|From: "Charles Leeds"
Date: Wed, Jun 28, 2000 9:06 AM
Subject: High Tech Warranty Project -- Comment, P994413
High Tech Warranty Project -- Comment, P994413
(1) As a computer systems analyst for a large American corporation, I am concerned by a proposal that might require all software to be warrantied.
My concern stems from the repercussions this may have on the Open Source and Free Software communities where persons from across the world work on projects such as the free operating system Linux. The authors of this software do not charge for this software, and therefore would have no money to back their software with a warranty. Most free software packages have a license which protects the authors interest in what can and cannot be done with the source code accompanying the software.
(2) Our corporation uses many free software packages whose authors would be financially unable to warranty their software. These software packages are many times of superior quality to any commercial alternatives, or have no commercial alternatives. Our corporation uses some of these free, unwarrantied software packages for very, very critical business functions, such as our firewall, which protects our company from electronic attack.
Since these free software packages are always distributed with the source code which is used to create the software, we can examine the quality of the software for ourselves or even fix problems with the software ourselves should we wish.
(3) I am concerned that the requirement for a warranty with all software would force free software to discontinue their product, or to move all development of free software outside of these United States, since the authors could not afford to warranty it since they derive no revenues from its use. Also, as an author of free software which I share with the world, such a warranty requirement that might hold me liable would effectively strip me of my liberty to share software with others. Only the very rich could afford the liberty of giving away software and placing it under warranty.
(4) In closing I don't think that warranties on software are always a beneficial thing. There is no cost effective formula to creating error free software, so it is impossible for a software author to be certain his or her code is error free. If you must require warranties, please require them only on software for which costs over $500, or for software where the source code of the software is not distributed with the software. If the source code is distributed with the software, you could shift the responsibility of determining software quality upon the software user, who should not use the software if they are not qualified to be sure of its quality of its source code.