Well, how about some positive news to end this day? How about annoying the heck out of the Business Software Alliance? There’s a new proposal for a directive on consumer rights in the EU, and in it, digital goods – software, online services, and so on – are explicitly defined as goods that are no different than any other good – like bread, watches, or cars. In other words, you would suddenly own the copies of software you buy, effectively declaring the EULA as a worthless piece of paper. Surprise – the BSA is not happy about this.
The goal of this new directive is to consolidate the various consumer rights directives already in place in Europe. In addition, the EU wants to strengthen consumer protection while they’re at it, and part of that is ensuring that digital goods are handled just like normal goods. The specific text reads as follows:
Digital content transmitted to the consumer in a digital format, where the consumer obtains the possibility of use on a permanent basis or in a way similar to the physical possession of a good, should be treated as goods for the application of the provisions of this Directive which apply to sales contracts. However, a withdrawal right should only apply until the moment the consumer chooses to download the digital content.
The BSA is not happy about this, because it undermines their disingenuous business model of telling the customer they’re buying the product, while in fact, they’re only leasing it. By equalising digital goods to regular goods, several rules will suddenly apply to digital goods that did not apply before.
For instance, European law already states that a product may not be defective upon delivery. The BSA argues that it is impossible to deliver software without bugs. In addition, the BSA states this would mean software makers would no longer be obliged to release patches and updates. How exactly their reasoning works there is beyond me.
The issue here is that the BSA is trying to put a spin on the word ‘defective’. Not being defective does not mean a product is flawless; it simply means, according to the new directive as well as the existing legislation it consolidates, that a product must be able to perform its advertised and intended function. To illustrate – cars have ‘bugs’ too; the fit may not always be perfect, a cable may need replacement after 8000km instead of the advertised 10000km, and so on. This is perfectly fine under the new directive, and should be sufficient for software.
All in all, the digital aspect of this directive, which has only been approved at the committee level, looks like a huge win for consumers in Europe, as it effectively kills the EULA dead.