Linux Aus may have a case on Win 8: ACCC

Linux Aus may have a case on Win 8: ACCC

Summary: 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.

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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.

Topics: Legal, Microsoft, Open Source

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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14 comments
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  • Thanks ZDNet for raising awareness on this issue. hopefully we can get some action taken.

    Here is the post over at linux-aus.
    http://luke.asia/2011/tell-the-accc-to-stop-microsoft/

    Here is a hint ZDNet writers, http://lists.luv.asn.au/pipermail/luv-main/ is having a bigger discussion too. :)

    Please continue to cover this story,
    Luke Martinez
    asmartgoat
  • This is possibly the best news I've herad all week. Not only may there be a case for the ACCC, but the same issues can arise in the US with violation of the Sherman Act. Perhaps we'll finally be able to expose just the extent of legalities Microsoft fails to follow, and correct them.

    Please, continue to keep us informed. This is a very pressing ongoing story.
    yttrium-c4d8b
  • ZDNet, you might want to do a little more research before making such grandiose statements.

    This is the standard response letter the ACCC sends when someone makes a complaint. I got it when I made a complaint against something non-tech related four years ago.
    Anestis-6ad5c
  • Ah guys, UEFI and secure boot already allows you to lock a machine down to only Linux. Is that anti-competitive? Perhaps those in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones...
    john.smith@...
  • "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."

    Again, nothing to do with Microsoft. If Linux vendors have a problem with secure boot they can get in contact with the OEMs to get their (secure and secret) keys included.

    I fail to see anything uncompetitive at all here.
    m00nh34d
  • So instead of buying a locked down PC I'll just continue building my own.
    grump3
  • gee what a load of rubbish,most of the people who read these articles are reasonably
    tech savvy so as grump3 said in the above post ,build your own or buy a barebones box & install linux, run linux virtually.Why would a hardcore linux user want to be near a windows machine?Nothing to do with MS ,talk to the OEM's.For the record i'm currently dualbooting from a self mae box.
    gnormf
  • EDIT-self made box
    gnormf
  • I think all this problem might be a hude load of FUD.

    I cannot see MS forcing all current users of Win 7 64bit to go this route and upgrade to new hardware if they want to use Win 8. They didn't keep XP going for so long if they were of a mind to force such a monumental business cost.

    I expect the facility is to enable businesses to prevent their general use machines (not developer ones) from being usurped.

    Perhaps someone who really knows what's going on (if they exist) can comment here.
    Patanjali
    • firstly, even if Microsoft allow OEMS to have the ablity to disable secure boot...

      Newuser1: you want me to disable a _security feature_ to install this Linux thing?
      This scenario will cause more FUD.

      2. Boxed Windows 8 will not need secure boot only OEM.
      asmartgoat
      • So we should just forget about security if Linux can't implement it as well?

        Why doesn't Linux vendors actually do some work and get their keys included in UEFI's from OEMs like Microsoft has?
        m00nh34d
        • Most linux Distributions support UEFI, but the secure boot requires the OEMS to include keys. For every distribution and every release to have its own key is a rediculous asking. Microsoft only have 1 OS that needs a key, Windows 8. OEMS will not include our 500+ keys.

          We need to be able to add our own keys.

          Security! HA your jokeing, microsofts security is randomly dropping packets to decrease chance of infection!
          asmartgoat
  • It's been my experience that most linux people build their own pc and on mobile computers I bet you can flash the bios to disable uefi anyway.
    GBE-71384
  • Microsoft BUILD conference Videos

    http://www.windows8update.com/category/microsoft-windows-8-enterprise/event-misc/build-conference/build-videos/




    Microsoft BUILD Conference Pictures and information

    http://www.windows8update.com/category/microsoft-windows-8-enterprise/event-misc/build-conference/
    windows8win