|From: Ryan Grange
Date: Tue, Jun 27, 2000 9:36 PM
Subject: High-Tech Warranty Project -- Comment, P994413
My comments concern the application of warranties to software. I am for the warranting of software for which consideration (typically and especially money) is given. Obviously, if I purchase an office suite and it does not work on my system (assuming I have the stated required minimum specs), crashes my system, or does not do as the documentation or advertising state, I would expect and deserve a refund of my licensing fee (since most software is not actually "bought" as us non-lawyers would have seen it) with the understanding that I surrender my rights to further use of the program without again paying for a license to use the software.
I do however see two areas where warranties would be inappropriate or inhibiting in the extreme.
The first area involves the software from the "Open Source Community". I have the Linux operating system running on a couple of my computers. This software was made freely available by its many authors, and I aquired it with only an investment of the time required to download the system software from the Internet. Since no monetary or other tangible consideration was given for the use of this software. In fact, the companies encourage the distribution of the software without any expectation of renumeration for extra copies / installations of their software, they charge only for hardcopy manuals and support, the software is freely available for download as I have stated I have done. Warranties on such services as technical support are not covered by UCITA as best I can tell, so are beyond the scope of this message.
The point of this is that the authors around the world who freely provide their work for these open operating systems would be unneccessarily financially burdened by having to warranty work which they freely give as "gifts" to society. Open source software programmers and their methods are often called a "gift society" where ones worth and skill are measured by how much and the quality of what one puts into their software and its related materials such as online documentation. Can and should freely given gifts be forced to offer warranties?
The other point I would wish considered is the effect on freely offered advice and pieces of code I have offered in support groups. These groups are freely available and communicate through e-mail and via bulletin boards. When a member of the group needs help with a problem, it is not uncommon for another member of the discussion group to offer up anything from a single line of code to an entire program in answer to the problem. These programs are offered without a warranty or guarantee of any kind. Would the authors of these e-mails now be required to warrant that their solution works? And at what point do we require a warranty for our work? There are complete programs requiring only that single line of code, and yet so many where a single line is but a small part of the needed solution. Where do we draw the line.
This second point does not conflict with the consideration criteria. Support services who charge for the code they provide to fix a problem should be required to warrant the code as it would any other software sold or licensed.
I think it should be an important distinction in UCITA that software and source code offered in exchange for consideration (money) be required to offer a warranty, while freely offered and redistributable software and source code be exempt as there is no consideration offered for such.
Thank you for your time and consideration.