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Defence dragged to court over licences

An ongoing row between Attachmate and the Department of Defence was brought before the Copyright Tribunal yesterday, with the software company alleging that the department has breached licence agreements.

An ongoing row between Attachmate and the Department of Defence was brought before the Copyright Tribunal yesterday, with the software company alleging that the department has breached licence agreements.

Attachmate alleged before a video-conferenced session of the Copyright Tribunal that the Defence had breached section 183 of the Copyright Act 1968, saying that software provided to the government department was uploaded and accessed via a shared network in breach of licence conditions.

"We understand that what's taken place is that the software which Attachmate gave the Commonwealth permission to use was uploaded to a network of computers. It's from that network that Defence can access [the] software," said Attachmate's legal counsel.

Lawyers acting for the Department of Defence denied the accusations, saying it had acted in accordance with the licence.

Attachmate had provided Defence 8000 licences for the software along with five CDs for their installation over 10 years ago. Shortly after, Attachmate asked the Defence Department to provide information as to how the software was being used under section 183-4 of the Copyright Act. Attachmate alleged that the Defence had never disclosed the use of the software.

Attachmate representatives said that the company is now legally seeking clarification on how the software was being made available within the department.

Commonwealth representatives told the Copyright Tribunal that Defence computers are wiped clean every six months for security purposes, so tracking how many times the software had been installed was near impossible.

A confidential audit into the software use was conducted by KPMG in 2009 and the Defence Department has been ordered by the court to produce the results and a statement responding to Attachmate's accusations.

It is unlikely the KPMG audit will surface in the case, however, as the parties agreed to keep documents relating to proceedings confidential.

While looking to set the date for a further directions hearing, Justice Arthur Emmett sought to get all the parties in the same courtroom, expressing a dislike of the court's video-conferencing system.

"[Being face-to-face is] an easier way of communicating than via these wretched things," the justice remarked, adding that being in the same room allowed him to look the parties in the eyes.

The Copyright Tribunal is set to reconvene on the matter in Sydney on 15 June.