I decided to ask right from the top...
This is a letter I sent through the Prime Minister's Office when I felt bored today. I don't expect a reply but if I get one I'll post it up.
Does the Howard government have any views on Free Software (in the meaning given by the Free Software Foundation, see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html) and Open Source, or any plans to implement laws to protect them?
With the signing of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the infamous Digital Millenium Copyright Act and the problem of software patents are coming to Australia. The DMCA just encourages 'piracy', rather than discourage it, and also infringes on fair use rights.
Software patents are not going to help the software industry, but rather threaten small developers of both proprietary and Free/Open Source software. All the lobby groups that are pro-software patents are funded by large, tens of billion dollars proprietary software companies that 'innovate' by acquiring rather than actually inventing, then patenting very obvious ideas like double clicking and that sort of thing. All of them face a major threat from Free Software alternatives like GNU/Linux, Samba, Apache and MySQL and wish to enforce their patented 'ideas' against them.
If these laws come to Australia they will only discourage competition and encourage violation of copyright. Does the government have any plans to protect our fair use rights and protect Free Software as well as proprietary software developers from patent suits, many of which result in hundreds of million dollars settlements, leaving companies and sometimes individual developers bankrupt and reducing competition?
(More information on the problem of software patents can be found at http://nosoftwarepatents.com.)