Friday, 05 March 2010 12:21

Linux Australia to fund research into licence compliance

Linux Australia, the umbrella organisation for Linux user groups in the country, has decided to provide funding for research to determine the applicability of the Trade Practices Act as a compliance tool.

The application for funds was made by lawyer Brendan Scott in December. As Scott outlined in a post on his blog, it is not possible for one to sue someone because of non-compliance with a free software licence unless one is a direct party to it - the legal concept of "standing."

Further, Scott pointed out, there were other difficulties involved in going to court over such licences in Australia - the copyright holders were, to large extent, from other countries. If a case was filed to try and enforce compliance, the copyright holder would have to be party to the case and hence present in Australia.

Scott said this had led him to look at the Trade Practices Act. "The TPA has a very wide concept of standing. Practically anyone has standing to sue for a breach of the TPA.

"If a competitor puts on a misleading advertisement you don't need to have been misled in order to have it corrected.  You don't need to show that you (or indeed anyone) suffered a loss," he wrote.

Scott added: "The mere fact of a breach is usually enough for anyone in the community to enforce compliance with the TPA. The TPA is therefore particularly relevant for free software compliance.

"If a breach of the terms of a licence are also a breach of the TPA, then you don't need the copyright holders in order to take action. You can leave them out of it entirely and, instead, rely on your rights as a consumer."

Other benefits of the TPA were that courts tended to interpret it in a way which favoured consumers and consumer protections set out in the act were quite straightforward.

Scott advanced two proposals to Linux Australia; on March 3 the organisation granted funds for the first proposal.

Linux Australia president James Turnbull told iTWire: "The issue of free software compliance is obviously important to Linux Australia and the Australian open source community.

"So, after some consideration and discussion with people with expertise in the area, we've decided to fund the initial research required to determine the applicability of Trade Practices Act as a compliance tool.

"The availability of a compliance how-to and the associated research should make it easier for free software developers and organisations to bring compliance actions without being burdened with the traditionally substantial costs involved."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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