Open Source Click-Wrap Notice

Bruce Dodson bruce_dodson at
Sun Aug 11 22:27:14 UTC 2002

Let me try to make it clear that I know the good samaritan laws don't apply 
to software or any other non-emergency situation - only for emergencies, 
where the time it takes to get a waiver signed could otherwise cost a life 
(or a house). I am also quite aware that liability has nothing to do with 
motivation - e.g. that if i give someone a lift downtown, and we get into a 
car accident, and my passenger gets hurt, I can be sued even though I was 
trying to be nice.

Nevertheless the good samaritan laws are for the common good, and so would 
be a law that prevents someone from suing me for things I contribute to the 
open source commons. That is the extent of my analogy. I am not drawing any 
equivalence between the reasons why liability is inappropriate in these two 
situations. I am also aware that wishing for a thing doesn't make it true. I 
think we are on the same page.

As for bandages vs. underlying problems: In open source, the need to have 
open source licenses seen as contracts, so that liability can be disclaimed, 
is a bandage.  I'll take the bandage rather than expose myself to continued 
risk, but I hope the underlying problem will not be forgotten.

>From: David Johnson <david at>
> > Although open source development isn't done in an emergency situation, 
> > is done by many whose only goal is to help people, and who don't ask any
> > compensation other than a nod of recognition.
>There is a very good reason why the various "good samaritan" laws specify 
>performed during emergency and/or urgent situations only. Liability, as I
>understand it, is unconcerned with the actor's motivation, but only with 
>results of the action. Good Samaritan laws are exceptions to the rules for
>exceptional circumstances.
>There are some good reasons for limiting liability for Open Source 
>But the goal of helping people is not one of them. The good samaritan laws
>are bandages on a system that is slowly but surely being broken through
>abuse. We don't need more bandages, we need correct the underlying 

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