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Software Government The Courts Your Rights Online News

Software Customer Bill of Rights 293

Posted by michael
from the we-the-people dept.
Cem Kaner of Badsoftware.com has written up a Software Customer Bill of Rights. Very appropriate considering our recent stories about Microsoft viruses, Dell's BIOS-clickwrap licensing agreement, etc.
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Software Customer Bill of Rights

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  • Sorry.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:25PM (#6839922)
    But this is America. Consumer rights are secondary to business rights...
    • Which is why you should start your own business! You could boss anyone around, then!
    • Re:Sorry.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by s20451 (410424)
      But this is America. Consumer rights are secondary to business rights... ... and making things better is secondary to making smug, cynical statements.
      • by rifter (147452) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @09:49PM (#6841903) Homepage

        "But this is America. Consumer rights are secondary to business rights..." ... and making things better is secondary to making smug, cynical statements.

        You just described Microsoft's business model. Why make decent software when you can make smug, cynical statements instead? What a country! :)

    • Re:Sorry.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ergo98 (9391) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @05:11PM (#6840524) Homepage Journal
      This is also the America where consumers can ignore all of the information [mcdonalds.com] pummelled [thetruth.com] into [scrippshealth.org] them, make poor consumer choices, but then amazingly they can turn around and profess a child-like ignorance, actually suing [bbc.co.uk] because they should be protected from their own poor judgement [salon.com].

      Quality and security of software is a market feature, and if the public ignores the continual security lapses of some particularly popular software, for instance, and if they accept that there will be X crashes per week, then so be it: The marketplace has spoken. We don't need anyone protecting us from ourselves, and feigning ignorance after the fact is incredibly weak.
      • Re:Sorry.... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DickBreath (207180)
        consumers can ignore all of the information pummelled into them, make poor consumer choices, but then amazingly they can turn around and profess a child-like ignorance,

        It is all the corporation's fault. Let me illustrate with a seemingly unrelated story.

        I was flying home after a long day. In the airport. Tired. Plenty of time before my flight. Grab a bite to eat at a fast food joint. Then I need to visit a restroom. I start looking around for one. Finally, I ask a nearby employee where is t
  • by blitzoid (618964) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:26PM (#6839929) Homepage
    "Today a local man was arrested for screaming at employees of a local 'Best Buy' store after they refused to sign a contract he had printed out. Bystanders claimed that he refused to buy any of their products unless they signed said document, and that NOT signing would be a grave injustice. Our sources have told us that he is currently being held in Bellview Psychiatric Hospital, and is undergoing observation."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:26PM (#6839930)
    But then IE crashed.





    Just kidding! I'd never use IE.
  • by EDA Wizard (2225) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:28PM (#6839940) Homepage
    "3. The product (or information service) must live up to the manufacturer's and seller's claims."

    When has any product ever "lived" up to the marketing claims? If I expected everything I bought to live up to their claims, I'd be dissapointed with every bar of soap, every beer, and every Big Mac.

    • I don't think you'd WANT the big mac they show in commercials. It's cold, some of it is fake, and I'm sure it wouldn't taste great.

      And soap is soap, damnit. I've never seen it claimed to be more than it is in advertising.
    • by CGP314 (672613) <CGP@ColinGregory ... t ['Pal' in gap]> on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:56PM (#6840091) Homepage
      When has any product ever "lived" up to the marketing claims? If I expected everything I bought to live up to their claims, I'd be dissapointed with every bar of soap, every beer, and every Big Mac.

      And that's not the way it should be. An ad shouldn't be able to tell me that a product is something when it's not. It is not my job to guess about what parts are lies.
      • by cyril3 (522783) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @09:33PM (#6841816)
        Few ads make claims that are lies. Claims are either

        accurate but useless (shown in clinical tests to contain the active ingredient X, i saw this one the other day, I'm not kidding, they made no claims about the effectiveness of the stuff, just claimed that clinical tests showed the stuff contained one of the ingredients)

        or

        subjective as all hell (any adjective incl best, fastest, biggest, or claim to surveys, used by more popular cheerleaders than any other brand of laxative)

        If you can show they lied you can make big money. If they do lie then they won't have much money in the first place.

        Lies by omission are a little different but even in ads there is no law that says you have to be exhaustive, just don't actively lie.

    • All advertising (specifically, product promotion) is fraudulent to some extent. They may claim that Big Mac tastes great in the commercials, but what if you don't think so? Then it's fraud. Maybe not legally, but ethically.

