NSW Attorney-General drawn into copyright suit

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NSW Attorney-General drawn into copyright suit

Government agencies face more litigation.

Software developer Micro Focus has added the NSW Department of the Attorney-General and Justice to a growing list of state government agencies it is accusing of copyright infringement.

The department and its subsidiary Corrective Services NSW are set to appear in the Federal Court later this month over allegations they used "at least" 60 copies of Micro Focus' ViewNow software without the proper licenses between 1995 and 2010.

It is alleged the software was used to view the Computerised Operational Policing Database (COPS), which is operated by NSW Police and used to collect day-to-day police data.

According to documents tendered to the Federal Court, Micro Focus met with representatives for the Attorney-General's department and Corrective Services late last year to resolve the matter but had failed to reach a settlement, leading to the court proceedings.

NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith refused to comment on the matter as it was before the courts.

Bruce Craig, Australian managing director for Micro Focus told iTnews the court proceedings with Corrective Services and the department came after several weeks of negotiations with representatives.

"In fairness to them, they've always acted in good faith trying to resolve it but sometimes the governments don't move as fast as we would like," he said.

"We agreed on a time [frame] but the train has left the station."

The departments join at least four NSW agencies targeted by Micro Focus over alleged copyright infringement, including NSW Police, the Police Integrity Commission and the NSW Ombudsman.

Micro Focus has since settled with the latter two departments but has continued litigation against NSW Police, alleging the force installed 16,000 copies of the ViewNow software though only obtaining 6500 licenses.

The ongoing dispute comes as part of an 18-month bid by Micro Focus to assess and recoup lost licensing costs from NSW Police and agencies using its terminal viewing software.

The court last year appointed the director of KPMG's forensic technology team, Stan Gallo, to conduct an audit of the number of copies allegedly made by NSW Police since 2003.

A draft version of the report, based on an audit of mainframe logs and physical assets, is expected to be submitted this week.

But further litigation could come as Micro Focus continues to seek out those NSW agencies yet to settle with the company or pay licensing fees.

The company wrote to 27 agencies in March last year asking for an account of the ViewNow licenses they used, out of which Micro Focus had gained information on the Police Integrity Commission, Police Ombudsman and now the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice.

But Micro Focus' Craig said "many" of the 27 agencies had yet to reply to Micro Focus' requests.

He pointed to the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority as one of the few agencies that had purchased the proper licenses to access the COPS database.

COPS refresh

Since litigation began in May last year, NSW Police has replaced the DOS-based database with a new system dubbed WebCOPS.

The Fujitsu-built web-based repository will be used to replace its ageing predecessor, first introduced in 1994, with a new interface and new links to other government systems such as Triple Zero's Computer-Aided Dispatch System.

It is expected the new system, which has seen $73 million in investment since at least 2008, will be used by the NSW Police force to create 1.5 million 'events' annually.

It came after a $58.4 million attempt to replace the system in 2003 never progressed past tender stage.

The department said in September last year that the WebCOPS system would "retain the strong security and audit capability of the old COPS, ensuring [NSW Police] complies with its legislative requirements".

At time of writing, the force had not answered further questions put by iTnews as to whether terminal viewing software was still in use.

Craig said he did not know whether the department was still using the software.

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