Copyright Bill becomes legislation

Australian software developers will be able to compete more competitively in the international market with the passing of the Copyright Amendment (Computer Programs) Bill 1999 in the House of Representatives last Thursday.

The Bill was accepted by the Senate late June (see CWT July 6, 1999 Copyright Bill creates 'level playing field' for local software developers.)Under the new laws, software developers will be able to decompile software in limited circumstances to develop interoperable products.

Specifically, decompilation of software will be able to occur for the purpose of resolving year 2000 problems and security issues, officials said.

Officials said the legislation will operate retrospectively for error correction from February 23, 1999, when the government first announced the amendment.

According to officials, the new legislation also includes changes to the Copyright Act to address new threats including computer viruses and unauthorised access.

Under the new law, decompilation of a program will be allowed without the copyright owner's permission for interoperability or security testing only if the interface information is not readily available. Use of the information for anything other than error corrections or security issues is illegal without permission from the copyright owner.

Officials said copyright piracy penalties of up to $60,500 or five year in prison for individuals and $302,500 for corporations still apply to copyright breaches.

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