Debate Heats Up On Liability For Buggy Software: Will Buggy Games Be Illegal?

from the back-to-tetris,-I-guess dept

Back in May, we wrote about an effort in the EU to make software developers liable for buggy software. As with earlier discussions on this topic there are a variety of opinions. Obviously, people don’t like buggy software, and it’s natural to feel that developers should be liable for software that doesn’t work properly. At the same time, however, software is incredibly complex, and it’s impossible to be entirely bug free. Adding liability, then, could have significant downsides in terms of scaring many developers off from developing, especially for more complex software.

It appears that some of this debate is moving on to video games as well. JohnForDummies alerts us to a story discussing how complex video games are almost always quite buggy (found via Slashdot) and questioning if proposed liability laws in Europe might have an impact on the gaming community.

This isn’t a simple issue, of course. If a company is selling a product, buyers have every right to expect the product to work as advertised. But that doesn’t mean that adding direct liability really makes sense. If a company constantly produces extremely buggy software, it should have incentives to fix those bugs directly — not from the government — such as the fact that people will be less interested in ever buying their products again in the future. It seems like laws for buggy software would be extreme overkill.

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Comments on “Debate Heats Up On Liability For Buggy Software: Will Buggy Games Be Illegal?”

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Brian (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So instead of $50 for a piece of software it will be what? Perhaps $75, $85, $100+. Software is impossible to make perfect unless all you have it do is something simple such as add up some numbers. Software should be tested by the developer and if its buggy to no end then people will never buy their software again, the company will feel it deep in the pockets, and won’t do that again. Mandating that you test software based on the lines of code is complete crap and WILL drive up cost and WILL keep A LOT of people from developing software especially those that are just getting started since they can only afford to test so much and might not know everything to look for. Even then a company can say they tested it for X amount of hours, well that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of bugs still in there either.

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As a programmer, I can tell that that’s not going to work. Lines of codes is an extremely subjective measure of “likelihood this code contains bugs.” Factors such as the programming language such as team dynamics, programming language, and programming style can affect the number of lines of code without having a corresponding effect on code complexity or likelihood of error.

There’s also the question of how you count lines of code shared between multiple products (e.g. open-source libraries). That’s just a mess you don’t want to get into.

Jake (user link) says:

Re: Re:

@Brian: Initially, yeah, until they realise they’re better off eating the extra costs as far as possible. Or using open betas to keep costs down.

@Andrew F: I realise it’s not an ideal benchmark, but do you have a better one? If nothing else, it has the virtue of being easy to explain to senior management.
And I didn’t explain myself properly in my original post, for which I apologise; I think open-source software should get an exemption, since one of its main features is actually encouraging users to do their own bug-fixing.

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, my position is that there shouldn’t be government-mandated benchmarks to begin with.

1) Benchmarks for testing just isn’t a good way of looking at software. Testing is a qualitative process. For example, many programmers write their own computer-automated tests. How much testing by a computer is equivalent to one hour of testing by a human? I don’t think there’s an answer to that.

Or take version issues. Is one hour of testing on version 0.9 equivalent to one hour of testing version 1.0? Well, it depends on the type of software and what those version numbers mean — and “it depends” isn’t a great place to be when you’re making standards.

2) There are a number of “best practices” out there that programmers can follow, but the consensus on what they are changes so often that I’d hate to be legally bound to any of them.

Anyhow, as the other posts indicate, a much better solution is to simply fix all these issues with EULAs and no return policies. Customer return rates and feedback will do much more to improve software quality than any fixed standard on quality.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

this is probably the biggest one. EULAs combined with laws (with the express purpose, surprise surprise, of stomping on piracy) preventing software (or movies, music, and possibly some other things) being returned except for in exchange for another identical (theoretically non-broken) item.

the problem is that, with software, if Any copy is bugged, they All will be.

the only reason i like those laws at all (as they apply in NZ) is because i can see no way, what so ever, that an EULA is Not signed under duress with them in place, and thus void as a contract even if it would otherwise be valid. not that i’m a lawyer. which i personaly find to be a good thing, most of the time 😀

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

One problem with such laws is they will never be used against those who monopolize the market, they will only be used against Joe Blow programmers who offer a decent program at a decent price. Big companies can defend themselves much more effectively than Ann Smith who has no team of lawyers to defend herself.

“EULAs combined with laws (with the express purpose, surprise surprise, of stomping on piracy) preventing software (or movies, music, and possibly some other things) being returned except for in exchange for another identical (theoretically non-broken) item.”

