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Josheir

Effective Software Licenses

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Does a very brief disclaimer protect me legally from potential problems caused by my software?

 

How about the typical long license agreements do they protect indies from penalty and lawsuit?

 

These typical long agreements always seem to acknowledge that the protection may not be lawful in some areas.  What is this all about and how would I protect myself from these situations?

 

 

 

Thank you,

 

Josh

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You can't protect yourself perfectly in all cases. If you sell software that deletes someone's hard drive by accident, there are jurisdictions where the user can sue you and no disclaimer or EULA will help because you were negligent and the software was not fit for purpose. The agreements you see are usually there to provide a baseline of protection in the jurisdictions where they are enforceable, but that's all you can do.

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License agreements are an attempt to move software from a sales model (which has long-established rules and laws for what must happen) into a contract model (where permissions are granted only by what is expressed in the contract).  Over the last half-century of software sales new patterns and practices have emerged and are slowly being integrated with the rest of the legal system.

 

An EULA provides some protections.  Exactly how enforceable the protections are depend on where in the globe the issues take place and the exact wording of the license. 

 

 

Making software available online -- even for free -- is engaging in commerce.  One cost of commerce is occasional visits with a lawyer to discuss your legal risks, their potential costs, and risk mitigation.  It has a cost, but it is relatively small.  

 

 

There are unavoidable risks you take by putting software online. You need a business lawyer who can review your EULA, TOS, and other documents, along with reviewing your software, and help you understand, manage, and mitigate those risks.

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Could you explain  "not fit for purpose"  and what is TOS ?

 

Thank you,

 

Josh

 

(Hopefully the only stupid question is a question unasked.)

Edited by Josheir

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Could you explain  "not fit for purpose"  and what is TOS ?

 

TOS is "terms of service".  They are standard with nearly every service, including web pages.  Scroll to the bottom and find "Terms of Service" on this site, too.  You'll find it on nearly every major web site in the bottom footer most people ignore.

 

Fitness for purpose is a legal standard for goods that are sold. For example, you can reasonably expect a new car is fit for the purpose of using as a reliable vehicle, and if it isn't reliable you should be able to take it back. Laundry soap should be fit for the purpose of making clothes clean, and if it stains your clothes or is so harsh it burns through the fabric it was supposed to launder, you could have a claim.  Software licenses try to avoid that, generally stating the the software is not necessarily fit for any purpose, or that the use may not be fit for the purposes the licensee intended.   This is one of many ways where software licenses try very hard to work differently from traditional sales.

 

 

 

Hopefully the only stupid question is a question unasked.

 

Not a problem. We must all learn sometime.

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