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printz

Shouldn't WAD text files contain liability disclaimers?

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I've noticed that at least a boilerplate liability "use at your own risk" disclaimer is missing from the idgames entry authoring template. Since such disclaimers appear nearly everywhere just to defend from zealous lawsuits, shouldn't it also appear on newer versions of this text file?

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I guess if you were so inclined, I guess you could copy-paste the minimalist disclaimer from the ISC license.

Realistically I think it probably isn't really necessary. It's more necessary with software because there's the possibility that it could malfunction in some way that that causes damages to the user (to quote the ISC license, "RESULTING FROM LOSS OF USE, DATA OR PROFITS, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE OR OTHER TORTIOUS ACTION, ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OR PERFORMANCE OF THIS SOFTWARE"). It's hard to see how something like that could happen with a Doom level.

Anyone else think that Doomworld should have an armchair lawyers forum? :P

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fraggle said:

Anyone else think that Doomworld should have an armchair lawyers forum? :P

I suppose the "Morons" section could use an expansion...

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I don't understand what the point is. If you make some program that does cause destruction of data or even physical damage (e.g. stuxnet), then saying "HEY, YOU USED THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK HA HA HA!" doesn't really mean anything.

If a knife company makes a colorful Daffy Duck Sippy Cup That's Really Also A Steak Knife Inside, but claims non-liability in the manual that comes with it... there's still going to be a lawsuit ;-P

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I think there used to be this before launching a PWAD...

===========================================================================
ATTENTION:  This version of DOOM has been modified.  If you would like to
get a copy of the original game, call 1-800-IDGAMES or see the readme file.
        You will not receive technical support for modified games.
                      press enter to continue
===========================================================================

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Vorpal said:

I don't understand what the point is. If you make some program that does cause destruction of data or even physical damage (e.g. stuxnet), then saying "HEY, YOU USED THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK HA HA HA!" doesn't really mean anything.

Yeah, I mostly see it as really stupid-but-necessary legal shit. The fact is that there are millions of people out there using software every day (both open source and other), and there's no way to prove that any one piece of software works properly. Pretty much every non trivial program certainly has a bug or some kind of unexpected behavior hiding in it somewhere - you can never prove that a piece of software is definitely bug free.

The problem is that a small minority of those people using computers every day are horrible people, or technically ignorant, or have some other contrived reason for being a litigious jerk. Check out this amusing image for an example of the kind of people I mean.

When you put a piece of software up for download on the Internet you have no idea who is going to download it or be using it, perhaps as part of some terribly written internal system running on a server in some company somewhere. Who knows? Then perhaps one day they trip over some bug in your code that you fixed years ago but they never bothered to update to a newer version. Something goes horribly wrong and they lose all their customer data, and it's your fault because you supplied them with defective software and now they've lost millions of dollars and they're going to sue you for damages.

A rather far fetched story? Probably. I'd like to hope that the legal system in my country is sensible enough that I'd never end up having to seriously deal with something like this, but I don't doubt for a second that horrible people and idiots like that really do exist, and it's vaguely plausible that something like this might really happen, and without a disclaimer in place, they might somehow actually win. Think of it as covering all your bases - just like the sage advice not to talk to police, one thing I've learned about legal shit is that one minor mistake can end up costing a lot.

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My point was that saying you're not responsible for something has no meaning. A judge/jury will decide that. Even if the victim signed a document that said "hey you can't sue us if this gives you diarrhea", that's still not some sort of free pass... lawsuits will still come, lol.

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Jimi said:

I think there used to be this before launching a PWAD...

===========================================================================
ATTENTION:  This version of DOOM has been modified.  If you would like to
get a copy of the original game, call 1-800-IDGAMES or see the readme file.
        You will not receive technical support for modified games.
                      press enter to continue
===========================================================================


Oh, hey, I remember that. Ha, I called that number recently and got some credit company I think. The poor woman had no idea wtf I was talking about.

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Jimi said:
I think there used to be this before launching a PWAD...

But that just says id isn't liable. Some source ports provide similar disclaimers, like the one in Chocolate Doom that replaces that one. Printz was talking about PWAD designers. Some older PWADs do have disclaimers, but back then DOOM was still at its prime and PWAD designers were probably less sure of the implications of releasing a PWAD, and drew their measures from other fields they were aware of, such as offering freeware and shareware programs, that usually had something more to do with business than a free and derivative add-on. Shareware is commercial, much of freeware is promotional, and while PWADs do grant promotion for id indirectly, the PWAD designers don't get anything directly, other than perhaps some fame.

Vorpal said:
My point was that saying you're not responsible for something has no meaning. A judge/jury will decide that. Even if the victim signed a document that said "hey you can't sue us if this gives you diarrhea", that's still not some sort of free pass... lawsuits will still come, lol.

There's a difference between getting some type of data damage with a warning that it may happen, and without one. Otherwise, signs that water is polluted, of electrocution dangers, a precipice beyond railings, or about a guardian dog would be irrelevant. Cases come to court anyway but that doesn't mean that prior knowledge and the warning and willingness to inform of the accused don't matter to the law, judge or jury.

And not just technical bugs. It could be something morally objectionable or defamatory. Does anyone remember when Fiffy was banned here and there for offering a gory image of a suicide in one of his PWAD releases? The image was already condemnable but the fact that you opened the ZIP and wouldn't expect the atrocity added insult to injury.

