The Business Software Association of Australia has blasted the Federal Government’s plans to legalise the parallel importation of software, claiming that the government has introduced weak if not ineffective countermeasures to ensure such changes do not increase the rate of software piracy.
“It has taken years to get the government to recognise Australia is not meeting its obligations to protect intellectual property under international trade regulations – not to mention failing to foster a local software industry – and finally when it has acted the measures are inadequate,” said BSAA chairman, Jim Macnamara.
A spokesperson for DCITA (Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) said there have been some very "divergent" opinions on the policy, citing that ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) had expressed a more positive view. Similar legislation has been passed in New Zealand, the spokesperson said, where piracy rates have since decreased. "There were once similar arguments against the parallel importing of CDs," he said. "But research has since shown there is little evidence of increased piracy of music CDs since parallel importing restrictions were lifted."
The BSAA and its members do not oppose the lifting of parallel importation restrictions, but in accepting them called upon the government to introduce new policies that would help address the software piracy issue. Software piracy is likely to become more prevalent under looser parallel importing laws.
The government introduced four measures to address the piracy issue: the possibility of additional damages in civil cases against software pirates, the introduction of several presumptions relating to copyright ownership in civil and criminal cases, and an increase in maximum fines and changes to the jurisdiction for copyright infringement cases.
On the surface, these changes followed the lines of what the BSAA and successive reports on copyright and piracy had recommended for many years. But when put under the BSAA microscope, the trade group found them to be inadequate.
The BSAA found that many of these provisions were either already covered by existing legislation, or are likely to be largely ineffective in reducing piracy.
Macnamara said he was most disappointed that the government ignored the recommendations of various reports - such as the Andrews Committee Report and the 1994 Computer Software Protection report by the Australian Copyright Law Review Committee - in making its decision.
“The measures introduced previously ignored industry advice and the recommendations of government inquiries and committees,” he said. “It is difficult to see how Australia complies with its [copyright protection] commitments under the current regime of copyright protection which involves no resources within the Federal Police to bring criminal prosecutions, lack of a criminal offence for business end-user piracy, low penalties handed down by the courts, loopholes in legislation, and slow, complex and expensive procedures for copyright owners to take civil action to protect their copyright,” he said.
For a detailed analysis of the changes under the Parallel Importation Bill, see next week's edition of ARN.