Will The ACCC Block Windows 8’s Secure Boot?

Will The ACCC Block Windows 8’s Secure Boot?

Windows 8’s secure boot feature might be good news for big enterprises that want to lock down their data. But If you’re keen on Linux or other alternative operating systems — not so good. But will the ACCC step in and disable secure boot?

ZDNet reports on the issue, which centers around the UEFI secure boot feature for devices bearing the “Designed for Windows 8” logo. Hardware with the logo and feature requires a digital signature, either from Microsoft or the OEM who built the hardware; without it no commands will execute. The whole point of the signature is that it’s secure, so it’s unlikely that either Microsoft or its certified OEMs will just hand it over. Fine for Windows 8 systems, but utterly devastating for Linux users, who’d need the signature to run anything at all. It’s reasonable to suppose that most if not all upcoming hardware will be UEFI locked, given Windows’ market dominance.

Linux Australia members weren’t happy about this state of affairs, and complained to the ACCC. ZDNet quotes the ACCC response as follows:

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.”

Which means that the ACCC could take action, but probably needs more details. It also doesn’t mean that the Linux Australia group (or any other) couldn’t take Microsoft to court in a private action either; the article also quotes the ACCC response as stating that

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”

Linux Australia was said to be considering further action. [ZDNet]