Consider the automobile. The government regulates the safety equipment in your car. Airbags, side impact beams, 5MPH bumpers, seatbelts, and standard crash tests all help protect you and your passengers while in your car. Do you think most of these systems would exist without government legislation? Consider that airbag technology has existed since the 1970s.
While the government tends to keep an eye on the automotive industry, the computer industry seems to be able to operate with virtual impunity. Let's look at some examples:
Look at the recent proposed settlement between the United States Department of Justice and Microsoft. Many in the business and computer world consider it a farce.
Have you actually read the End User License Agreement (EULA) on any of your software? Did you know that, in spite of the thousands of hours of development and testing that make up the expensive price of software, there is no guarantee of any kind? If you buy the software and it doesn't work or destroys your data, it's not the software company's fault. It's no one's. Try to swallow these EULAs:
"(name withheld) does not warrant that the Software will meet your requirements or that operation of the Software will be uninterrupted or that the Software will be error-free." "REGARDLESS OF WHETHER ANY REMEDY SET FORTH HEREIN FAILS OF ITS ESSENTIAL PURPOSE, IN NO EVENT WILL (name withheld) BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, INDIRECT, OR SIMILAR DAMAGES, INCLUDING ANY LOST PROFITS OR LOST DATA ARISING OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE SOFTWARE, EVEN IF (name withheld) HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES." "IN NO CASE SHALL (name withheld) LIABILITY EXCEED THE PURCHASE PRICE OF THE PRODUCT."
"TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, IN NO EVENT SHALL (name withheld) OR ITS SUPPLIERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES WHATSOEVER (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF BUSINESS PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, LOSS OF BUSINESS INFORMATION, OR ANY OTHER PECUNIARY LOSS) ARISING OUT OF THE USE OF OR INABILITY TO USE THE SOFTWARE PRODUCT OR THE PROVISION OF OR FAILURE TO PROVIDE SUPPORT SERVICES, EVEN IF (name withheld) HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. IN ANY CASE, (name withheld)'S ENTIRE LIABILITY UNDER ANY PROVISION OF THIS EULA SHALL BE LIMITED TO THE GREATER OF THE AMOUNT ACTUALLY PAID BY YOU FOR THE SOFTWARE PRODUCT OR U.S. $5.00; HOWEVER, IF YOU HAVE ENTERED INTO A (name withheld) SUPPORT SERVICES AGREEMENT, (name withheld)'S ENTIRE LIABILITY REGARDING SUPPORT SERVICES SHALL BE GOVERNED BY THE TERMS OF THAT AGREEMENT."
"Any Product requiring service during the Warranty Period should be returned to (name withheld) in accordance with the "Return Material Authorization" Process set forth in the documentation for that product and on the (name withheld) Web site." "EXCEPT FOR THE EXCLUSIVE REMEDY SET FORTH ABOVE, IN NO EVENT SHALL (name withheld) HAVE ANY LIABILITY TO PURCHASER OF THIRD PARTY FOR ANY CLAIM, LOSS OF DAMAGE OF ANY KIND, EVEN IF (name withheld) HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBLY (nice grammar) OF SUCH DAMAGES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOST PROFITS, CONSEQUENTIAL, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, PUNITIVE OR INDIRECT DAMAGES, ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH (A) THE PERFORMANCE, USE OF OR INABILITY TO USE ANY PRODUCT OR ANY DATA, SOFTWARE, OR EQUIPMENT RELATED THERETO OR USED IN CONJUNCTION HEREWITH, OR (B) INFRINGEMENT OF ANY PATENT, COPYRIGHT, TRADEMARK, OR OTHER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHT OF ANY THIRD PARTY. IN NO EVENT SHALL (name withheld)'S LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES, WHETHER ARISING OUT OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE, WARRANTY, OR INFRINGEMENT OF ANY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHT, EXCEED THE PURCHASE PRICE PAID BY THE PURCHASE FOR THE PRODUCT."
"(name withheld) assumes no liability whatsoever for any claims, damages, losses, or expenses arising out of or otherwise relating to the unavailability of the Service in your geographical area, even where such unavailability occurs after installation of the Service."
You would think these statements relieving the companies of any responsibility would satisfy them. Think again.
Companies are now trying to hide any evidence of their poorly-functioning products behind the law. Consider the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that makes it a criminal offense in America to create software that would demonstrate a weakness or defect in the security of any software or hardware product.
Business Week has an article in which an ISP tells a customer to remove his firewall security or they can't help him with his broadband Internet connection.
"Psst, wanna buy a TV?" whispers Shady Jim in a trenchcoat. He points to the back of his truck parked in the alley. People do this all the time. When you buy Shady Jim's TV, do you expect to bring it back if something is wrong? Of course not. But what if you bought the TV from a store? What if you bought it from the manufacturer? Of course you should be able to return it. Not so with software -- once you open that shrink wrap, the software is yours, no matter how dissatisfied you are.
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