      It's not possible to promote a product without lying a bit. This is called de minimis fraud, fraud within the scope of the law; fraud that cannot be avoided in capitalism.
      • Re:de minimis fraud (Score:3, Interesting)

        by secolactico (519805)
        There is no accounting for taste. Its far too subjective. I can't try to sue an automaker for claiming that buying a specific car will make me cool because it's "stylish".

        If they claim, however something that is objective and verifiebly untrue, you should be able to sue. Say, McDonalds claiming that the big mac has x% of fat when it's not true.
    • by Riskable (19437) <YouKnowWho@YouKnowWhat.com> on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:59PM (#6840115) Homepage Journal
      Well, a bar of soap leaving you "clean and fresh" is something of an opinion. A piece of software that claims to work on Windows XP, but does not is a different story.

      I've seen several boxed applications that have claims on the box that are simply not true... And I'm not talking about a game claiming to be able run on a 500MHz system.

      I can name a number of MMORPGs that had big fat claims on their boxes/websites for features that were not (yet) in the games at launch. Hell, some of these games didn't even RUN after launch... With no refunds.

      The section that you refer to is probably directed at things like that.
    • by ch-chuck (9622) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:01PM (#6840123) Homepage
      My tape drive advertised it's transfer rate as "Up To 60 megabytes / minute", and just like the claim truthfully says, it has never exceeded that amount.
    • by mindstrm (20013) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:12PM (#6840169)
      Marketing is not what we are talking about.

      Living up to the claims means that when we go in the store, and the package actually says "Imports all microsoft office formats", and it turns out that is false... that they have to take it back, no questions asked. It's a false sale.

      The reason this needs to be stated is that, although you have this protection with physical products, the license-ish nature of software has allowed some vendors to claim that you have no recourse, even though they lied.

      It's not the same thing as false advertising... more like sale under false pretenses.

    • "I'd be dissapointed with every bar of soap, every beer, and every Big Mac."

      You know, as a Student, I'd gladly take that beer off you if you don't want it!
    • by B'Trey (111263) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @05:54PM (#6840769)
      There is a difference in a statement of fact and an expression of opinion. If Acme Autos advertises that it's Super Spiffy model will do 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds, it had better do it. However, if they claim that the Super Spiffy model will make you super cool, that isn't an objective statement of fact. Ad companies are extremely careful to ensure that all statements of fact are accurate. They'll imply and insinuate all sorts of things, many of which are of dubious truth value. But statements of fact must be true or the manufacturer is liable.

      The same should be true of software. AOL can say that their software helps protect your children from inappropriate content, but they should not be able to say that it prevents your children form viewing inappropriate content. Such subtleties are everything in a court of law.
  • by John Seminal (698722) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:30PM (#6839952) Journal
    The product (or information service) must live up to the manufacturer's and seller's claims.

    If I could have manufacturer's adopt one part of the consumers bill of rights, it would be to advertise with honesty. Do not sell me a software product which does not live up the advertising.

    The one part I disagree with is the reverse engineering. Companies have a right to sell software and to ban people from reverse engineering it.

    • by dvdeug (5033) <dvdeug@e[ ]l.ro ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:08PM (#6840155)
      Companies have a right to sell software and to ban people from reverse engineering it.

      Why? If I buy a car, I can dig around under the hood to my heart's content. If I buy a book, I can study the writing style. Why should software be any different, especially given that software interacts with other programs on my computer, and other systems on the net, in ways that can be important to know but are easily hidden from the use.
    • Whether we fully like the idea or not they have a right to enforce their patents.

      But only their patents.

      If their software is not patentable than no, they do not have the right to ban you from reverse engineering it, any more than someone could "ban" you from making a chair like the one they had made.

      I suppose they could try to revoke your license, but by that point you'd already have a work alike, so. . .

      KFG
    • And just what is the legal and moral justification for banning reverse engineering? Do you have any philosophical foundation for this view, or is it just a jerk of the knee?
  • Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mgcsinc (681597) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:31PM (#6839958)
    "1. Let the customer see the contract before the sale. It should be easy for customers of mass-market software products and computer information contracts to compare the contract terms for a product..." It would be interesting to see how the court opinions which make this right one of the few listed which are already enforcable would serve as precident in relation to the new agreements imposed by microsoft as one installs mission-critical updates. Would drastic changes to EULA's made by Microsoft in software updates which are all but absolutly essential for the wellbeing of your data, etc, be court enforcable? Probably not...
    • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by John Seminal (698722) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:34PM (#6839975) Journal
      The one thing which gets me about what MS does with their updates is they tell you they are selling you a good product when you buy it, but then a few months later tell you it is flawed. When you go to fix the product, they change the license agreement. I hate that.

