All grown up

I wrote a letter to some politicians! This is just like playing grown-ups… though I think I probably get a bit melodramatic towards the end. I also totally fail to justify my position, but you really should read the linked research paper to see where I’m coming from. I figure if these things are longer than a page, the senators won’t bother to read them. And let’s face it, they’re more concerned with the fact that this is my opinion than whether it’s justified. Hurrah for democracy! The will of the ill-informed masses…

Dear Senators Harradine, Murphy, and Allison,

I am writing to you because I am deeply concerned by the possible
ramifications of the proposed Australia/USA Free Trade Agreement
(AUSFTA) which I am told is yet to be passed by the senate.

I am not an expert in legal matters, nor do I know much of anything
about the broader history of Australia/USA economic relations. However,
I am fairly well informed in the area of software IPR, and I have read a
research paper on AUSFTA published in the parliamentary library, and
posted here: http://www.aph.gov.au/Library/pubs/rp/2003-04/04rp14.htm

It is my opinion, having read the paper and based on my own experience,
that the proposed agreement would have a strong deleterious effect on
the local software industry, and by extension any other industries that
rely on it.

It is no secret that the United States of America is encouraging these
bills in Europe, Australia and other regions because they have a rich
national IPR portfolio which, if enforced globally, would allow US
companies to determine any tariffs applied to copyrighted materials upon
export (effectively handing over yet more US government powers to
private enterprise – a worrying trend in itself). This kind of
discretionary and highly arbitrary taxation of exports will most
certainly not work in Australia’s favour, given the tendency of media
and software companies to charge “what the market will bear” (media and
software are two industries that stand to gain most from AUSFTA).

Of even greater concern to me personally is that global enforcement of a
US-style patent system will crush software innovation under the weight
of a patent database which already contains vast quantities of obvious,
non-innovative and extremely generic software patents. Example:
Microsoft recently patented the double-click. Yes, really. If an
Australian company produces operating system software that requires the
user to double-click, Microsoft could conceivably take them to court.
How does this help innovation, and how does it help the Australian
economy?

Open Source software is booming in Australia, with many companies
finding significant operational savings through the use of the Linux
operating system and related software. The very licenses upon which
Linux thrives (in this case the GPL, a copyright-based license system)
are under threat from Australia’s policy alignment with the United
States. Powerful lobby groups in the United States have made no secret
of their desire to outlaw the GPL, branding it communist, terrorist,
anti-capitalist, and everything else under the sun. The reason? GPL’d
software, such as Linux, threatens the market status-quo. Yes, Linux
_will_ turn the software industry on its head. But the fact is, the only
companies that can be hurt by this are the monopolists. Hundreds, even
thousands, of small businesses have sprung up to support the Linux
operating system and other Free software products. Australian companies
could produce their own versions of Linux, sold and supported here, and
every cent stays in Australia. All profits from Microsoft products go
straight to Redmond, U-S-A. The AUSFTA agreement threatens to align our
patent system with that of a country which openly seeks to destroy the
freedom to create free software that can be shared among everyone.

Thank you for your time reading this letter. I hope I have helped you to
understand my concerns regarding aligning Australia’s policies with the
US, including the Free Trade Agreement. I have chosen to write to you
three because I believe that much of the balance of power rests in your
hands. I hope that you use it wisely.

Regards
Dan