Well, perhaps you can offer your own software without such EULA’s.

and how would this apply to software without such EULA’s. What if the software does allow you to return it or if it’s free software or released under some creative commons license or the GPL? How should these laws apply to such software?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

and another problem with this liability business is that a lot of software is interdependent. Say I purchase Windows 7 from Microsoft and then I purchase Pagemaker from Adobe. Assume that I purchased Windows for the main purpose of using Pagemaker for Windows. Now assume that Windows 7 has a bug that makes it crash every couple of minutes because it’s somehow incompatible with my specific hardware. But nothing on the Windows 7 box or instructions would indicate that it would be incompatible with my hardware and Microsoft even didn’t know it was incompatible with my hardware (for the sake of this argument lets assume Microsoft isn’t a huge company that puts a lot of research into ensuring their operating system is compatible with lots of hardare, etc… I guess using Microsoft is a bad example in this analogy being we would expect them to fix it and to make software with no such bugs). Now I want to take back WIndows 7. Should Microsoft refund me the money both for Windows 7 and Adobe?

Or lets say it wasn’t Windows, say it was some random operating system or some random distribution of Linux and you wanted to buy some software to run on it as well but the operating system didn’t work with your computer. Should the manufacturer of the operating system be responsible for refunding the money both for their operating system AND for the third party software? If so I can see how this can be abused by people to get free software. What if it’s a free operating system and you bought non free software to run on the free operating system. Should those who made the free operating system be responsible for paying for the third party software if their free operating system doesn’t work properly on someones hardware or if it has bugs that makes it not work with the third party software on someones hardware?

The problem is that software is often interdependent, if one aspect of a piece of software from manufacturer A doesn’t work with some other aspect of a piece of software from manufacturer B and you throw the word liable in there a court is liable to rule that manufacturer A would have to pay for software b since software a has a bug that doens’t allow it to work properly with software b. and I can see how this can lead to an expensive legal battle over who is to blame for a function in a piece of software that doesn’t work properly, is it the operating system or the software itself? Oh yes, upon inspecting the code it maybe simple but you throw in a few lawyers, you throw courts and our broken legal system they will take something simple and spin it out of control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“Oh yes, upon inspecting the code it maybe simple “

for example what if it’s closed source software and some party doesn’t want to release their source code. Plus a court has no clue about programming, how the heck are they going to decide who’s to blame. What, are they going to base it on what a bunch of computer illiterate incompetent lawyers say? Well, then, Joe Blow already lost being he doesn’t have a whole team of legal experts protecting him and the big corporations do, even if Joe Blow is right.

Pitabred says:

Re: Re:

Seconded. If I could get a refund for software I buy that doesn’t work, I’d be perfectly happy. The problem is that I can’t. I’m taking a risk with every piece of software I purchase that it won’t perform as advertised, and I will have no recourse. That’s the only liability I’m interested in software companies having… forcing them to refund purchases, since they’ve worked around it with their bullshit EULA’s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“If I could get a refund for software I buy that doesn’t work, I’d be perfectly happy. The problem is that I can’t.”

and THIS I agree with. I don’t think they should necessarily be LIABLE for buggy software, but they should be compelled to provide a refund if the software doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do (or advertised to do).

Liability implied that if the software is responsible for giving you a headache and as a result you want to sue for something stupid like emotional distress you can. I mean, with our completely broken legal system it just seems that to hold them liable will open the door to all sorts of dubious problems and claims of damages and punitive damages over minor things. WORST case scenario a refund for broken software that the developer refuses to fix if there is a significant bug. None of this liability business, it just seems very unpredictable in our very illogical legal system.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Whatever it is, it’s already on the P2P networks. And I don’t think the number of would-be software pirates without broadband is something to worry about.

However, it seems that there could be an effective solution. The way to get a refund is through the software itself. Enter your billing address or credit card or whatever, the software phones home, logs the refund request, the license key is deactivated, and the software is uninstalled. You can keep the media – the cost of getting it back to the publisher is not warranted anyway, and it no longer does you any good. Try to reinstall and your activation key will be no good.