      It would be like if I purchased a VCR which did not work two months later, and after I went to have it fixed, the manufacturer decided to "add a feature" which sends them data about the VCR. It is BS.

  • It's about time.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sekzscripting (687192) *
    This is a really well written, thought out, piece of work. But the only flaw I see is: 4. User has right to see and approve all transfers of information from her computer. (Basically says end-user should see un-encrypted version of what is being sent) If this law would be to put into use, we would have more of a problem with people stealing credit cards. I agree with what they are trying to do, but this looks like (to me) as if it's going to promote exploits.
    • This is a really well written, thought out, piece of work. But the only flaw I see is: 4. User has right to see and approve all transfers of information from her computer. (Basically says end-user should see un-encrypted version of what is being sent) If this law would be to put into use, we would have more of a problem with people stealing credit cards.

      Why? For the credit card information to be sent from my computer, I must have, at some point, put it in, and so have seen it. By consequently sending this
    • If this law would be to put into use, we would have more of a problem with people stealing credit cards. I agree with what they are trying to do, but this looks like (to me) as if it's going to promote exploits.

      Look at the flip side. This would be a nice analogue to other credit-reporting laws. If you pull your credit report, you'll see a nice list of every other person who's accessed it. (Well, except the federal government, under some Patriot-act shenanigans; but that's an exception.) Having a record of
  • Utopia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:33PM (#6839974)
    Nice piece. Very nice, and very never going to happen. At least as long as opponents are large corps with armies of slick lawyers and proponents the EFF, RMS and a few computer-educated consumers.

    Remember, most computer users still think software crashes and glitches are part of life with a computer, that viruses and worms are the work of evil pirates and that Microsoft is the victim, not the cause, etc ...

    In short: it'll never happen. Move along ...
  • by Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:39PM (#6840005)
    some strong feelings to hold companies fully accountable for losses caused by their products' defects

    I can see where this view is coming from, but seriously; the litigious culture that is developing in the USA (and therefore no doubt on this side of the pond before long) could have a grave impact on your economy.

    You have to take a certain degree of responsibility for your own action. Otherwise, everybody will just be too scared to do anything, and every American will just stay in bed all day.

    You NEED suppliers to be a viable business yourself; and in return those suppliers deserve a leniency from you as far as accountability goes.

    In return you get leniency from your customers as far as your own liability goes.

    As the owner of a small software business, I feel comfortable with the fact that whilst I cannot sue Microsoft's ass if something goes terribly wrong; neither can my customers sue my ass.

    Swings and roundabout; 6 of one...
    • The "litigious culture" in the US is actually a product of the way our legal system is set up. In the UK, for example, if you sue someone and fail to win, you are then liable for your opponent's legal costs. And the government there handles much of what is essentially a free-market system of civil law over here.

      Blaming amorphous "culture" or "morals" is a quick way to end a discussion and avoid reaching any substantial conclusion.

  • ...by the Subject line of an email I just sent to some of my friends on this matter:

    Subject: Great ideas that will never come to pass
  • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:41PM (#6840019)
    Oh, you mean that one that was patched a whole month before? Or are you talking about that e-mail attachment virus, the one for which you apparently expect Bill Gates to show up at people's houses telling them not to run the attachment?

    How is it Microsoft's fault if users run the attachment? Is it Linus Torvalds' fault when there's a sendmail hole? Is that suddenly a "Linux hole?"

    Just curious.
    • How is it Microsoft's fault if users run the attachment? Is it Linus Torvalds' fault when there's a sendmail hole? Is that suddenly a "Linux hole?"
      No, it's a GNU/Linux hole. :)
    • Or are you talking about that e-mail attachment virus, the one for which you apparently expect Bill Gates to show up at people's houses telling them not to run the attachment?

      You would think that after 10 years of this crap that Microsoft, with all their money and resources would have figured out how to provide their customers with a mail client or OS that any halfway intelligent 15 year old couldn't bring to it's knees after spending an afternoon on an IRC channel with his buddies.

