David Johnson david at usermode.org
Wed Jan 31 03:45:07 UTC 2001

On Tuesday 30 January 2001 05:23 am, Carol A. Kunze wrote:

> Implied warranties on open source software do not make sense because there
> is no  license income to support granting a warranty.

Why do warranties have to depend on license income? Why can't they depend on 
support, media, or even *sales* income?

> The implied warranty of merchantability is that the product "is fit for the
> ordinary purpose for which such computer programs are used."  No one really
> knows what this means in the context of software.  Everyone (at least
> within my knowledge), proprietary and open source alike, disclaims this
> warranty.

This has been the bit that has always bugged me. By not warranting 
merchantibility, Redhat (as an example) is telling me that their software is 
UNFIT for the ordinary purpose for which unix-like operating systems are used.

> Market economics will not tolerate a profit on the software under this
> competitive scenario.  In fact, Red Hat is selling the medium, printed
> documentation and services for $29.95, but the software is free.

The media, printed matter, services *and* software all combine into a single 
product. They are indeed selling the software. If you think about it, you'll 
have to agree that they couldn't sell a shrinkwrap box with blank CD, manual 
and support package for the same price as one that actually includes the 

> Compare this to a small business which
> "buys" a copy of Linux for $29.95 and makes 9 more copies.  Has the
> supplier warranted 10 copies or 10 users?

The supplier only warranties what was sold. If one box was sold then only one 
box gets warrantied.

> Given that open source software does not generate license income, implying
> a warranty is not reasonable.  Put another way, open source software cannot
> even afford to win a warranty lawsuit.

Remember, we aren't talking about liability here. If Redhat is 
so stupid as to not honor returns (which is what the standard limited 
warranty is in every other industry), they deserve any class action lawsuit 
brought against them. The warranty is not attached to the IP, it's attached 
to the product. It's Redhat that sold Redhat, not Linus Torvalds or Bruce 
Perens. They have nothing to worry about.

David Johnson

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