Subject: Re: prohibiting use that would result in death or personal injury
From: David Johnson <>
Date: Sat, 22 Jul 2000 03:13:31 -0700

On Sat, 22 Jul 2000, Justin Wells wrote:
> Can an opensource license include this phrase:
>    You must not use our software where there is any risk of death or 
>    personal injury. 

I would probably rephrase it. This is way too broad for my liking.
Everything has some risk to it. 

> Lots of licenses say that, and the reason is that in many jurisdictions it
> is not possible to disclaim liability for something that might kill or 
> seriously inujure someone.

And in my opinion, that is perfectly rational. Nothing you say in
your license should absolve you of any responisiblity for your own
actions. The problem arises when judges/juries assign
liability/responsibility to the wrong parties, or in wrong ratios. 

> This restriction would prevent you from using the software to fly an aircraft,
> or as part of a military weapons system, or as part of the safey system keeping
> trains from colliding. Those are definately fields of endeavor.

Or medical equipment. I work for a company the creates diagnostic
medical devices, and we use a lot of Open Source software in them. If
some of the software fails, it can cause a misdiagnosis leading to
possible death. This has never happened, and the possibility of it
happening are extremely remote, but the risk is there. 

The long and short of it is, if the software in question is commercial,
get liability insurance. If it's not commercial, make sure that
everyone who gets it knows that. The latter won't stop anyone from suing
you (nothing will), but the odds of them seeking other more wealthier
victims increases. And if you're paranoid and can afford it, get the
liability insurance anyway, and have it cover everything, including
those cookies you generously bake for the neighborhood children.

Do I need a disclaimer now that I've written the above? Okay, very
well, I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV...

David Johnson