Wednesday06 July 2022

Judge Rules that Software is not a Good or a Service

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73In the legal world there are always interesting things going on. This is even more true when you talk about the massive number of law suits that are brought against technology companies on a daily basis. Now, it is not the actual cases that are the truly interesting thing (although some of them are). No it is the rulings and how they shape the laws that are sometimes the most fun.

For example in a recent (and ridiculous) law suit brought against Apple by a woman who wanted $5,000 for every person that had their iPhone bricked by the IO4 update the judge set something of a legal precedent.  The woman (named Bianca Wofford) lost the suit, but she lost is because the judge ruled that Software was not a service or a good (as well as the fact that a free upgrade cannot be held to sale or lease laws). This point is very interesting and will play heavily in future litigation.

If software is not a service or a good what exactly is it? If on the one hand it is excluded from sale or lease laws then there is no possibility of theft as there is no monetary value to it and possess no real-world value. This little precedent might be interesting to watch in future copyright and IP based litigation. Now someone can argue that as software is not a good or service and it cannot be sold or leased (as anything that can, must be held to sale and lease laws) then there is no crime committed in the free and open use of any software available.

Of course I would not run out and start downloading all of the software out there as this legal loophole will quickly be sown up by the companies that are dependent on software-as-a-service revenue. It does illustrate something that is wrong with the legal system and technology in general though and ties in with the SOPA movement in a way that many might miss. What we have is a lack up a clear definition of the items that are in dispute. What IS software, what constitutes theft of un-real property? The laws on this are so vague that you could (under the current system) be guilty of IP theft for having a copyrighted work on display in a picture of you taken by someone else, or for a YouTube video that has music playing in the background on the radio.

Until the laws are defined (and right now it is in the interest of the media and software companies to have it vague) or the judges and lawmakers are educated in the way technology works the legal system will continue to be abused by corporations while the consumers are left holding the bag.  At least in this case a definition will need to be put in place as the current one is not beneficial to any company trying to sell their software.

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Last modified on Sunday, 13 November 2011 09:15

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