Some would scream that it’s not acceptable to get a refund with anything but the cold hard cash they used to buy the software, but it would at least be better than the current situation – no refunds, ever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There is nothing in the current laws that requires that retail places not allow returns on copyrighted works. Nothing whatsoever. The reason they do not is because a strict policy of not refunding copyrighted works keeps them in the clear of even being accused to be contributing to copyright infringement if somebody happened to copy a work that may have been purchased there when the specific infringer(s) cannot be identified. It’s a CYA tactic by the retailer that poses a potentially considerable inconvenience to the customer, but there’s nothing in the law that requires them to do it. It is simply individual store policy (although such stores usually say that that aspect of their return policy is because of copyright laws, which is misleading at best, because it implies that it is a legal requirement).

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, every game store manager I have ever talked to said that the non-returns policy is a required agreement between the game publishers and the store. Apparently, if they don’t agree to a non-return policy the Publishers would de-prioritize their store, making it so they could not get adequate copies of the hottest games at release. You can see this policy in action by the fact that CostCo (which DOES allow returns on games) only carries games that have been out for quite some time or are B-list titles. Only occasionally will you find a newer or highly rated game at a CostCo because the game publishers wont sell it to them.

Software Dev says:

People who don't understand...

Mostly, people who are pushing this are people who are truly ignorant of the way computers and softare works.

I totally agree that software companies SHOULD be liable for software that is universally buggy.

But the true variable is usually the users PC and what it’s running, the drivers installed, the hardware and the O/S.

To use the previous example, it’s like buying a book and complaining that you can’t read it in the dark – or buying it and complaining you can’t read it while underwater.

But I do like the previous solution – if it doesn’t work for you, you should be able to return it.

Ilfar says:

Re: People who don't understand...

I got to return Overlord when it’s copy protection system played silly buggers with my DVD drive. Helped that we had two of the same computer model in the house so I could prove it wasn’t JUST my computer. I “only” got store credit, but that was good enough for me.

That’s a pure hardware issue though.

DocMenach (profile) says:


I’ve got to agree with Elvenrunelord. The real problem(IMHO) is that software, including games, is not returnable or refundable. This is completely different from any other consumer item. If I buy a couch, a TV, a Table, or any other tangible good and decide that the product does not live up to my expectations I am allowed to return it, but with software it is completely different for some reason.

Although I must disagree with Mike on the point where he says:”If a company constantly produces extremely buggy software, it should have incentives to fix those bugs directly — not from the government — such as the fact that people will be less interested in ever buying their products again in the future.”
EA (the game company) has a history of releasing incomplete products, loaded with bugs, problems with online functionality, tech support that basically refuses to solve problems, yet they have been around for years, and show no signs of leaving. Part of this is because when people buy their games and find them unplayable they have no recourse because they are not allowed to return the game. So EA gets to pocket all that money from unsatisfied customers.

I do think some sort of regulation requiring that software be returnable for refund would actually be appropriate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Returns

If I buy a couch, a TV, a Table, or any other tangible good and decide that the product does not live up to my expectations I am allowed to return it, but with software it is completely different for some reason.

“for some reason”? that reason is because its a physical good. if you return a couch or a TV or a table, you can no longer use said items. if you make a copy of the software, you can return it and still have your copy. That’s why they can’t simply just accept refunds on software.
Maybe if you can prove to them that it doesn’t work. like bring in your computer and show them. inconvenient for those that actually can’t get it working, but it’d stop people from copying and returning. and for those that actually can’t get it working, the place of purchase may be able to explain why its not working, or get it working

bfg says:

Software companies should be exposed to liability

The idea that software can be sold as-is without regard for fitness for any use what-so-ever should release product developers of responsibility for frankly pretty crappy product is offensive. Software developers hide behind the obviously lame excuse the software is “complex” therefore it needs special consideration. The hardware that the software runs on is orders of magnitude more complex and computer manufactures are not asking for special dispensation with respect to liability. The reason that software is so damn awful is the lack of accountability with respect to the quality of the product. If software companies were exposed to the same liability as toy manufacturers commercial software would not be in the condition that it is in now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Software companies should be exposed to liability

“The idea that software can be sold as-is without regard for fitness for any use what-so-ever should release product developers of responsibility for frankly pretty crappy product is offensive.”

If it is that offensive to you, don’t buy it then. I agree, personally, which is why I use freely available software.

“Software developers hide behind the obviously lame excuse the software is “complex””

If you really believe that excuse to be lame, then I’m inclined to think that you do not really understand the software development process. Software development is complex because a particular product has to evolve from nothing more than a single idea in one person’s head into a genuinely usable product by other people within a finite amount of time. And it *IS* evolution… directed evolution, but still evolution… and evolution is intrinsically a complex process.

