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Solving the Free Software Liability Conundrum

ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - As you may have noticed, a lot of software has a lot of bugs. Even open source code has them, but the main damage tends to come from certain well-known, widely-used proprietary programs - not forgetting well-known, widely-used open source programs with proprietary layers like Android. In fact, some estimates put the annual damage caused by serious software flaws in the hundreds of billions of pounds range, which probably means that many trillions of pounds' value has been destroyed thanks to buggy, flawed software over the years.

And yet nothing happens. People go on using this stuff, people go on losing large amounts of money, time, personal data - everything - but they go on using the stuff. It's bizarre that most people accept blue screens of death and a menagerie of serious malware as if they were up there with death and taxes in terms of inevitability and unavoidability. There is one important consequence of this: the companies that make the software with these huge flaws go on making it with huge flaws. Because there is almost no downside.

There's little reputational downside, because ill-informed media outlets - notably the BBC - for years simply omitted to mention that we're generally talking about Windows programs here, as if the problems were inherent in all computers. But even nowadays, when there may be the odd reference to what platform the malware is feeding off - although, oddly enough, it's often Android that is mentioned here, rather than Windows - there is still no financial downside to causing this mayhem.