selling GPLd software (was Re: (M)IDL compiler)

Andrew van der Stock ajv at
Wed Mar 1 03:02:25 GMT 2000

<lawyer=false comment="if you need one, get one">

Often many countries have actual consumer rights. In Australia, shrink wrap
disclaimers do not obviate the Trade Practices Act (it is illegal to require
giving up rights under this act), whereby if you sell or license something
that is not of merchandisable quality or does not perform the advertised
role, you are entitled to a full refund (and not just an exchange). Apple
Australia were bitten by this a few years ago when they advertised a range
of Powerbooks that were supposedly PowerPC upgradable, but weren't. That
cost them a fortune.

If a product damages your business or person, you are entitled to a refund
and you can go to the courts for a damages claim (and probably win if you
have even half-assed lawyers). It's a shame that there isn't a great deal of
case law on this yet. Software vendors are trying to justify that they
"license" not sell their stuff, but there has been a ruling that if its
common off the shelf in a box, it's not a license but a sale as there is no
other common example of a license in Australia that the average consumer is
subject to. Therefore, some pieces of US software I buy (including some
games) have a small piece of paper in the box saying that I have additional
rights under the TPA than just the license. My HP XU/6 dual PPro 200 was the
first thing I saw with this included. HP are good in that way, which is why
I continue to buy their stuff even when they make mistakes (like the PPA
based printer I own).

Software licenses made for the USA legal environment* do not always map onto
other legal jurisdictions. If in doubt, get a lawyer.


* ps The people in the USA should be fighting against the UCITA wherever you
can. It's already law in one state, and will erode consumer rights in any
other state it's enacted in as well. Sometimes, I'm so glad to be

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