Alex (user link) says:

Formal Methods

I would suggest that everyone in the software development sector start looking into formal design methods. The main problem in development is that there is no design at all – it’s just coded and modified on the fly, or there is tiny bits of design done to start with but ever less redesign when new features are added.

People need to sit down at the START of a project and map out all required features, you can then use standard design methods such as the “V” model, which incorporates testing as a fundamental design aspect and links tests to original requirements. You can then use formal methods to develop the software, which are formal in that they can be mathematically reasoned about and proven – then you KNOW your software does the right thing if you can prove the written code conforms to the derived model.

While we’re at it, I should also mention that certain formal methods (CSP) include provable parallel processing constructs, so you don’t even need to worry about multi-threading any more, which is a major source of problems in many modern programs.

Anonymous Coward says:

this is questionable.
gta 4 for example was trashed left right and center all over the palce for being buggy, laggy and almost unplayable on a pc.
It turns out you just needed a GOOD pc to play it. I never had a single problem.
Many peoples issues with pc games come down to pebkac errors.

(Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair)

diabolic says:

I think end users do need some kind of backing. I purchased a big title game when it first came out in October ’08. It would crash my computer regularly, the issue was graphics related. The game would not even run properly with its lowest graphic settings. My hardware more than met the recommended requirements. I could not get any phone support, I could not get any email support. All Icould get was a user forum where I could not get any answers. The store I purchased from would not take back the open package. After going to great lengths I got in touch with the developer – they blamed my hardware. My hardware passed every test I could throw at it and ran every other graphically intense title just fine. I gave up on the game, basically I got screwed. Three months later, with no changes to my hardware or drivers, I was able to install an update that fixed the problem. By that time I had lost all interest, I spent more time troubleshooting and dealing with those a-holes than the game was worth. It was really bad customer experience. I’ve worked for companies that produce software for years and we would never screw our customers like that. Since game companies hide behind their EULA’s and refuse support there needs to be some remedy available to end users.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

From the Industry Mind

I started reading TechDirt back when there were huge issues over hot coffee. Around that time is when I started college to become a game developer.

My drug… i mean game of choice was Descent3. I went through 3 joysticks and at least a full years worth of time before I moved onto Diablo2.

Issues were abundant in Descent3, and around then I had to run it at lowest spec. Now any Netbook I1501 dell can run the game at full specs. In this day and age developers forget the minimum spec guy and aim for best and better leaving the small guy out in the wind. I am seriously ticked that the next-gen games and shader 3.0 are the only things that keep me from playing anything just before Assasin’s Creed on my 4-yr-old computer.

Now the work around if liability is of concern just leaving your game in semi-permanent beta till all bugs are worked out or your development team no longer supports the game.

The Bigger issue is for the industry to consider the majority of PCs. If you choose to debate; “There is no market for the PC” just when you got time look modern video cards and TVOUT. There maybe no modern market but it is vastly untapped.

Diablo 2 and WoW work off of 10 year old machine. Oh, I guess this multi-billion dollar market was thought about by someone. Complex games are quite buggy? Look at the hardware not software.

Andrew F (profile) says:

Standardize the EULA

I think the problem is partially that people are getting screwed by EULAs they didn’t read.

Creative Commons, the GPL, etc. has done a lot to standardize copyright licensing. If I see a little badge saying “Creative Commons Attribution License,” I know exactly what that means now and don’t have to read the rest of the legalese.

What if someone just standardized a consumer-friendly EULA? I imagine it’d be very tricky given the wide variety of use-cases for software out there, but I’m pretty sure you could create 5 EULA types that would cover 90% of the software market.

NullOp says:


I been in this since the beginning. So, I can tell you that NO company will guarantee a software product to be free do defects, bugs. No legislation can be passed that will affect the presence of bugs. No company has the wherewithal to absolutely fully test a product in all environments. Period. This is not even considering all the idiots who want to yell “BUG” just because they don’t have the skill to complete the game. NASA sends a manual with the space shuttle revealing all the bugs and the work-arounds for them. Software…it will never be perfect!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Software

Agreed. Even very simple software can actually have more distinct use case permutations than there are subatomic particles in the entire universe. It is usually *literally* impossible to test everything. One can only test until they are satisfied that the software works as intended, but the possibility always remains that cases were missed, and it isn’t even possible to quantitatively identify what that probability could be before the product actually ships.

Anonymous Coward says:

There should be Some liability of some sort.

