Civil Law

Civil Law

A modest proposal to give Free Software equal legal standing as proprietary.

Note: Updated to include lock-in and tying. Some changes on moral rights to clarify that

Laws are more often than not an annoyance, despite their aim to improve the legal framework in any given field. Free Software (AKA "Open Source") has thrived despite the absence of any legal recognition by the law, if not in spite of rules that clearly are shaped around proprietary software. In many jurisdictions it has passed the enforceability test. So, no laws seem necessary to make it work. Yet, can some legal principle be put forward, and included in some laws, to help?

"If it works don't fix it", so goes the common saying. But if it works now doesn't mean it will work forever. It is nevertheless upon lawyers, and legislators alike, to foresee problems ahead of their actual happening, and brace for the potential harmful event. But any laws that would regulate Free Software would likely harm some parts of it, and change the games to favor one kind over another, or impose conditions that are not welcome or productive – something that legislator, even with the best intentions, often do – and in general could cause as many troubles as they would produce benefit. "Primum non nocere" is the paradigm for medical actions, even though drugs by definition only produce a net benefit by inflicting some limited damage. Is there a medicament that has entirely good effects without any negative ones? Arguably there is not. But with laws we can achieve something closer to this optimal benefit, which economists know as "Pareto Efficiency".

So this is a call for Pareto Efficient Laws, and Pareto optimal only laws.

Aduc files class action against Microsoft

Aduc, an Italian Consumers association, has served on Microsoft Italia (the local branch of Microsoft Corp) a class action complaining that the company consistently refuses to reimburse users the price of ubiquitous windows licenses, bundled with OEM (Original Equipement Manufacturers) computers. I am part of a much larger legal team that has produced it and I can briefly illustrate what it is about.

Italy has adopted a regulation (Art. 140 bis of the Italian Consumers Code) that allows consumers individually (not consumers associations, which is strange) to file class actions, through ordinary proceedings, open to be joined at a later time. A class action is a case which is arguably identical to a class of users and which is likely to protect the interest of this class. Unfortunately, the Italian version has been adopted with very odd provisions that limit the effectiveness of it, as one can read in this document by Aduc (in Italian).