Software Liability Law, are your tests really that good?

We all know software quality is important, and bugs are a fact of life. You don’t have to be a believer in the Software Craftsmanship movement, a follower of Uncle Bob, or a listener of Herding Code to know this is a “holy war” that will continue to rage for years to come. It is fun to debate how to improve the quality of others code. But, are you ready to lawyers define what quality is and you are liable for? Gives quality and risk management a whole new name.

Well hold onto your favorite text editor, it is already happening in Europe. A purposed law would extend existing EU consumer protections into the software and digit media domain. Read all about it in this cnet article.

What does this mean for the average developer? I really don’t think this changes much for most developers. Customers wont buy products without acceptable support or quality. With twitter and forums all over the web every quality issue is broadcasted to millions. You simply wont last one without providing at least an acceptable level.

This most likely impact smaller software vendors, consultants, and contractors the most. In these cases it goes without saving that Test Driven Development or at least having automated testing is critical. Typemock released a survey showing that 52% of developers think that testing would help them avoid lawsuits if the EU legislation passes. Granted I’m not sure if I’d expected differing results from Typemock as they are a testing framework vendor.

Testing is important, but only a small part of what is required to provide quality software.

It will be interesting to see what the legal system focuses on regarding quality. A lawyer’s criteria around quality is most likely vastly differs from that of a software developer.

With software evolving 100’s of times faster then the legal system, it is fair to say that sooner or later quality will be legislated into the process. Afterall you don’t construct buildings without permits and contractors frequently get sued for providing shotty work.

I guess this is the excitement of being part of such a quickly development industry. Hopefully these changes do not bring back the days of Waterfall and 500 page requirement documentations.


Paul W Pagel said...

This is an interesting direction to be moving in. Essentially the consumers are getting sick of bad code. I like the idea of being sued for bad code.

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