But how far do you want to take it? I bought a new computer that came with bundled software. Some of which was buggy. I was told the price of the software was included in the purchase price and not refundable. It caused my computer to crash a lot and caused a lot of lost works. The company didnt come out with a fix , but did come out with an upgrade and wanted to charge a lot of money for it . The program was called Windows98. the upgrade was XP!!!!!

Rekrul says:

I support limited liability for buggy software.

I don’t think that companies should have to worry about every tiny little bug, like if you find a way to get on top of a building and the game crashes, but they should definitely be liable for major ones.

Some examples;

Red Faction – My system meets all the minimum requirements and the game runs great, for all of about 1-2 minutes. Then it goes off into limbo and stops responding to the keyboard and mouse buttons. It doesn’t crash, you can still look around with the mouse, but it won’t respond to any other input. I’ve verified that the discs are good by installing it on a friend’s system, where it worked flawlessly. This is obviously a rare problem, but knowing that doesn’t do me any good.

Tomb Raider: Angel of Death – The Windows version is loaded with very visible bugs. Several of the guards and the big monster fish are missing textures, which makes them look hollow. The monster fish don’t hurt you at all. The sanitarium level has several walls that disappear when viewed from the other side and many people have to replay entire levels because the game crashes when they try to progress to the next level. How could the beta testers possibly miss these bugs?

Spider-Man (original, not the movie game) – Has so many bugs on modern systems, it’s ridiculous. The game writes a config file when run, which then keeps the game from loading a second time, until you delete the file. There’s a cutscene in the middle of one level, rendered in the game engine, where the developers just assumed that you’d be in the proper position when it ends. Unfortunately, faster systems screw up the timing and you die. Even if you manage to press the button fast enough, you end up going in the wrong direction and failing the level. Activision’s answer to use a cheat code to skip the level. I also experiences frequent crashes, the game loading in extreme slo-mo, ignoring the controller for seconds at a time, etc. To be fair, the game works properly on older systems, but the package only had minimum requirements, not maximum requirements. As it is, this game is almost unplayable on current systems.

P.O.D. (Planet of Death) – Won’t run at all on modern systems.

PowerDVD5 (I think it was v5, not sure now) – I installed the trial for PowerDVD 5, decided I didn’t need any of the new features, uninstalled it and went back to PowerDVD4. Later, I discovered that the uninstaller had deleted the entire contents of My Documents! I had at least 200+ files in there and it deleted everything. To be sure, I copied some other files there, installed/uninstalled again and the same thing happened. Cyberlink swore it wasn’t their program that did it…

When a game doesn’t run, or has substantial bugs, the company should either be required to fix them, or refund the person’s money. When software deletes files it shouldn’t, or screws up your system, the company should be responsible for fixing whatever damage their software caused.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ever baught a car as is?

Same issue. Unless you want Activision or Blizzard to hire contractors to investigate every claim of damage … yeah that’s not going to happen.

Let the free market handle it. If a studio doesn’t market to the majority they live with sup par profit and eventually die.

The rest is common sense for a studio. As a I said the issue is hardware not software. Test, Test and re-test on multiple machines, oh its the one thing you can control! Thank the internet for that. Closed a open beta test studios are quite popular for all sorts of software. Nowadays you can telecomute. Dream job if you can find one.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ever bought a NEW product (other than software) that didn’t come with a warranty against defects in the workmanship?

When was the last time you bought a new piece of electronics that came with an EULA which stated that there were no guarantees that the item would even work, let alone do what you bought it for?

Have you ever bought a new appliance that came with an EULA stating that the company wasn’t responsible for any damage it might cause, even if such damage was proven to be the result of defects in the product?

Unless you’re talking about used items, or small, fly-by-night companies, I can’t think of any products where there isn’t either some kind of warranty against defects included, or that the company won’t replace a clearly defective product, other than software. Some electronics companies have given free replacements for known defective devices, even if they’re out of warranty.

So why is software so special that not only can the companies get away with not guaranteeing that it will even work, but they also disclaim any responsibility if the program causes anay damage, like erasing files?

Anonymous Coward says:


I think software publishers should simply have to disclose all known defects in a product to potential purchasers in advance. List them all and then let the potential buyer make an informed decision. The reason they get away with selling such buggy products now is that the buy doesn’t have that information. In fact, hiding that information seems to me to be a deceptive trade practice in the first place. So get everything out in the open and let the market decide.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: Disclosure

Out in the open? Are you expecting me and mine to be sooth sayers?

