Subject: Re: warranties on software [was: www.oreilly.com -- Tangled Webs: What Gives Them the Right?]
From: Ben_Tilly@trepp.com
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 14:53:57 -0500


> >> Not necessarily.  Every boxed piece of software comes with a warranty.
> >> Free software cannot, and that's one of the things that people don't
> >> like about free software.
> >
> >Why can't it? How is it different from proprietary software in this
> >respect?
>
>
> I Will agree that it is tougher for free software than for commercial
> entities to offer warranties about their product [...]
>
> Now, my question is, would it be legal (and worthwhile) for a commercial
> third party to offer guarantees of some kind (bugfixes within a certain
> time, warranties, etc) on certain distributions of open/free software
they
> control ? Say, for instance, RH offering some kind of warranty on their
> Linux distribution ?
>
I have heard of at least one company doing this with Perl.  I don't know
which company it was, but someone I was talking to purchased a Y2K warranty
for Perl.  This was part of a code-audit of their in-house Perl code and
some porting work.  This was by no means a blanket warranty on Perl and
only a blanket warranty on Perl...

Still what one can do, another can as well.

> I don't see it happening without a commercial entity involved because
> warranties ultimately mean lawsuits (and other expenses) when those
> conditions are not met. It must be /rewarding/ for some entity to offer
> those guarantees - and it is definitely only a burden to the vast majority
> of unpaid volunteers that are ultimately the source of OSS/FS.
[...]

Agreed.  When you want money on the table, commercial entities make a lot
of sense.  However insurance for centuries has often worked on a principle
that the insurance company is a shell which resells its risk by such means
as a "re-insurance market" or to a "syndicate".  Therefore there would be
little that I could see to stop a company from coming into existence to
insure companies against specific sorts of damages that could arise from
free software which then re-sells that risk to other people and
companies...

You might want to look into how Lloyds of London works to get some sense of
how this could work...

Cheers,
Ben