Software prices should drop under new copyright rules

Software prices could drop after the Federal Government alters legislation which only permits copies to be made by the copyright owner. Internet distribution has been a major catalyst.

The Federal Parliament has introduced a Copyright Amendment Bill that may alter legislation that currently allows a copyright owner to limit the importation of authorised copies. This will lower the prices of software for Australian consumers, according to commentators.

A survey by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission in 1999 found that Australians are paying 27 per cent more on average for software than US consumers. There was an 84 per cent mark-up in some instances.

Darryn Hammond, Deacon's digital industries lawyer, said that the restriction has limited the range of software available to Australian customers. "The existing restrictions are antiquated and don't stand up in this era of global communications, especially if Australia aims to be at the forefront of technology adoption," Hammond said.

"The Internet has changed the way software products are distributed, with a lot of software now available for purchase and download via the internet. With the current restrictions, we are denying Australian customers access to internationally competitive products and processes."

The prices of software and books could drop if the Copyright Amendment Bill before Parliament is passed and the current restrictions are lifted.

Major publishers and copyright owners are expected to oppose the move, as it will mean the loss of their market control, Hammond said.

"Naturally there will still be legal implications for illegal software and pirated copies," he said.