Not an issue for a developer as I. In fact its not even on the top 10 list. If I have a quality product that I’ve tested the occasional bug can be investigated by a small bug test team. By then the bug usually can be chopped up to a conflict with another. If the computer hardware and software is the road we drive on its usually a car accident cleanup we have to deal with and only a tow truck is needed. Not a overhaul on the road. Though the speed limit may need a tweek.

Analogy I use for my own gold release is if its golden even the smallest scratch and mar it. If the studio did there due diligence testing in the first place your golden for all of time with a velvet rope.

Diaggen says:

Where to draw the line?

While I beleive that software should meet a certain level of usability and be mostly bug free, where do you draw the line at liability?

I see a law forcing software developers to be liable for bugs to be a huge mistake. Once a law like this is on the books it will be abused to no end and used as leverage for other laws.

In an open environment like the PC it is simply impossible to check for all the possible interactions of software, hardware and enviroment configuration that might cause a problem with a game or application.

After a few large successful lawsuits you would see developers abandon the PC and start coding for closed environments like consoles and the Mac exclusively. I guess this is one way to get gaming on the Mac.

This raises other questions though. Say a game or application worked fine and then an OS update or update to another application or installation of another application causes an issue, who’s at fault? The general public and certainly members of our judicial system are not savvy enough technically by any stretch of the imagination for me to be comfortable with a law like this.

Lets assume for a moment that a law forcing developers to be held liable is put on the books. Now we’ve got one method to hold them accountable. What happens when little Jimmy goes on a rampage and kills people at his school and blames it on XYZ Game? Well surely someone is at fault for Jimmy’s behavior? The lawmakers have a blue ribbon panel that investigates and ‘finds’ that other kids just like Jimmy want to shoot up their school tool but haven’t yet. It all gets blamed on XYZ Game and a new law is passed. The developers of XYZ Game are all sentenced to life in prison for something like ‘inducement to commit violence against a minor’ or some silly thing. Now every time somebody does something stupid or dangerous they blame their favorite game, movie, book, tv show.

I realize this is over the top. I want it to stay that way. As long as ignorance is celebrated and anything bad is always somebody elses fault I think that any new laws like this, that are in the end only designed to make lawyers money, should be left in the to be shredded pile.

Technomancer says:

Is it *really* broken?

Even if your software runs flawlessly, and it’s more compatible than Windows, what about all the knuckleheads who have systems that are completely infested with malware, and will blame their woes on your product?
For example –

Customer: “This game runs like crap on my high powered computer!”

Developer: “Yeah, well, you’ve got more bugs than a baitshop, too, Einstein.”

Customer: “Well since it’s YOUR game and it doesn’t work on MY system, I’m suing you.”

You can’t simply explain that to your average consumer; most of them are simply not willing to take any personal responsibility for anything.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Software As A Product

I think I’d have to agree, if you want to sell software as a product, then you should be liable for fitness for use as a product, same as any other product.

But the reality is, software is just too complex to ever be bug-free. And as more and more appliances incorporate some form of computing mechanism and software into them, the more widespread these bugs are going to be.

The only reasonable answer is to give up trying to sell software as a product. Give it away for free (with source code), and make money on the service of making sure it works right. That service, at least, can reasonably be guaranteed to be of a certain quality, same as any other service.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Complex problem

It appears that there are quite a few definitions for what it means for Software to be “buggy”:
1) Software malfunctions or is unusable because of the user’s specific computer configuration, though the computer meets all of the necessary requirements.
2) Software malfunctions or is unusable for it’s intended use due to programming errors.
3) Software is unusable for some use other than it’s intended use.
4) Software malfunctions or is unusable due to the user’s computer not meeting the necessary requirements, or due to problems with the user’s computer.
5) Software is unusable of malfunctions due to user error (PEBKAC).

First off, I think that the user should have the option of returning the software, for full refund, for any reason. While that may leave the possibility of returns abuse, most retail businesses are already familiar with the concept of returns abuse and have ways of combating it.

Problems 3 4 and 5 are obviously not the responsibility of the publisher. For 3 they, or course, cannot test for every possible use of the software, only the intended use. For 4 and 5 the problem is user oriented. Though for all of these cases a return (for full refund) should still be allowed, as is allowed with most consumer goods within a reasonable time-period from purchase.

Problem 1 is also pretty straightforward. The publisher is responsible for remedying the situation if the problem was due to their own mistakes/lack of testing. However I cannot see liability beyond the purchase price of the software except in some extreme situations.

