Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Software Contract Law

I hesitate to describe an article on computer law, especially one about the enforcement of software contracts, as "interesting" but there is no doubt that this is an important area for all of us. Of course, one side applies primarily to product vendors and consulting developers but we are all of us on the customer side of the fence. So everybody ought to read Cem Kaner's piece on an American Law Institute initiative to write a new Principles of the Law of Software Contracts.

He has also published his presentation to the Conference of the Association for Software Testing on this topic. This contains lots of insights into the evaluation of licensing law but it does also contain screens full of legal small print (literally).

The focus of Cem's analysis is on the enforcement of warranties. In particular, the proposals would make software suppliers liable for damages suffered by their customers as a result of bugs which were known to the supplier but not disclosed to the customer. You can see why lawyers might be keen on this proposal: Have you suffered from Blue Screen Of Death? Turn those bugs into £££! Calls Claims Direct now!

On the other hand, certain things would become freer. For instance, under a "standard-form transaction" (i.e. one used by the general public, as opposed to an individually negotiated one) companies such as Oracle would be unable to prevent the publication of the unauthorised benchmarks. There might also be implications for certain aspects of the OTN licence, such as the recently discussed confusion over whether we can use a database downloaded from OTN at home for instructional purposes.

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