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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2005

Senator BOLKUS —I refer the Attorney-General to this morning's decision of the Full Bench of the Federal Court of Australia upholding the appeal in the Apple computers case. I also refer the Minister to the Government's stated position to legislate, if necessary, after such a decision to confer copyright on computer software. I ask: What is the Government's legislative intention now that the Federal Court's decision is known?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The decision in the case involving Apple Computers and Computer Edge was delivered in Sydney at 10.15 today. A copy of the decision was received in Canberra by my Department only late this morning. The Court held by a two to one majority that the defendants had infringed copyright in certain Apple programs by reproducing adaptations of them in memory chips in the Wombat computer. As such, the Court overturned the decision of the single judge at first instance, which was to the effect that copyright law had no application to computer software. Injunctions were issued restraining infringements of copyright in the computer programs directly, or importation or by trading in reproductions. To complete the decision, I am told that certain aspects of it were remitted back to the trial court, including questions of damages and some issues under the Trade Practices Act.

A question now arises for the Government as to whether legislation is still necessary to ensure fully effective legal protection of computer software in the short term. It may be that some technical matters remain unresolved or are in need of legislative clarification. The details of the judgment, which are quite substantial, are being examined right now to ascertain their implications in this respect. Introduction of the Bill, which I had been planning to undertake later today, is being deferred to permit this examination and any redrafting which may prove to be necessary. The Bill, I indicate, may yet need to be introduced although, on the face of it, it would appear not, given the terms of the decision itself.

As I have said on various occasions, the Government remains firmly committed to a careful consideration of the long term policy in this area, about which there is still very considerable public debate. There is certainly a very strong view abroad that traditional copyright type protection may not be the most appropriate kind of protection, if indeed protection is required for this kind of intellectual property. I simply indicate that the Government welcomes the emergence of the Full Bench decision, which will obviously go a great way towards clarifying the many important commercial issues and other issues which are involved in this matter.