Liability Law and Software Development
Liability law with respect to computer software has important implications: potential lawsuits act as both a detterent to software development as well as an incentive for the creation of reliable software. While other areas of tort law have been present for generations, tort law with respect to computer software is a new area of law. It is important for computer scientists to play a role in the policy-making process of this field as new laws and precedents are developed.
Our project attempts to address the fundamental issues in the area of software liability, as well as provide a comprehensive research resource for others interested in pursuing these issues. Among the issues we attempt to address:
The goal of our web site is to provide a comprehensive research center for issues of software liability law. Our web site will cover existing laws, precedents, and doctrines. Furthermore, our web site will contain normative assessments of the existing body of law as well as policy proposals for the future of software liability. In our normative inquiry, we will look comparatively at other areas of liability law, as well as address the fundamental differences between software failures and other liable actions. Furthermore, we will address these issues from an ethical standpoint as well.
- Should software companies be liable for software failures?
- What is the definition of negligence with respect to software development?
- Do existing laws account for the unique characteristics of software engineering?
- What ethical responsibilities do software engineers have to users?
- How should the terms “appropriate use” and appropriate care” be defined in software liability law?
- What influence have corporations had in the development of existing law?
- Is software a tangible product? Tangibility is an important concept in products liability law. In 1991, the dicta of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion (actually dealing with a book about mushrooms) hinted that software could be considered a tangible product in certain circumstances.
- What is the concept of information liability? Should software companies be liable for information generated by the their software?
- Would increased liability stifle the quick release of new software?
- What would be the economic ramifications of an increased level of liability? Would such a change discourage the development of software for medical and other high risk fields?
- Is a computer program a product or a service?
- If an expert system using artificial-intelligence gives bad advice, should the programmers be held liable?
- Should programmers be considered professionals and thus subject to malpractice suits?
- What risks should users naturally assume when using software?
- Because computer programming is extremely complex, should the doctrine of strict liability apply to programmers in order to induce them to write bug-free software? Is such software possible?
Ravi Belani, Charles Donovan, Howard Loo, & Jessen Yu