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
    bbay, 19 Nov 2004 @ 2:23pm

    lemon laws

    I'm not sure that the underlying principle of lemon laws can apply to software.

    A lemon law applies to a single unit with a "serious defect or abnormal condition", like a new BMW that turns out to have a malfunctioning transmission. On the other hand, if you bought a brand new Ford Pinto that worked just like every other Ford Pinto, you can't make a claim under the lemon laws just because you now own the shittiest car ever manufactured.

    My point is that if Outlook sucks that doesn't mean that you got a 'lemon' copy of Outlook. Just like if you bought a Kevin J. Anderson novel you couldn't return it as a lemon, because all Kevin J. Anderson novels are like that. Software is more like a novel than it is like a car. (This is my perspective as a fluent programmer, your software consumer admittedly probably has a different relationship with his software than I do.)

    However, other considerations may apply. 'Fitness for a particular use' has been mentioned, and it's always struck me as odd that commercial software companies can just wave their hands and make that one go away. There may also be some class action kind of stuff going on with regard to particularly flagrant examples of bad software. But I think that mostly happens in the 'false advertising' area rather than in the 'malfunctioning device' area.

    I DO think there should be accountability. I just don't think that the lemon laws are the right model to adopt.

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