Govt dance on parallel bar fails to impress

The amendment to the Commonwealth Copyright Act will see Australians more easily able to purchase wholesale software directly from overseas vendors, rather than through a controlled network of designated local distributors.

According to the Federal Government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the amendment will enhance local competition and drive down retail prices of overseas-manufactured software.

However, national marketing manager for software distributor Express Data, Peter Masters, believes prices cannot be driven far below existing levels due to already tight profit margins. He also believes a software industry trend towards global pricing structures will leave little room for price cuts.

Additionally, low pricing is no longer a key differentiator for a supplier, he said, citing post-sale offerings such as local support, maintenance and returnability as more important considerations for customers.

"(The restriction lift) is not a bad thing and not a good thing. It could well be a non-event," he said.

"We don't see it as any kind of threat, whatsoever."

Similarly, Oliver Descoeudres, marketing manager for systems integrator Netstar, dismissed any significant effects of the amendment on the integration industry.

Integrators that install overseas-purchased software will have damaged reputations if they sacrifice local support for the purpose of saving money, he said.

Descoeudres said only purchasers of low-cost, low-maintenance software were likely to benefit from the amendment.

However, Masters said cost savings for low-end purchases resulting from the amendment would be negligible, given shipping costs.

The local operations of software vendors Microsoft and Novell also shrugged off the possibility of any real effects arising from the law relaxation.

Microsoft said its current partner-based distribution model meant the amendment would have no effect on the vendor's pricing.

Likewise, Novell said pricing would remain the same due to its global pricing model.

Meanwhile, the Australian Consumers' Association released a statement welcoming the relaxation.

Charles Britton, Senior Policy Officer for IT and Communications at the Consumers' Association, expects consumers will save up to 20 per cent on software costs over a 6 year period as a result of the amendment.

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