Friday, August 7, 2009

Suing Open Source

In an interesting entry, Bill Snyder talks about a new set of guidelines written by the American Law Institute. These guidelines state that the developers of software should be held responsible for "knowingly" shipping buggy software. Needless to say, something like this is bound to raise some controversy in both the proprietary and the open source software worlds. As the article states, there is some ambiguity in the chosen language of these guidelines. For instance, what constitutes "knowingly". Additionally, what constitutes "buggy"? When it comes to software, both these turns are open for interpretation. f there were a standard set of criteria in which to evaluate software in order to determine its "buggyness", this way be feasible. However, the end user is responsible for reporting bugs. That is, no matter how much quality assurance a given software package goes through, there is bound to be something "wrong" with the software. Now, this comes back to the notion of what constitutes "buggy" or "wrong" or "incorrect". If there were a contract in place that had the written requirements in stone, there might be something substantial here. But these upfront requirements are unrealistic. There is going to be changes needed and it is really up to the developers to decide if they fall into the bug category.

In the open source world, it is stated in virtually any end user agreement that this software should be used at your own risk. If you are an open source end user, file bug reports, be helpful about it and you will be happier in the long run than if you were to take the complaining road.