The "Microsoft tax" on new PCs has come to an end in Italy

If you've ever bought a PC or laptop from a retailer, it most likely came with Windows pre-installed. This pre-installation of Windows isn't free, however, and the manufacturer and retailer would incorporate it into the end-price of the computer. But what if you don't want to use Windows? Should you still have to pay the Microsoft tax? This was exactly the court case put forward to the Italian Supreme Court by Marco Ciurcina and co.

Originally filed in 2005, an Italian man named Marco Pieraccioli felt that he shouldn't have to pay an additional fee for the OS as he didn't want it. As a result, Marco Pieraccioli believed he was entitled to a refund for the Windows license, and the case grew from there.

The larger element of the Italian Supreme Court was to do with the user license agreement: if someone does not agree to the conditions set out in the license agreement on a pre-installed OS, they have the right to return the OS license for a refund.

The ruling also took competition heavily into account, perceiving that the forced license sales were violating the freedom of competition among different companies, and that pressure was needed to be placed on OEMs that jointly and forcefully sell hardware and proprietary software.

The focus of the Court's reasoning is that the sale of a PC with software preinstalled is not like the sale of a car with its components (the 4 wheels, the engine, etc.) that therefore are sold jointly. Buying a computer with preinstalled software, the user is required to conclude two different contracts: the first, when he buys the computer; the second, when he turns on the computer for the first time and he is required to accept or not the license terms of the preinstalled software. Therefore, if the user does not accept the software license, he has the right to keep the computer and install free software without having to pay the "Microsoft tax." - Marco Ciurcina

The interesting element of this ruling, however, is that it is not just limited to Windows. Any device that comes with a pre-installed OS is susceptible to this ruling. It should be noted, though, that Microsoft is more or less the only company this would apply to. It is unclear how this would apply to Apple as they do not separately sell their software, thereby making a stand-alone license impossible to get.

Source: FSF |  Original gavel image via Brian Turner / Flickr

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