Business Software Alliance: We don't sell software

Published by at

The BBC News website today reported proposals to change EU rules governing consumer rights regarding software guarantees. In amongst the article was a gem of a statement from the Business Software Alliance which represents Microsoft, Apple, IBM and many other software giants: "(Digital content) is contractually licensed to consumers and not sold."

The BSA spokesman goes on to say "Digital content is not a tangible good and should not be subject to the same liability rules as toasters."

Essentially the BSA appears to be saying that any digital content is always the manufacturer's property. In theory, if software doesn't work you have no right to take it back to the shop because you never legally own it in the first place. In order to get a refund, the BSA suggests, you would have to take action against the manufacturer on the basis of breach of contract rather than for selling faulty goods.

(Presumably we can expect the media industry to say that CDs and DVDs are digital content which you never really own?)

According to the BBC's article, "At present, retailers are not obliged to give a refund on a video game that has a bug or glitch that prevents a user completing a game." Does that really sound fair?

Are people really going to sue a software publisher for breach of contract because a game doesn't work? No, and that sounds like the real reason software industry representatives are so keen on licensing software rather than selling it: the average person will probably take faulty goods back to a shop, but they're much less likely to take action over breach of contract.

Given that situation, if we aren't allowed to take faulty software back to the shop that sold it, how much confidence can we have in the software industry to bother removing bugs at all?