When it comes to bad software, you will eat your lemons and like it, Bubba. At least you will if your company has the misfortune of being located in Maryland or Virginia, the only states so far to have enacted UCITA.
In case youve missed all the buzz in the past two years, the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act is a little gem of special interest palm-greasing that lets software makers off the hook if your company or its business is damaged, even destroyed, by their products. This is true even if the software vendor knew of the villainous defects at the time it sold you—excuse me, “licensed” you—its software.
UCITA is insanity, as this publication and myriad other newspapers and magazines have editorialized in the past two years. Clearly, as we become an increasingly networked, fly-by-wire culture that can no longer function without dependable software, it is hardly in our interest as a society to indemnify buggy code. In fact, as the National Academy of Sciences recently suggested in its report on cyber-security, legislators should be moving in exactly the opposite direction: We need a strong software lemon law. And we need it quickly.
To understand why, consider this argument put forth by the Software & Information Industry Association, a major proponent of UCITA: “Software is recognized as a product that cannot be made perfect and that it almost always will have bugs,” goes the reasoning. And this presents a legal problem, the association concludes, because “the existence of bugs in software could violate the perfect tender requirement under Article 2” of the Uniform Commercial Code. So, the group explains, “UCITA eliminates the perfect tender rule and replaces it with a substantial conformance standard.”
In other words, software companies products dont have to be good or dependable, they just have to be no buggier than most other software. This is clearly a recipe for disaster. If these guys and their brand of reasoning had triumphed over the last two decades, wed still be driving fuel-sucking, rollover death traps with exploding gas tanks. Sure, there are still lots of defects in todays cars, but auto safety legislation, lemon laws with teeth and the huge costs of resulting litigation have combined to make cars exponentially safer today than they were 30 years ago.
Software, on the other hand, just keeps getting buggier with each new release and every new feature. Its time for software users to make security and privacy their top priorities—and to dictate rigid standards of quality through a tough, uncompromising software lemon law.
Are you ready to sign on? Tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org.