      The only way that I ca
    • Yes, your point in valid and not worthy of the "troll" mod you've received.

      I deal with this issue by simply explaining to customers/friends/etc. that if they need or want secure, robost computing they need to _not_ use MS products. All these viruses and worms make this advice seem more obvious by the day.

      I've been advocating and converting PC users since 1997. *creak*

  • Because software isn't a patentable good or service, it's simply a license.

    Can we say "legal contradiction" boys and girls?

    I knew you could.

    KFG
  • 5. A software vendor may not block customer from accessing his own data without court approval.

    But the software is intended to allow the user to see what Microsoft wants them to see. Encouraging users to see all their own data is circumventing the grand Microsoft plan of Digital Domination. I demand the site is removed from all search engines.
  • They forgot one (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stwrtpj (518864) <[p.stewart] [at] [comcast.net]> on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:44PM (#6840034) Journal

    IMHO, there's one the omitted from the list:

    11. The user shall have the right to view the source code on demand.

    If I am running your software on my computer, I have the right to see what exactly it is doing. In 99% of the cases, I would not exercise this right, if I believe that the software is doing what it is supposed to do and I have no suspicions that it is doing something funny. I have a Red Hat Linux system but don't have most of the source code RPMs installed, or the full Linux kernel source installed. It's good enough for me to know that I can acquire it on demand.

    And before I get flamed for sound like a clone of RMS, realize that seeing the source code is not necessarily the same as modifying and redistributing it. All Free Software is Open Source, but not all Open Source is Free Software. I would, however, object to having to sign NDAs to see source. You can tell me not to redistribute your source and I will abide by that, as that is simply following existing copyright law, but I would not accept a blanket gag order to not discuss the source at all.

    Of course, this will probably never happen, but its a nice thought, anyway.

    • Funny, I know very little software that I can't get access to the source code. Windows XP, Office, Solaris, etc... All are source available - The problem is the cost, don't expect to be paying 99.95 for a source code licence to any of these things
    • View the source code? Heck, if you're going to go that far, I don't see why you shouldn't just let us have the source code, as long as we promise not to redistribute it or make use of any of it in new products...

      I've had plenty of occasions to make small changes to applications running on my Linux box.

      For example, earlier this year I installed GnomeMeeting [gnomemeeting.org], which is a Linux audio/video conferencing program that will talk to NetMeeting clients. I very quickly discovered that when GnomeMeeting starts

  • Great, but (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:44PM (#6840036) Homepage
    This is beautiful. Make it clearer, though, that we're talking about use licenses/single purchase licenses, not source code copy licenses such as the GPL. You need to very clearly define what kinds of purchases this bill of rights applies to, or software manufacturers will wierdly try to define their products so they fall outside the bill of rights' scope.

    I wonder what would happen if 40,000 slashdotters mailed a copy of this to their respective congressferrets?

    The only thing I would add is to see if there's any reasonable way something can be done about the fact the BSA has made it a criminal act to own lots of software and have less than perfect archiving of license paperwork.. I don't think there's any way that could be done in a reasonable manner within this "bill of rights" though...
    • I wonder what would happen if 40,000 slashdotters mailed a copy of this to their respective congressferrets?

      Unless they each attach $1000 to their letter, not a damned thing.

      America has the best government money can buy.

  • by ctwxman (589366) <me@@@geofffox...com> on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:46PM (#6840046) Homepage
    As long as software publishers can get an ear from congressmen and senators that I can't get... and can deliver cash for elections that I can't... they'll get benefits that I can't.
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:46PM (#6840048) Homepage Journal
    Just for reference, for those who don't have time to R the FA, here are the ten items listed in the Bill of Rights, without the explanation.

    (Note, this does not excuse you from reading the FA, there will be a test.)

    Software Customer Bill of Rights

    1. Let the customer see the contract before the sale.

    2. Disclose known defects.

    3. The product (or information service) must live up to the manufacturer's and seller's claims.

    4. User has right to see and approve all transfers of information from her computer.

    5. A software vendor may not block customer from accessing his own data without court approval.

    6. A software vendor may not prematurely terminate a license without court approval.

    7. Mass-market customers may criticize products, publish benchmark study results, and make fair use of a product.

    8. The user may reverse engineer the software.

    9. Mass-market software should be transferrable.

    10. When software is embedded in a product, the law governing the product should govern the software.

    Bonus points if you can figure out which of the above *didn't* have a detailed explanation in the original!
  • fggf (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ascalon (683759)
    Some guy posts his thoughts about how the software industry should run on his blog and it makes the front page. What happened to the "stuff that matters" clause? This isn't going to change anything.
  • by -tji (139690) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:51PM (#6840076) Journal
    The software and service licensing has become ridiculous over the last few years. They create these huge legalese documents, and imply agreement to them by opening a package or using a service. And, try returning a piece of software if you don't agree to the license, good luck.

