Saturday, May 22, 2010

We aren't responsible

I was reading the paper and The Mumbai Mirror's headlines a few days ago went something like this "Criminal Negligence Leaves WR Commuter Critical". The article was with reference to a commuter who had been injured by a plank that fell on him because of negligence on part of the workers working at Churchgate station. This injury unfortunately has left him comatose and he is currently in a critical state in hospital. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Coming from a software centric world where EULAs and licenses accompany any piece of code that is shipped, it seems only natural that no one is really responsible for anything that they do and that any action on their behalf may have negative influences on others. Others need to watch out for anything that may hurt or otherwise injure them. It is the user's and only the user's sole responsibility to ensure his/her fitness and properiety and the user must account for anything that may go wrong during the course of using the product/software mentioned.

I have yet to see any license that says that they take sole responsibility for their product and that they could be held responsible for any damage arising due to negligence on their behalf. The closest I have come to it is Knuth's exponentially increasing reward for finding bugs in TeX. As far as free software is concerned, we shouldn't expect it. However in case we are paying for the software, shouldn't we demand it? I mean we are literally shelling out hard cash for that piece of code. We seem to have a right to want it to be bug-free...

Either ways, it seems no one wants to take responsibility for their code, so why not make it a de-facto standard. Instead, if someone out there is willing to say that they will take responsibility for screw ups (of any) then they should include it in the license agreement.

It starts off with software saying that it may not work well and ends up at coffee cups and hot dogs saying that their contents may be too hot for consumption.

What next? From what I see, there may now be notices on every pavement saying that people should walk on it on their own risk. Each lift will say that it could crash any minute and if it does; even due to any manufacturing defect or installation glitch, then company providing it should not be held responsible. Airplane and trains will warn travelers before they enter saying "Please account for the fact that you may not make it if you step in". Books may say "Read at your own peril. Your eyes may gouge out while reading this book, but don't blame us!!". When will all this end???