The new Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, has lashed back at opposition claims that the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) will "harm" Australian software producers.
In a release issued today, the Senator described statements made by the Shadow IT Minister, Senator Kate Lundy, and Western Australian Democrats Senator, Brian Greig, as "unfounded", accusing the politicians of "misrepresenting" the agreement.
Coonan quotes Senator Lundy as saying "the AUSFTA will impose the US Patents System on Australian software producers and that small software producers will be vulnerable to anti-competitive bullying". The Minister's retort also referred to comments made by Senator Greig that the agreement would hinder the development of open source software.
Coonan said the opposing politicians were "attempting to frighten Australian businesses for their own political purposes".
"The AUSFTA will not have an effect on Australia's current approach and treatment of applications to patent computer software nor will it affect Australian open source software producers," she said.
"Computer software is already patentable in Australia if it meets the patentability criteria of being 'new', 'inventive', a 'manner of manufacture' and 'useful'. This will not change under the AUSFTA."
She adds that open source licenses will also not be affected by the AUSFTA as they are a form of copyright licensing. "This [agreement] will not affect the take-up and spread of open source software either," she said.
The Senator maintains that the AUSFTA will have positive benefits for the Australia ICT industry.
"It opens up the massive US Government market to Australian exporters and allows for the continued development of innovative software products, including Australia's burgeoning open source software development industry," said Coonan.
"The AUSFTA is overwhelmingly in Australia's interests and the ALP and Democrats should abandon their short-sighted opposition to this landmark agreement and support Australia's ICT industry."