Problem 2 is a little tougher. It isn’t possible for the publisher to actually test the software on every single computer configuration, because there are so many possible configurations. But a user should have a reasonable expectation that the software will work if they meet the software’s stated requirements. Once again though I do not see any liability on the publisher’s part beyond the purchase price.

So it seems that the solution to all of these problems is obvious: Allow return for full refund on software. For any reason.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: Complex problem

Well over complicating the matter. KISS keep it simple stupid.

ID10T errors abound with users.

Did ya neglet to notice the issue is holding a studio “liable”.

Whether or not to offer a refund is up to a distributor like Wal-Mart, you don’t go to GM to return a blender.

After its out of the warehouse its the property of the distributor. If and when distributors start taking back scratched & used CDs let me know. I”m expecting a few claims with distributors for returns but its usually an issue with the hardware, handling or packaging or lack there of.

Lucretious (profile) says:

While games might be buggy due to their complexity, companies like EA and Activision abuse this mentality by shipping product knowing full well there are issues with the game but its done as a cost saving measure.

What they do is wait until the sales figures roll in. If the game hits their projections the publisher will pay the developer to go ahead with a patch. More often than not though, a game that tanks yet has serious issues is unlikely to receive any further support. What you WILL see is customers getting together and patching the product themselves. Once in awhile you’ll see a dev team member take it upon themselves to make an unofficial patch.

Because of this I almost NEVER sympathize with a publisher. By shipping an unfinished product they are completely disrespecting their customers and, in many cases, damaging the reputation of the development team. How? because the spineless PR suits from the publishers put the task of dealing with community complaints on the shoulders of the devs themselves. There’s no way the devs can turn around and tell the truth by saying they were forced to ship unfinished code. So they end up in the middle.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Little clarity here is needed Lucretious.

Your saying a studio that goes to a publisher. There are plenty of studios that publish there own.

In comparison look at the music industry. Its why your seeing a heavy trend of artist going indie. We’re all tired of cigar smoking middle men getting the majority of your profits.

I think society has forgotten how a well made product is released. It starts in a town and expands to the state and expansion of sales profit equals expansion of product distribution. This way you minimize loss off a bad product and not live off of somebody else’s capital (bubble economy).

At least these days you got the internet to go to town from that to full blown tweaked server hosting your software.

Man do I miss BullFrog.

TechNoFear (profile) says:

Who pays?

I develop asset protection systems.

I gave one of the worlds largest mining companies two quotes for a system to monitor their fleet of heavy haul vehicles.

The ISO 9001 certified version cost ~30% (or Au$1 mill) more.

They went for the cheap ‘possibly buggy’ version.

Better make sure consumers are willing pay the huge additional cost (in both time and money) this testing will incur.

Anonymous Coward says:

Start by taking on EULA's

The main problem with all this are the EULA’s. They say that the software is provided “AS IS without warranties” and so on and so on. The money paid is for the licence (or permission) to use the software, NOT for the software itself. So that means that for it to be refundable the part that was “paid for” must be defective ie..the permission to use. The software was “PROVIDED” as is (implying no cost,no loss so no recourse). So there is no liability for defects in the code itself and also for any issues, failures, or data loss caused by the code or any defects within the code. Just to try the software and see if it will work “bug free”, or even as advertised. you must pay first and release all rights for any claims against the manufacturer. This is where the law needs to be changed. OUTLAW EULA’S!!!
If you pay for it you then own it, with all rights and privileges as being the owner. Along with all warranties against manufacturer defects (as with any product bought or rented). Inclusive of the lemon laws!!! Buyer beware and paying to use something sight unseen doesnt cut it with EULA’S. Stop making excuses for your inabilities…IF YOU CANT WRITE DEFECTIVE FREE CODE>>>THEN DONT WRITE IT!!!
It IS that simple. If you think its not,
I have a car with a “minor bug” in the braking system. Care to buy MY EULA and try it out??? Of course, I cant be held liable for what happens after you pay me. You cant fix it, look at it, or resell it because you dont own it, and NO REFUNDS.

