Australian software Copyright Bill amended

Local software developers will legally be able to decompile other companies' software products in order to build compatible products, thanks to an amendment to the country's copyright laws passed last week, according to a statement issued by the Ministry for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

Current laws allow software vendors in Australia to invoke copyright law to prevent developers from decompiling existing software products on the market.

The Copyright Amendment (Computer Programs) Bill of 1999, passed into law by the House of Representatives last Thursday, makes it legal under certain circumstances to access interface information needed to build interoperable products, the statement said.

Developers in the US and in some European countries already are permitted under some circumstances to take software apart in order to access the vital programming interfaces needed to build interoperable products, according to the statement.

The amendment will lead to greater choice of products for Australian computer users, and make Australia's software industry more competitive internationally, Attorney General Daryl Williams and Senator Richard Alston, minister for communications, information technology and the arts, said in the statement.

"Decompilation of a program will be allowed without the copyright owner's permission for interoperability or security testing only if the information on the program's interfaces or on ensuring system security is not readily available (elsewhere)," the statement said. Information derived from decompiling a program can't be used for any other purpose or shared with others without the copyright owner's permission, the statement said.

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