    While these agreements become more complex and onerous, the people creating them have taken on no responsibilities to clarify the licenses, explain the reqstrictions, etc.

    If the companies are allowed to use these licenses, they should be required to have an independent citizens rights group translate/rate the license to compare it to accepted norms of how restrictive the licenses are. Rather than expecting each person to read the complete license, or have their lawyer interpret it for them; it should be analyzed by a professional and summarized in simple language. It should also carry ratings on a few key points, like how much it tries to limit product usage, resale, reverse engineering.. and, related areas like privacy protection by the company.
  • You know.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:01PM (#6840124)
    I went to read this article thinking I would probably end up posting and saying that the US is too litigous, that it's dumb to have agreement upon agreement, even on the side of good, and that it was probably just a bunch of whiny rights.

    What I found, though, was a simple, precise set of terms that are wholly agreeable. Nothing in that document is the least bit complicated or overbroad.

    Let us see the contracts before we have to agree to them. Don't take away rights we already have, like criticism and reverse engineering, and first sale. If you know about serious bugs, tell us. Don't lie about what the product does.

    That's pretty straightforward, and should not be the least bit damaging to anyone selling decent software.
  • by tambo (310170) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:02PM (#6840128)
    Y'know, I was just thinking this exact same thing on Friday - that the software industry is having a serious identity crisis at present. They can't figure out what products they're selling, and how they're doing it. They're mostly driven by the profit motive: How can we generate more profit? Which is great if the answer is, "build a better product" - but crap if the answer is compulsory upgrades, limited-time licenses, or license audits.

    But there's a big one missing, particularly important in light of Symantec's foolhardy announcement:

    The software can be installed on multiple machines.

    I own a notebook and a desktop home server. I use both of them basically as a unit - sometimes literally, via Terminal Services or Synergy. They achieve different purposes - the server provides infrastructure (holding data, managing requests from other users [e.g., web pages], network security, MP3s), while I run actual applications on my notebook.

    With this setup, it only makes sense to have a roughly identical set of software on each. I don't want my word processing solely on my notebook, and I don't want all of my security apps solely on my server.

    So it's exactly that reason why this product-activation crap is odious. If I want two functionally-identical machines, I have to buy two operating systems, two word-processing packages, two versions of TurboTax and Symantec. similarly, with DRM, I'll have to buy two licenses for every piece of media I want to play. Others will follow down this path to the seedy underworld of profit-driven software.

    It only seems fair that I expect to pay only once per software package. After all, I'm one guy; I'm never typing on both machines at the same time. Now, I understand why software companies are reluctant to release software that can be installed a trillion times, because it tends to get purchased, like, eight times, and then widely distributed on IRC. But at the same time, they're smacking down guys like me.

    So with that in mind, I propose: Let software be installed on multiple machines. That number can be limited, and it can be small. Ten is fine - if I install software on more than ten machines, I should probably be purchasing a site license. But one is insufficient, in this day of frequent multiple-computer ownership.

    - David Stein
    • User-based licensing is great for individuals and some companies; Sun appears to be getting traction on this model for its Orion software stack.

      But user-based licensing tends to seriously hurt organizations that have more users than computers -- particularly universities. If you have 50,000 users and only 5,000 computers, you don't want to pay for 50,000 licenses.
      • Ah, but you misinterpret. I didn't argue that we should put up with software licenses tied to individuals. I argued that we should put up with software licenses tied to specific computers - but not for only one computer.

