Indemnification of Software, Part 2

Software Warranties - Open Source

By Bill Claybrook

September 24, 2003

A warranty is a guarantee given to the purchaser by a company stating that a product is reliable and free from known defects and that the seller will, without charge, repair or replace defective parts within a given time limit and under certain conditions. When it comes to software warranties, the Open Software License [ ] clearly states that the entire risk as to the quality of the software is with the user.

Generally, there are no warranties on open source software. Users who use open source software are doing so at their own risk. When a piece of open source software is created and put out there for people to copy, distribute, modify, etc. within the rules of the particular open source license, such as the GPL license, the people are generally using it without a warranty. There is nothing in the GPL license, however, that prohibits offering warranty protection for a fee, nor is there anything that prohibits you from charging as much as you want for distributing open source software.

HP's software warranty for open source software clearly states "HP disclaims all warranties with regard to open source software, including all implied warranties of merchantability and fitness." Similar statements can be found in other companies large and small that offer open source products or products containing open source software.

What are the differences between companies such as HP, IBM, and Microsoft that develop and sell proprietary software with Third Party software included and companies such as Red Hat and SuSE that sell Linux products that include components developed by other open source organizations or individuals. Generally, the following statements hold:

1. Proprietary software companies do not warranty Third Party software. Users are referred to the Third Party software license agreements.

2. Companies that sell Linux products provide bug fixes and support for the products that they build and sell as covered under their limited warranties, but the open source components in these products that are developed by others are provided and licensed "AS IS" without warranty of any kind.

How important is it to have warranties for open source software? Does the nature of open source software make warranties unnecessary? In the last part of this three part series on software indemnification and open source software warranties, we will give our opinion.

11:09 ET

Copyright 2003