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I thought that software licenses and EULAs were designed to remove liability?

No doubt they try, but the fact is, those kinds of documents can't override the law. In some places, the law imposes minimum standards on what is acceptable in a consumer (or even business) transaction, and software companies have tried to play the "But the EULA says..." card, and if it's actually tested in court they have sometimes lost. They often rely on people not being aware of their rights and/or not having the time or money or willpower to contest the issue.

Even that barrier may not help the software companies in the long run. Coincidentally, just today the UK introduced a sort of lightweight version of US class action lawsuits as part of a major revision of consumer protection law, as well as various other explicit consumer rights relating to digital rather than physical content.

I would not be surprised by a world where only specialists (developers, graphic designers etc) have desktops and the actual majority of computers in use are locked down iOS or Android kiosk type devices.

I'm afraid that is one all too realistic possibility. But there are reasons for hope as well.

For one thing, tablets and the like are convenient for small-scale content consumption and minor interactions, but they're awful for serious content creation or more complicated interactions. I don't think general purpose computers are going anywhere any time soon.

Perhaps more significantly, there is now a push in quite a few places to promote computer literacy and basic programming skills even at school age, and to spread the word that you can still tinker and make cool stuff, perhaps using devices like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. We also have Linux and the FOSS community following a similar philosophy on the software side, of course, and actually one of the nicer results of so many kids having smartphones these days is that writing simple apps to run on them is now an attractive introduction to programming for kids who enjoy playing with technology. Ultimately, there is a strong human instinct to create and many people enjoy making stuff that is fun and interesting, and fortunately no amount of marketing is ever likely to change that.

Dumbed-down, locked-in devices may be the majority in the future, but I think there will always be room for powerful, flexible tools and there will always be room for innovation and creativity. It's a big world.




> No doubt they try, but the fact is, those kinds of documents can't override the law. In some places, the law imposes minimum standards on what is acceptable in a consumer (or even business) transaction, and software companies have tried to play the "But the EULA says..." card, and if it's actually tested in court they have sometimes lost. They often rely on people not being aware of their rights and/or not having the time or money or willpower to contest the issue.

On the one hand I hope you are right -- when I pay for software I have certain expectations which are often not met. On the other hand I hope that this doesn't apply to free (as in freedom and beer) projects. If the disclaimer of liability were to become invalid in e.g. the GPL a lot of good people could be put to a lot of trouble.


I have only checked up the Swedish law, but it distinguish between something given for free and when money or services are traded. The consumer protection laws are designed to identify a customer - merchant situation and then regulate it. FLOSS projects should have nothing to worry about here, and the only issue that I have heard is when projects sell CD's.




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