Law of Software Contracts

I'm not a lawyer... but i'd like to wade in on contract law a little if i may ;-)

This entry, from Cem Kaner, "A first look at the proposed Principles of the Law of Software Contracts", was mentioned in Larkware today.

It includes this snippet of the proposed principles:

"a vendor who knows of a hidden material defect in its product
but sells the product without disclosing the defect
is liable to the customer for damage (including expenses)
caused by the defect."

(And Adam Goucher has more here.)

Legal stuff always raises more questions for me than it answers. And a bunch of questions jump out from the little that Cem has quoted.

F'rinstance, what about: a vendor who knows about a defect, but considered it immaterial? This happens all the time.

Or, more common still: a vendor who has an employee who momentarily knew about a limitation of the product, but didn't expect that that limitation would lead to a material defect?

Here's an Example...

You're writing some code, you choose to implement an algorithm in a particular way, which has a limitation.

You don't consider the limitation to be major, so you don't document it. But since you wrote the code, it's clearly evident that you did know about the limitation at the time you wrote the code.

The limitation isn't revealed by the sort of testing a 'reasonable' buyer would perform, and it isn't mentioned in documentation.

When put out in the field, the limitation causes some material defect in the behaviour of the software, that has massive consequences.

For example: the medical system you're writing didn't correctly handle the turkish letter "i"... hence a patient slipped through the system and died.

Who pays?

Go at it, legal geeks.

(Or can we adopt the Asmiov/Denny inspired "Laws of Software Development" instead?)

 

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