Anonymous Coward says:

OMG!!! This is NOT that complicated people. For PURCHASED software (screw that EULA/ no responsibility crap): If the OS is “sold” then It is that OS manufacturers RESPONSIBILITY to ensure stability and compatibility issues for the advertised minimum requirements. It is also their responsibility to release their code (and verify if bundled) to hardware manufacturers so the HW people can take responsibility for ensuring no issues with their drivers (more software) for each OS (and version) they claim they are compatible with. For third party software, it is that “developers” responsibility to ensure compatibility and stability with the OS and HW that they claim as their minimum requirements. If all this was done properly there would be no problems. But when you have manufacturers “creating” the minimum product for maximum profit their greed wins out and everyone suffers. that is why consumer rights NEED to be enforced, no matter how much they cry and whine about it. As for Open source software: If you dont pay for the software there is no loss. If the code is poor then no one will use it(no harm no foul). If you pay for software that runs on open source, then whoever wrote the PURCHASED, closed source code is responsible for their software (and/or drivers) to run on open source OS’s. It all works the same. Like I said before, stop making excuses for your inabilities to write good code and start taking responsibility for the code you write or dont write it. Also, stop forcing people to pay first (without recourse) just to find out if it works. Im not talking lawsuits, just refunds, unless its on a grand scale and class action is due!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a perfect solution:


EA screwed me over with DRM on 3 games which I PAID for and was never able to play, I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER PIECE OF CRAPWARE FROM THEM AGAIN Unless I get my money back, which isn’t going to happen.

Bye EA Games : Stop blaming piracy for your shortcomings and get a clue! If you treat your customers as criminals, You get burned right back.

I think MicrAPsoft got away with ME and Vista which were both so buggy some were not able to use it at all.

The solution to this is also to not buy from them OR just wait a year for them to work out the bugs, it will be cheaper then also.


Anonymous Coward says:

The right group is being blamed.

The “distributors” are the stores from which it is purchased. The publishers” are the manufacturers. The “developers” write the code and usually work for, or are, the manufacturers (sometimes all three) Now when something is returned to the store, the store asks the manufacturer for either credit (and then destroys it) or for return authorization. When the manufacturers accepts NO RESPONSIBILITY for there product, they refuse to give credit or authorization. So the stores in turn, not wanting to absorb the loss, refuse to accept returns or give refunds.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can see this opening up a MASSIVE can of worms. As a developer I strive to make my software bug free. But I find that most of the bugs that I’m trying to fix were with things that worked originally, and then suddenly stopped working because something else on the system changed and became incompatible.

If this is applied to something like say, Windows, then is it really fair to force Microsoft to make sure that their software is bug free and will work 100% on ALL types of hardware? Considering the number of hardware variations is practically unlimited, forcing legislation on them would be the worst thing in the world for software developers.

Mike is right. Making bug-free software makes people want to buy your software and that should be incentive enough.

Karl (user link) says:


“If a company constantly produces extremely buggy software, it should have incentives to fix those bugs directly — not from the government — such as the fact that people will be less interested in ever buying their products again in the future.”

That doesn’t always work. Ask anyone who has ever used Windows.

Making it illegal to prevent returns is a much better idea. The EULA issue deserves discussion as well, but it’s a whole lot bigger than just buggy software.

Rekrul says:

For the average consumer, there are only two major companies making graphics cards; ATI and Nvidia. If you want to play games on your system, you need to have one of these cards. Newer games often need the latest drivers to play properly. Unfortunately, both companies have a long history of providing absolutely pathetic backwards compatibility. With every new driver version they release, games that used to work perfectly, stop working.

For many years, people couldn’t play Aliens vs. Predator/Gold because under the newer drivers, all that showed up were the HUD and light sources. It took a user making a patch for the game to shame Nvidia into fixing this issue.

The games Thief and Thief II would be completely unplayable today without fans making patches for them and fixing the things that the newer drivers break. Companies are selling legal downloads of these games that people can’t even play. They don’t work as-is and the extra DRM on the downloads prevents the person from using any of the fan-made patches.

When I installed Aliens vs. Predator II and No One Lives Forever, all the textures were screwed up. I had to downgrade to a much older version to get them working properly. No One Lives Forever II needed an even older version to get rid of all the graphical glitches.

Undying and Unreal don’t work for more than 2-3 minutes under some of the later drivers. They keep crashing to the desktop.

These are very real, easily verifiable problems and yet the company pretty much just ignores them because they know that people have nowhere else to turn. Buying an ATI card is no better.

auto transport quotes (user link) says:

auto transport quotes

Journal of Child Health Care is a professionally focused, peer reviewed journal which addresses child health issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective. It fosters critical understanding of the neonate, child and adolescent in health and illness. Journal of Child Health Care sees children as part of the community in which we live and considers health issues arising from transport quotes

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