        - David Stein
        • Re:The other side (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Wesley Felter (138342)
          In that case it will never work. If every piece of software can be run on N computers then businesses will buy 1/Nth as many copies, software companies will increase the price by a factor of N, and then home users won't be able to afford it. If you try to solve it by making a distinction among fields of use (home vs. business users) then I think you've just replaced one problem with another one.
          • there can be a difference (as there usually is) between what businesses pay and what individuals pay and their licenses.

            it happens all the time.

            where have you been?

            it is not a problem.

            ever downloaded a program that said "free for non-commercial use"?

            did you die a painful death screaming in agony about how hard it was to understand what was going on?

            you are looking for difficulties that do not exist.
    • by goon america (536413) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:34PM (#6840288) Homepage Journal
      I think what you really have in mind is Let software be installed on multiple machines by the same person. Let ownership be tied to the human being and not the computer. It actually makes a lot of sense, if you think about it.
    • Adobe lets you install on 2 machines, or at least they did when I read my GoLive 4.0 EULA. They only stipulated that you could only use it on one computer at a time. Also, they noted that back-ups were ok, too.
  • #11 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by redkingca (610398) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:20PM (#6840211)
    I sometimes long for the 80s. Sure I might wait years for a software release, but with a few exceptions, it always worked. And it usually worked as advertised. I miss products like WordPerfect 5, it worked right out of the box. And if I had a problem I could call someone and actually get help, as opposed to a prepared statement.

    So I feel it needs another article:
    11. A software vendor will provide real support for the products they sell. Or A software vendor will outline in detail what; if any, support they provide and what guidelines they use.
  • by argoff (142580) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:25PM (#6840236)
    How about the right of customers to copy distribute and modify freely. The other problems will take care of themselves.
    • Ooookay.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KalvinB (205500)
      So let's see. If companies allowed people to copy, distribute and modify freely, how many people are going to buy from the company and how many are going to fire up Kazaa and pick up a free "modified" version? What then motivates companies to hire people (creating PAYING jobs) to produce software if they can't expect a return on it?

      We've got one story about robots putting people out of work and another with people claiming we should put people who do jobs robots can't do (like programming) out of busines
  • Apple Computer... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ZackSchil (560462)
    has violated rights 2 and 3 a few times, has been brought to court, and has paid fair settlements (full refund on OS X purchase for users of certain hardware, $20 coupon for the Apple store if the user wishes to keep OS X). Even though Apple is my favorite software company, they have violated a few of these rights (though not many of the more horrible ones). This bill of rights would keep honest companies honest and awful companies out of business! Looks like everyone wins to me.
  • by taaminator (185731) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @04:41PM (#6840324)
    I suggest that he add:

    Source code and documentation will be placed and maintained [updated] in bonded escrow.

    If the software product or hardware product reaches end of life and the current company does not develop a follow-on product with corresponding upgrade offer to registered customers, then the source code [software and firmware and documentation in digital format] will be sent to registered software and hardware customers, and, the source code will declared open source and offered to all via internet. If the initial development company is sold, source code will be offered and sent, if requested, to registered software and hardware owners. If the initial development company ceases to exist, source code will be sent to registered software and hardware owners, and, the source code will be declared open source and offered to all via internet. If an operating system integer upgrade [v1.X -> v2.X] requires the user to purchase new operating system software or hardware, then the source code will be offered to registered customers.

    Failure to make source code available when a product reaches end of life or other conditions listed above will result in the top five officers of the initial development company (and the top five of the purchasing company, if a company purchase is involved) [CEO, COO, CIO, CFO, etc] being fined no less than $1,000,000 each, not payable by insurance company or current company; and will result in their forfeiture of all of the monies the executives received from their respective companies; and, will result in their receiving three years in prison without possibility of parole.
    • If an operating system integer upgrade [v1.X -> v2.X] requires the user to purchase new operating system software or hardware, then the source code will be offered to registered customers.

      That would pretty much ensure that there would be no more "integer upgrades". Instead software would be numbered in ten-millionths or just renamed (fer'instance "Windows XP" might become "The Great and Powerful Windows" and so on).

      Otherwise I rather like the idea.

  • Generally I think this is a step in the right direction, however I have some comments on the details -

    1. Let the customer see the contract before the sale.

    I really don't see this as mandatory or practical, especially with machines that come with a lot of bundled software. What is critical is that users get a no-cost chance to return the product if they don't agree to the EULAs.

    Another requirement should be that EULAs must be in plain language.

    Finally, the EULA must be good for the life of the product. T
    • One more: All identified software defects must be remedied within 60 months, or the user is entitled to a full refund.
  • by cemkaner (55453) <kaner@kaner.com> on Sunday August 31, 2003 @08:20PM (#6841443) Homepage
    Let me clarify some of the issues that I see raised in the comments:

    1) My proposals are primarily in support of disclosure. For readers who prefer free market accountability to litigation, that's what disclosure rules support. To make rational decisions in an open market, the customer needs information to base the decisions on. The information rules that I advocate are not far from laws that currently govern traditional sales:

    - The customer can see the contract before the sale and use that knowledge as a factor when comparison shopping (and the press can help customers comparison shop by publishing information about the contracts, such as warranty policies, support policies, etc.)

