error amendment and security testing.