An Interesting Software Liability Proposal
This proposal is worth thinking about.
Clause 1. If you deliver software with complete and buildable source code and a license that allows disabling any functionality or code by the licensee, then your liability is limited to a refund.
This clause addresses how to avoid liability: license your users to inspect and chop off any and all bits of your software they do not trust or do not want to run, and make it practical for them to do so.
The word disabling is chosen very carefully. This clause grants no permission to change or modify how the program works, only to disable the parts of it that the licensee does not want. There is also no requirement that the licensee actually look at the source code, only that it was received.
All other copyrights are still yours to control, and your license can contain any language and restriction you care to include, leaving the situation unchanged with respect to hardware locking, confidentiality, secrets, software piracy, magic numbers, etc. Free and open source software is obviously covered by this clause, and it does not change its legal situation in any way.
Clause 2. In any other case, you are liable for whatever damage your software causes when used normally.
If you do not want to accept the information sharing in Clause 1, you would fall under Clause 2 and have to live with normal product liability, just as manufacturers of cars, blenders, chainsaws, and hot coffee do.
Posted on September 23, 2011 at 5:22 AM • 60 Comments