    - The company is accountable for its claims. I'm not talking about claims like "our burgers are yummy." I'm talking about "statements of fact" (specific statements that can be proved true or false). Laws governing warranties, fraud, and deceptive trade practices make these claims enforceable in the traditional markets. If you can't hold the company to its claims, you can't know what you're buying.

    - The company can't prevent mass-market customers (and reporters covering mass-market products) from publishing comparison studies and product criticisms.

    - The company can't prevent mass-market customers from using reverse engineering to discover bugs and security holes, false claims, etc. (NOTE: Patent law protects the original ideas in a product, whether you reverse engineer them or not. Additionally, my proposal doesn't invalidate a restriction against using reverse engineering to help create a competiting product. It invalidates restrictions that bar people from doing non-competing things, like discovering problems, making this product interoperable with others, fixing bugs in products that a company no longer supports, etc.

    - The company has to disclose its KNOWN defects. Note that failure to disclose significant defects in traditional goods can be prosecuted under the deceptive trade practices or unfair competition laws.

    The next main theme is privacy/security related. These are ground rules, not litigation magnets. Don't transfer data from someone else's computer without permission, don't block their access to their own data (a trick that some companies use to force customers to renew licenses or agree to unfavorable new license terms) and don't cut off their rights to use software they've paid for without a court order.

    This isn't about bugs. It's about misconduct.

    Do we need to polish the language to make that distinction clear in the legislation? Of course. This is a set of principles, not legislation. The goal here is to present the ideas simply (while giving enough footnote-links to provide context for legally knowledgeable readers). Legislative precision comes after appropriate people accept the principles.

    SO WHY BOTHER? WHAT'S THE POINT?

    The software industry is increasingly vulnerable to regulation. Software publishers aren't creating masses of new jobs in the United States. They've made a lot of people angry, partially because they've been doing business in ways that would never be tolerated under traditional American sales law. The most visible representative of the industry is a monopoly that seems to be so greedy as to be willing to try to wipe out even the research / scientific / free-public-benefit community in order to preserve or trivially increase its market share.

    When companies look like they're more about greed than about providing benefits to the country, they become vulnerable to regulatory proposals. If their business practices seem dishonest and their products cause widespread, well publicized social disruption, some legislators will introduce bills to regulate the industry. Every crisis is another opportunity for legislation.

    Not necessarily good or wise legislation. If we want THAT, it's up to us to advise legislators. Otherwise, they'll do what they do and we'll complain about it later.
  • by bob670 (645306) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @08:52PM (#6841617)
    but how would we move forward. I think our best bet would be if we all chipped in and bought our own lobbyist, and maybe a senator or two? Someone go dig up those articles on micro-payments and figure out how long it would take us to buy a democrat (no way we can afford our own republican). And no one bring up any third parties, they can't even get on to T.V. for debates, let alone push consumer rights. And we should probably circumvent PayPal for this idea since we know eBay and any compnay they are connected with give up user information at the drop of fax, and once we bring forth this kind of heretical talk Bill and Steve-O will be on the warpath. Think of it now, in addition to the Halloween papers we could have the Labor Day papers...this is gonna' be great!!!
  • by Dwonis (52652) on Sunday August 31, 2003 @10:41PM (#6842096)
    The problem is the mindsets of both software publishers and customers. Many software publishers have this convoluted idea that, because they are writing software for a computer, they have some implicit right to dictate terms to the computer's owner. They seem to forget what I like to call the Golden Rule of Software Development: Software developers must ensure that the software they write obeys - and only obeys - the computer's master. That is, software is simply a tool used by a computer's "master" (this is usually the computer's owner, but not always) to accomplish certain goals.

    The Free/Libre/Open-Source Software (FLOSS) movement seems to understand this, but many mass-market proprietary software developers are still able to flout this rule. Unfortunately, most computer users have become accustomed to being subservient to their software.

    My own experience with most FLOSS has been much like my experience with high-speed Internet service: I can never go back. I think once people get a good taste of what using well-behaved software is like, things will quickly change. The only things that can get in the way of this change are:

...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. - Fred Brooks, Jr.

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