The use of disclaimers by the software industry to deny any liability (e.g. for financial or data losses) arising from the customer’s use of packaged software has become widespread. Such disclaimers have been recognized in the courts, so long as they are prominently displayed and are explicit. However, such disclaimers also have the effect of eroding the rights of the user, since virtually all the risks of using the software (but few of the rights) are transferred to the user. Indeed, this denial of liability is paralleled by a denial of responsibility for any bugs that may be included in the software. Essentially, when you buy software, you install and use it “as is”, i.e. at your own risk. Such a transfer of risk seems unreasonable because it appears to impose upon the developer no duty to ensure that software is bug-free, nor even – so long as these bugs do not cause loss of life or injury – to provide bug-fixes when they are identified. If, on the other hand, a software user identifies bugs, reverse engineers the software and fixes them, then he or she violates the terms of the license agreement and in turn becomes liable to prosecution.
An association of user groups has employed you, in your position as an IS Professional, to investigate the professionalism of the practice of using disclaimers in the software industry.
a) Define ‘professionalism’.
b) Identify some potential harmful situations for software users through the use of disclaimers – use examples of specific bugs to illustrate your answer.
c) Examine the rationale for the use of disclaimers, and discuss how their use may conflict with software developers’ duty to act in a professional manner, particularly considering the duty of care that they owe to their customers.
d) Identify the key contractual hazards that users may experience if their rights are eroded in this manner, and suggest how these hazards could be countered with a better balanced policy for software contracts.
e) Finally, bearing in mind your definition in (a) of professionalism in the software industry, attempt to develop some guidelines that will promote: good practice; quality of care; and responsible ownership – both for software users and for software developers. Be sure that your guidelines reflect these three attributes
TEXTBOOK: Intoduction to Information Systems
By: R. Kelly Rainer and Brad Prince 8th Edition
Rainer, R., K. and Brad Prince. Introduction to Information Systems. Available from: VitalSource Bookshelf, (8th Edition). Wiley Global Education US, 2019.
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