Various software services do indeed provide certain types of support, so it's not crazy to somehow express the lack of any such support for our work, to say we are not responsible past offering the file for download, which we made at a cost of our time rather than for monetary gain. But it's been established enough in the past not to need much reiteration today.

Since it's unlikely anyone here will get sued for anything, or if they do that they will be held liable for evidently unintentional issues, and it can mostly be determined that by now free add-ons and DOOM PWADs work with "no support or liabilities" from the authors, I'd leave disclaimers as optional or to specific cases where the contents or technical nature of the add-on makes it more likely for people to have problems or be offended, and mainly in the benefit of the community rather than in paranoia of legal repercussions.

Disclaimer about armchair lawyers: The community requires its own armchair lawyering to work, autonomously, so "legal matters" aren't just something for experts out there, or even within the community. Just look at the economy and politics of the world to see what happens when it mainly depends on the "experts" out there.

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The source port is just an interpreter of data, it reads a WAD and exposes an interface to the data (a playable game). If the source port empties your bank account and wipes your computer, then it wouldn't be the fault of a WAD.

The GPL covers this (at least for my port), and it comes with no warranty neither expressed or implied.

So GIGO is the case.

Has anyone sued Texas Instruments due to the fact that their calculators make 2 + 2 equal to 4 because their parents rose up their child in a strict environment where 2 + 2 is equal to 5?

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fraggle said:

The problem is that a small minority of those people using computers every day are horrible people, or technically ignorant, or have some other contrived reason for being a litigious jerk.


ROFLMAO. This made my day (or night, as it may be).

fraggle said:

A rather far fetched story? Probably.


That's why "purpose guaranteed" life-critical software is still implemented with double or even triple redundancy, and different concurrent implementations e.g. avionics, power plant control software etc.

Such software also tends to cost millions (if not billions) of $$$, is developed with EXTREMELY long-term service life in mind (perhaps decades, or even forever, with replacement often being impractical or neigh impossible), and follows much more conservative development methodologies (white-coated engineers etc.). And even in that case I still have my doubts on whether any of that software comes with a written guarantee that it will perform such and such, along with life-or-death clauses.

Software development is just such a damn complex field, that it's practically 100% empirism, a "see and do" art, and there will probably never be a comprehensive, unified scientific design method guaranteeing correctness of ANY given piece of software (not to confuse with algorithmic theory).

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Maes said:

ROFLMAO. This made my day (or night, as it may be).

I try to keep some faith in the human race.

That's why "purpose guaranteed" life-critical software is still implemented with double or even triple redundancy, and different concurrent implementations e.g. avionics, power plant control software etc. [...] And even in that case I still have my doubts on whether any of that software comes with a written guarantee that it will perform such and such, along with life-or-death clauses.

I don't know whether it's the case or not either. I doubt that the authors of software for applications like that are willing to provide any such guarantees.

It's situations like these where a lawsuit over a software bug would actually make the most sense: for example, if your relative dies over a buggy pacemaker or in a plane crash caused by a bug in the onboard flight computer, it doesn't seem quite so unreasonable that the company that developed the software might be held responsible. By that, I don't mean to say that just writing a bug should be a criminal offence, but there's an expectation that software like that should be of a very high quality and developed using very careful development and quality control processes. If something goes that seriously wrong then it's reasonable to assume that there's been some serious failure in the process.

I read that the software for the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars a couple of weeks ago went through a formal verification process. In software development terms that's probably the closest thing to "proven correct" that you can get - and even then I'm doubtful. I'd hope that safety critical software for airplanes, nuclear plants, pacemakers etc. would be held to the same standard. It's not really feasible to have the same level of expectation of correctness from random open source software packages, or most commercial ones either for that matter.

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The field of mission critical software development really is unbelievably different from ordinary development. If you haven't been involved in it personally it seems almost unbelievable. If I remember correctly, one such firm which does frequent contract work for NASA stated that they change an average of 5 lines of code a week.

Every single such change must be run through a committee process, justified, documented, and then fully regression tested.

The ability to work under those kinds of restrictions at such a dead slow pace must require a level of dedication that is beyond obsession.

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Quasar said:

The ability to work under those kinds of restrictions at such a dead slow pace must require a level of dedication that is beyond obsession.


Or, rather, a modus operandi which used to be the norm half a century ago. Memory, storage and CPU was tight, assembly language -or some HLL with nearly as many quirks, like FORTRAN or COBOL- was the norm, and you couldn't recompile a thousand times in your IDE of choice until you got it right.

As for correctness, I recently followed a lecture by Joseph Sifakis at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His main gripe, was that there has never been a formal unified theory and methodology for designing a software that does task X, let along verifying it. Not even putting constraints such as e.g. designing for minimal memory footprint, minimal amount of distinct operations etc. can lead to a singular solution, and of course the lack of a formal design "solution" is the dual of the lack of formal verifiabiliy. Some might say "component-based development!" but that one only "ensures" that if you happen to find a pre-built component/block that does a task Y that you happen to need or which helps towards your goal, using it will "ensure" that you will have at least functionality Y down....well, to the extent that the component itself is error-free and predictable.

Once again, mathematical proofs of algorithm correctness are something only very tangentially related to software correctness. The former you can prove on a piece of paper. The latter only by firing it up.

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A disclaimer file (especially one that you can't force the user to agree to) is about as useful as a fart in the wind.

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