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19 May 2009, 14:31

Microsoft and Linux Foundation unite on warranty issue

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Microsoft and the Linux Foundation are unusually united in a joint letterPDF to the American Law Institute. The letter asks the ALI to "delay adoption" of its Principles of the Law of Software Contracts. The companies ask for wider consultation on the "Principles", specifically with developers and distributors of software.

The ALI is a federation of US legal experts who create legal treatises to assist judges in their decision making. It has been working on the "Principle of the Law of Software Contracts" since 2004, looking at the legal framework around software licensing and the draft of the document is due to be presented today, 19th May, during the Annual Meeting of the ALI.

Microsoft and the Linux Foundation take issue with passages in the draft which look to establish a non-disclaimable warranty of "no material hidden defects" on Software. They suggest that there is no equivalent requirement in the Uniform Commercial Code, and that this would, in their opinion, make open source developers equally liable, even though the software may be distributed for free.

Jim Zemlin, CEO of the Linux Foundation, said "The principles outlined by the ALI interfere with the natural operation of open source licenses and commercial licenses as well by creating implied warranties that could result in a tremendous amount of unnecessary litigation, which would undermine the sharing of technology."

The issue at dispute is similar to one currently being debated in Europe, where the EU consumer commissioner is looking at warranties too, with an agenda stating "Licensing should guarantee consumers the same basic rights as when they purchase a good: the right to get a product that works with fair commercial conditions". The Business Software Alliance, which represents commercial software vendors including Microsoft, IBM and Apple, have criticised the proposals.


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