Italy: High Court shoots down Windows tax


Italy's High Court has struck a blow to the practice of forcing non-free software on buyers of PCs and laptops. According to La Repubblica, the court ruled on Thursday that a laptop buyer was entitled to receive a refund for the price of the Microsoft Windows license on his computer.

The judges sharply criticised the practice of selling PCs only together with a non-free operating system as "a commercial policy of forced distribution". The court slammed this practice as "monopolistic in tendency". It also highlighted that the practice of bundling means that end users are forced into using additional non-free applications due to compatibility and interoperability issues, whether they wanted these programs or not.

"This decision is both welcome and long overdue", said Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "No vendor should be allowed to cram non-free software down the throats of users."

Free Software Foundation Europe has been long fought the "Windows tax", as the involuntary payment to Microsoft is often called. The organisation maintains a wiki page with advice for consumers who want to avoid funding the development of non-free software, and accounts from people who have successfully returned the licenses they were forced to buy.

In response to the ruling, the Italian authorities should discourage the bundling of software and hardware, and take practical steps to ensure that consumers can really exercise their freedom of choice. Governments around Europe should take the same steps, and encourage consumers everywhere to install and use Free Software.

"This practice of forced distribution needs to end," says Gerloff. "We hope that the Italian authorities will turn this ruling into a real win for consumers, and ensure that computer buyers can choose their device with any operating system they want, or none."

The number of the ruling is 19161 / 2014.