Linux Australia members who complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about Microsoft's plans to mandate the enabling of a secure booting feature on Windows 8 machines have been told by the competition regulator that they may in fact have a case.
The Linux Australia community began petitioning the ACCC this week after Microsoft aired plans to mandate the enabling of Unified Extensible Firmware Interface's (UEFI) secure boot feature for devices bearing the "Designed for Windows 8" logo. This means that any software or hardware that is to run on the firmware will need to be signed by Microsoft or the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to be able to execute. This would make it impossible to install alternative operating systems like Linux, or even older versions of Windows, if OEMs didn't bundle the secure keys with new operating system releases, allow users a facility to update the secure key list or allow the secure boot feature to be disabled in the firmware options.
In an email response to Linux Australia members who railed against the idea, the ACCC has hinted that the angry open-source enthusiasts may have a case if they provided the regulator with more information.
Section 47 of the Act prohibits exclusive dealing. Broadly speaking, exclusive dealing occurs when one person trading with another imposes some restrictions on the other's freedom to choose with whom, in what or where they deal. Exclusive dealing is only a breach of the Act where the conduct has the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in the market. In an assessment of the effect of the conduct on competition, it is not enough merely to show that an individual business has been damaged. The wider market for the particular product or service must be considered.
The situation you described may raise issues of exclusive dealing, but it is unclear from the details provided whether it would be likely to meet the competition test described.
The ACCC went on in its response to say that if the ACCC decided not to pursue the case, members were well within their rights to pursue legal action against Microsoft for the practice.
"The Act also allows an affected party to take their own legal action for a breach of the Act. You may wish to seek legal advice on the possibility of taking your own action in this circumstance," the regulator added.
Linux Australia president John Ferlito said that he would raise the issue at the next council meeting on Thursday night, adding that the peak open-source body may consider a larger campaign against Windows 8 if the issue was deemed serious.
Microsoft Australia declined to comment to ZDNet Australia on the matter.