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Australians urged to 'lawfully evade' unfair prices on digital goods

Sharif Sakr
July 30, 2013
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After going through a year-long rigmarole of summonses and interrogations to find out why Australians are being overcharged by as much as 66 percent on digitally-distributed Apple, Microsoft and Adobe products, and how the practice of "geo-blocking" prevents customers from seeking fairer prices elsewhere, an Australian parliamentary committee has finally hit on a solution. In the words of committee chairman Nick Champion, speaking to ABC News:

"What we want to do is make sure that consumers are aware of the extent to which geo-blocking applies to them and the extent to which they can lawfully evade [it]."

Now, if you were hoping that the Australian government would somehow force these companies to drop their prices down to US-equivalent levels, then this quote may admittedly sound a bit weak. It might also seem impractical, since geo-blocking is designed to be difficult to evade, by binding a customer's IP address, credit card or other details to their home market. Then again, things start to make more sense when we factor in the committee's other suggestions.

In particular, it proposes that the country's Copyright Act be amended to make it clear that an Australian won't be prosecuted just because they annoyed a multinational tech company by circumventing its geographic restrictions -- and, indeed, the population as a whole should be taught "tools and techniques" to achieve this wherever possible. The committee even recommends that Australians should have a "right of resale," such that they could legally remove locks on digital content that limits it to one user or one ecosystem. We have no idea how seriously the government will take these ideas, or how quickly it may implement them, but the committee's defiant tone makes for some good reading at the source link.

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