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
    TJ, 18 Nov 2004 @ 6:07pm

    Hmm... yes and no

    I both agree and disagree with your point. While there is a limit to what one can expect of software, and license agreements have/do provide some defense; software is increasingly controlling what we like to think of as mechanical systems.
    My 2005 Chrysler 300C supposedly includes many seperate computer systems that control almost every aspect of the car's operation. Whether a problem relates to going, stopping, crashing [safety systems], navigation, steering, lights, wipers, or convenience systems like locks and windows, there are computer systems and software involved. So while applying lemon laws to Microsoft Internet Explorer seems problematic, lemon laws are likely to increasingly be applied to vehicles and appliances that are now heavily controlled by computer chips and software thanks to 21st century technology.
    Since other news items have suggested that current programmers of "imbedded systems" are much less likely to respect the power of their software, it may be that lemon laws will increasingly relate to software flaws in these imbedded systems. If that becomes commonplace it won't be such a stretch to apply such laws to other software.
    If a recent thread on /. concerning lone developers has any merit, patent and other IP issues are quickly driving non-corporate developers out of the market anyway. If only huge corporations are releasing software, then it is likely that they can absorb any losses due to lemon laws for bad code. On the other hand, if a company's code is so bad that they can't stay in business due to such expenses, then aren't we all better off if they fail anyway?

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