Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Exceptions to TPM legislation

Expect to see more from me about this topic, but for now just a quick word: the Australian Federal Government has put up their DRAFT legislation regarding exceptions to the Technological Protection Mechanism laws.

Nutshell: under pressure from the US government, out government has passed laws not just outlawing copyright infringement (which was already illegal) but making it a criminal offence to bypass technology which could be used to prevent infringement. So, hypothetically, if a music CD hijacks your computer and installs a root kit that takes over the functioning of your computer and allows viruses to break in, but by doing so it also prevents you from illegally burning copyies of the CD, it is illegal to remove that root kit.

The draft legislation can be downloaded from here.

We don't have much time to move on this -- the government is putting it up for comments only until the 22nd of September.

A quick look at the summary (not the legislation itself) makes me say -- "phew! we dodged a bullet!". The government seems to be relatively clueful, maybe, and is recommending that the offence be tied to actual copyright infringement, rather than a blanket ban on bypassing the TPM:

The scope of the scheme is limited to preventing circumvention of TPMs designed to stop copyright piracy. The scheme will not cover TPMs which are not designed to prevent or inhibit people from infringing copyright. The scheme will not apply to TPMs solely designed for other purposes, such as market segmentation (eg region coding) or the protection against competition in aftermarket goods (eg spare parts) where the TPM does not have a connection with copyright.

In other words, if you bypass the TPM in order to break copyright law, you've broken the law, but if you don't, you don't.

We know the US government really doesn't like this, and has been pushing hard to make any bypassing of TPMs illegal. The next few weeks/months will be interesting. We'll see how much of a lapdog we are to the US, or whether our government is prepared to act in our best interests instead of the RIAA and Microsoft.

Keep your fingers crossed.

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