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Is it time to "hold software makers accountable" for bugs?

[I've never really understood calls for software creators to be "held 
accountable" for programming errors. First, because programming errors can 
cause unpredictable damage, potentially-liable software firms would respond 
by raising prices for software. That would impose an additional cost on 
consumers -- the same folks ostensibly helped by the plan. Second, there's 
nothing stopping a software company from offering a warranty today. That 
they don't seems like a reflection of the fact that there's little demand 
for it, at least at the higher prices that would be necessary to cover 
costs. Third, I'm leery of what such a law would do to the GPL and similar 
licenses, which typically say "no warranty at all." Fourth, there already 
are mechanisms that permit makers of really buggy software to be punished 
-- reputation, for instance, when customers compare notes or reviewers 
notice. --Declan]


Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 00:27:35 -0400
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
From: Monty Solomon <monty@roscom.com>
Subject: Spread of Buggy Software Raises Questions
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

       Spread of Buggy Software Raises Questions
       - Apr 27, 2003 01:23 PM (AP Online)

By PETER SVENSSON AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- When his dishwasher acts up and won't stop beeping,
Jeff Seigle turns it off and then on, just as he does when his
computer crashes. Same with the exercise machines at his gym and his
CD player.

"Now I think of resetting appliances, not just computers," says
Seigle, a software developer in Vienna, Va.

Malfunctions caused by bizarre and frustrating glitches are becoming
harder and harder to escape now that software controls everything
from stoves to cell phones, trains, cars and power plants.

Yet computer code could be a lot more reliable _ if only the industry
were more willing to make it so, experts say. And many believe it
would help if software makers were held accountable for sloppy

Bad code can be more than costly. Sometimes it's lethal.

_A poorly programmed ground-based altitude warning system was partly
responsible for the 1997 Korean Air crash in Guam that killed 228

_Faulty software in anti-lock brakes forced the recall of 39,000
trucks and tractors and 6,000 school buses in 2000.

_The $165 million Mars Polar Lander probe was destroyed in its final
descent to the planet in 1999, probably because its software shut the
engines off 100 feet above the surface.



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