Shrink-Wrap Licences

Written May 6. 2000, at 20:46 GMT.

It is all over the news now that the Washington Supreme Court has upheld a shrinkwrap license limiting recovery of damages due to buggy software. I recommend reading the discussion on Slashdot that followed the news there.

The big question is, should software development firms be held responsible for their bugs and, if so, how would this affect free-software licences. Incidentally the GPL includes a strong disclaimer of all liability for defects in the software. Should free-software be treated differently from commercial software? What about commercial packages such as Red-Hat Linux?

Another completely seperate question is, are shinkwrap licences a good thing(tm)? Currently on my desk there's a software CD from Dell with a shrink-wrap licence inside, but on the shrink-wrap itself there's a big sticker with a serial number a bar-code covering part of the legal text underneath. Silly!

On a side note, naturally Dilbert has dealt with shrink-wrap licences... Funny!


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