Lemon Laws That Apply To Bug Filled Software?

from the on-the-way... dept

Here's an issue that shows up every few years, but really hasn't received that much attention lately. However, now that people are predicting that virus writers will increasingly focus on exploiting applications rather than operating systems, more questions will be raised about whether or not "lemon laws" should apply to software. Of course, the article is a bit ridiculous in a few ways. It's not really true that viruses attack operating systems. In fact, at this point, it seems like most viruses are targeted at an application: Microsoft Outlook, rather than an operating system. Also, up until this point, software developers have been able to defend themselves against lemon law type claims via the end-user license agreement, which basically says "you get what you get, live with it -- and we'll try to patch stuff if it gets too bad." While there may be a reasonable claim to be made about intentionally placing security holes in software, or making claims about security that the company knows is false, expecting software developers to produce perfect software all the time goes too far, and would pretty much decimate the software industry by creating a huge liability for anyone to ever release any software publicly.

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  1. identicon
    Steve Mueller, 18 Nov 2004 @ 2:30pm

    Software Warranties

    I'm a professional programmer, and would certainly oppose any law requiring perfect software. However, I do think the existing "warranties" that only warrant the media against defects are ridiculous from a consumer perspective. Warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose should always be applicable.

    Also, remember that lemon laws for cars don't require "perfect" cars. They allow people who have a car with several problems to get relief. If a program repeatedly crashed my computer, I don't think expecting a refund is out of line. If a program trashed my data, maybe more relief would be useful (paying for a data recovery team, perhaps).

    I would also encourage a listing of testing results to help people understand a program's limitations. For example, a database company might say they tested the database on files with 1,000,000 records of 10,000 bytes each. Users using files smaller than that would get stronger protection than users using files that exceeded the developer's published testing.

    In fact, those test results could actually be used as a marketing tool. We might even see QA wars between developers trying to publicize the "best" tools. After all, would you buy the photo tool that claimed to work with 5 megapixels or the one that claimed to handle 16 megapixel photos if they cost about the same and had the features you wanted?

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