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Software Rights, Responsabilities

I want to ask something that i really doesn't know can affect this in usa.

Let me see,

I'm a developer, who has a company, who wants to sell a software to a governamental market.

My software should manage and make transactions over the internet and as i said "manage" delicated data, it could be "very important" now, if something happens... like someone enter and hack all the damn thing...

What can save me from get in jail, or get sued...

Who has all the responsabilities for data loss?

Do i need to write an excuslive agreetment that all the software "seems to work" but doesn't asure that data can't be lost?

I want to know to were i can go using an agreetment and doesn't being sued or get in troubles.

Thanks in advice...

Diego Martin Lafuente
Tuesday, August 27, 2002

You need to talk to a lawyer in your country...

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Buy liability insurance, it's not that expensive.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Read any licence agreement.

None of them even promise that that software will work, but if the CD is defective, they will ship you a new one.

Licenses specifically deny responsibility for any loss, of any type, for any reason, of any amount, to any parties.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

If you're a professional you are ready to own up to your mistakes and repair or compensate any damages you cause. You might have an insurance to back you up financially, but you take responsibility.

But do make sure that you protect yourself from damages caused by circumstances beyond your control. Hint: failing software isn't, abuse is.

License agreements that reject all responsiblity are a cheap way out, and will last only as long as the general public or legislative organs accept them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

> Licenses specifically deny responsibility for any loss,
> of any type, for any reason, of any amount, to any
>  parties.

In most EC countries, law protects the consumer (to some extent). Having a license agreement that states that you're not responsible is worth 0.00 €...

Serge Wautier
Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Serge, if the license agreement explicitly states that you must accept the terms of the agreement in order to use the software, then does that protect the corporation?

Person whose house blew up because "house manager v0.1" crashed: "I want compensation because your software blew up my house. You cannot duck responsibility by putting disclaimers in your licensing terms."

Lawyer for large corporation: "Okay, we accept that we can't duck responsibility for the software crashing. But you weren't allowed to use the software unless you accepted the agreement. Either you were using the software illegally because you didn't accept the agreement (in which case you can't expect us to pay compensation) or you accepted the agreement (in which case you can't expect us to pay compensation)"

Person whose house blew up: "Damn".

On a more serious note, does anyone know whether this sort of argument has ever actually been discussed in a court of law or explicitly addressed in legislation?

Adrian Gilby
Wednesday, August 28, 2002

I would put a clause in my license agreement the states.  Compensation for any damages that arise from the use of this software shall not exceed the license fey paid for this software.  I would ask a lawyer for the correct wording.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

If you give your software capabilities that might lead to considerable damage, you should put your effort into knowing what you do, not ducking responsibility.

Make sure your software either can't get to where it can do serious damage, or make sure that your software can't fail to the point of causing serious damage. Countless professions have done this for ages and there is no other profession that even attempts such obvious quackery.

Imagine your surgeon waving these kinds of agreements in your face and refusing to operator on your ingrowing toe nail unless you sign.

Learn how not to cause damage. Until then can, don't play with fire.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Or matches...

Thursday, August 29, 2002

I've known surgeons to refuse to operate on someone's spine unless she signed a contract waiving all liability.  Malpractice suits are killer.  While it disturbs me that someone wants to sell to my government with a license disclaiming responsibility, it's really a rational choice.

I think if he were really at fault for bad workmanship, he can be sued anyway.  Where it's unclear (bad user practices?), he probably shouldn't be fully responsible.

A support contract should be in place to handle cases of failure.

(By the way, why don't they just film the damn surgeries, and then staffs of experts can critique the procedure in case of malpractice.  Come on.)

Greg Neumann
Thursday, August 29, 2002

"I've known surgeons to refuse to operate on someone's spine unless she signed a contract waiving all liability. Malpractice suits are killer."

They are also something very peculiar to the US (and maybe one or two other places). Instead of fixing one funny thing with another, why not remove this altogether funny business and remove the need for silly waivers at the same time. (I know culture can't be changed that easily, so there's no need to reply to tell me that :)

By the way, waivers are not a bad thing, but they should only waive someone elses responsibility, not your own.

And as said before, good law systems protect people from malpractice no matter what. That doesn't dismiss the fact though that as long as software license agreements remain as they are, they lower the bar for charlatans, because they - the licenses - give the impression that you can get away with anything. The damage is done by the time that the question of liability is raised, when it should be prevented.
The absence of such silly agreements, and the indifferent acceptance by the general public, in other professions makes for a much more responsible practise beforehand.

Thursday, August 29, 2002


I don't know the details, but I know that users are protected against too restrictive license agreements that are considered too restrictive under the principle that law has preference over a contract. i.e. You may not waive your responsibilty with a contract that contains illegal statements. The one who accepted the terms and signed the contract may come up in court and say 'Yes I signed but here is a law that contradicts the contract. The always law takes precedence over a contract.'
I got confirmation of this by a lawyer of my friends (I confess I've got a friend who is a lawyer. Will you still accept to talk to me ? :-)
Whether adding a statement that limits your liability is legal in EC countries, I have no clue.

Serge Wautier
Thursday, August 29, 2002

Adrian - you cannot sign away your rights under law by siging a contract (or accepting a license agreement). At least, in any civilised country...

Thursday, August 29, 2002

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