Workshop Digital Technologies and Liabilities EUI, Department of Law,10 April 2012Software: Product or Service? FRANCESCO QUARTA E.U.I., Florence University of Salento, Lecce
SOFTWARE - Tentative Definitions - 1) A set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result. (U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, § 101, as amended)2) Intended “to include, but not limited to, the system functional design, logic flow, algorithms, application programs, operating systems and support software for design, implementation, test, operation, diagnosis, and repair.” (22 U.S. § 121.8 - International Traffic in Arms Regulations – “ITAR”)
SOFTWARE - Tentative Definitions - 3) Organized information in the form of operating systems,utilities, programs, and applications that enable computers to work. (businessdictionary.com) 4) A generic term for programs that are used by computers and other products that contain logic circuitry. In a broader sense it can also refer to all information (i.e., both programs and data) in electronic form. (linfo.org – LINUX Information Project)
SOFTWARE - Tentative Definitions - 5) “The term ‘computer programs’ shall include their preparatory design material.”“Ideas and principles which underlie any element of a computer program, including those which underlie its interfaces, are not protected by . . . this Directive”. (Article 1 (1) and (b) of Directive 2009/24/EC of 23 April 2009 on the legal protection of computer programs)
WHETHER A PRODUCT OR A SERVICE Types of Software PACKAGED1) generally sold to consumers as a “finished product”2) “installed” by the consumer (autonomously)3) usually, no further technical support is required* * (but for patches and updates)
WHETHER A PRODUCT OR A SERVICE Types of Software CUSTOMIZED1) designed or modeled for specific end-users2) usually installed by the vendor3) extensive technical support is generally required
ISSUES OF EXTRA-CONTRACTUALLIABILITY RELATED TO SOFTWARE
WHETHER A PRODUCT OR A SERVICE Definition of ‘SERVICE’“[A]ny self-employed economic activity, normally provided for remuneration.” (Article 4 (1) of Directive 2006/123/EC of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market)
WHETHER A PRODUCT OR A SERVICE Definition of ‘PRODUCT’“[A]ll movables even if incorporated into another movable or into an immovable. ‘Product’ includes electricity.” Definition of ‘PRODUCER’“[T]he manufacturer of a finished product, the producer of any raw material or the manufacturer of a component part.” (Articles 2 and 3 of Directive 85/374/EEC of 25 July 1985 on liability for defective products)
LIABILITY FOR HARM CAUSED BY DEFECTIVE PRODUCTS- Harmonized at EU level strict liability;- Based on mandatory minimum protection;- Only for personal/non professional use;- Moral damages only recoverable in negligence (pursuant to national civil liability laws).- Tangible/intangible: numerus clausus?
The ‘Therac-25’ Accidents in North AmericaC.R. v. Hyundai Automobili Italia S.p.A. Trib. Naples, 21 March 2006 General Motors Co. v. Johnston (592 So.2d 1054) S. Ct. of Alabama, 1992
LIABILITY FOR HARM CAUSED BY DEFECTIVE PROVISION OF SERVICES- Wholly left with Member States’ statutory and case law;- Predominantly, negligence-based liability rules;- Harmonization provisions in the field of contract law only;- Not only consumers are covered;- Availability of moral damages hotly debated.
Centre hospitalier universitaire de Besançon v. Dutrueux et al. European Court of Justice (Grand Chamber), 21 December 2011, C-495/10 Veedfald v. Arhus AmtskommuneEuropean Court of Justice, 10 May 2001, C-203/99
WHETHER A PRODUCT OR A SERVICE “ Suppose that the designer (A) of a navigational softwareprogram incorrectly enters the height of a mountain, causing aplane to crash. If the software package is to be a ‘product’ forthe purposes of the Directive, is a map incorrectly drawn by B,which carries the identically incorrect information to the pilot also to be a product? If so, what about where the same information is conveyed to the pilot orally by an on-board navigator (C) – is he the supplier of a ‘product’ ? ” (Jane Stapleton, Three problems with the new product liability, in Essays for Patrick Atiyah, Cane-Stapleton Eds., Oxford 1991)
WHETHER A PRODUCT OR A SERVICE ? Where is the boundary between incorrect information and defective product design ?
(1) SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY FROM COMMON LAW LITIGATION Transnational contracts for the sale/licensing/lease ofsoftware between ‘public’ entities and private companies. (Nokalva, Inc. v. European Space Agency, 3d Cir., 2010)
(2)LIABILITY EXONERATION CLAUSESCan software manufacturers limit, if not eliminate,liability for damage somewhat attributable tosoftware (non-negotiable shrink-wrap or click-wraplicense)?What types of damages can be excluded by means ofsuch clauses, if any? (U.S. Unfair Contract Term Acts) (E.U. Unfair Contract Terms Directive) (Article 12 of the European Directive on Products Liability)
(3) IMPLIED WARRANTIESCan a software developer escape liability for a known design defect ? Vertical/Horizontal Privity: What kinds of damage can be recovered? Who? Hou-tex, Inc., v. Landmark Graphics 26 S.W.3d 103 (2000) Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston
(4)CHOICE OF LAW/COURT AGREEMENTS Freedom of contract v. Ordre Public Main differences between the U.S. and the E.U., as witnessed by the recent adoption of the A.L.I. Principles of Software Contracts
WHETHER A GOOD OR A SERVICE Sale of Goods or Contract for Services?St. Albany City and District Council v. Int’l Computers Ltd English Court of Appeal (1996) All ER 481 - CUSTOMIZED SOFTWARE -