Monday, August 11, 2003

GPL in Germany

InfoWorld (via Gary Robinson):

Regarding such legal principles as liability and warranty, the GPL clauses have absolutely no legal validity. Under the license, developers and distributors of open software are not liable for any problems with their products. The GPL avoids any wording that could imply liability. Such a license is simply unenforceable under German, or even European Union law for that matter.

What about other software licenses that disclaim liability?

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To suggest that GPL clauses have no legal validity is ridiculous. Most of the commercial software licenses have denied any liability if any damage was resulted from use of the software. Not only that, these commercial software licenses also denied any warranty. In essence, any software updates and upgrades provided to the customers are basically just out of courtesy, not out of legal necessity.

In any case, the point of open source is that, since the source code is readily available, it is up to the user/consultant who is setting up the software for use to make sure that the software is working. Any defects or deficiencies in the software can therefore be fixed by the user if needed, since source code is available. In effect, the responsibility of quality assurance and functional verification is left to the user.

While commercial software *may* have gone through some testing to ensure quality and to verify functionality, however, if there are problems in the quality of code or failure in its functionality, the commercial software writers are not liable to fix it under standard commercial software licenses, i.e. the NO WARRANTY and the NOT LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES clause.

Heck, this is how Microsoft makes money--forcing users to pay for "upgrades" that provide bug fixes that people desperately need/want.

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