David Johnson david at usermode.org
Thu Feb 1 06:34:04 UTC 2001

On Wednesday 31 January 2001 12:58 pm, Carol A. Kunze wrote:

> >I think you'll find general agreement with this viewpoint here, once all
> >parties understand you're talking about _implied_, not _explicit_
> >warrantees.  I believe there's confusion on this point in David
> >Johnson's response.
> He didn't sound confused to me.  David?

I didn't think I was confused, but now I'm not sure :-)

However, I may be confused by the term "merchantibility". I take that term to 
mean that a commercial product is fit to be sold for the purpose under which 
it is advertised. I can see no possible reason for a commercial concern to 
sell products it deems unfit for use, so I can't understand why software 
companies routinely disclaim this.

> This is not the first time I have heard the viewpoint that imposing
> warranties on open source/free software is a reasonable thing to do.

I am completely and one-hundred-percent AGAINST imposing warranties on 
anybody. At the same time, if a product has no warranty, I want to know about 
it at the time of purchase, not after I have paid my money and started using 
it. My basic point was simple, I thought. If I buy a toaster and it doesn't 
work, I want my money back. If I buy software and it doesn't work, I want my 
money back. The common assumption is that non-sale items can be returned for 
a refund. If a company does not wish to honor refunds, they or their reseller 
need to tell the consumer about it at time of purchase.

I used to work in the building trades and I had to do a some returns. In the 
building trades, returns *always* hurt. But I did them anyway because it was 
the honest thing to do. I was the one that told the customer the product I 
was selling was suitable for the task at hand. So it was my responsibility to 
make it right when it turned out that I was wrong.

Liability is a bit trickier. Okay, a *lot* trickier.  I will agree with the 
rest of the community that disclaiming liability for Open Source is a Good 
Thing(tm). I certainly wouldn't want to submit a big fix if it means I have 
to go to court over it in the future. But commercial distribution of Open 
Source software is another matter. The commercial distributors are the ones 
claiming the software is suitable merchandise. If they wish to disclaim all 
merchantibility, they need to convey that information to me before I purchase 
the software.

I have next to me a commercial Open Source operating system. Nowhere on its 
packaging is a disclaimer of any kind. None. But they do make a few claims. 
One of them is "a full, professional quality, UNIX-compatible operating 
system". I'm not trying to argue that this software, or any others, *must* be 
warrantied. But the disclaimer should be on the packaging instead of inside 
it. And the software industry as a whole should start acting like a mature 
industry and offer warranties as a matter of course.

David Johnson

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